Tag Archives: Writing

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.

 

Writing With Steve: How to Make Lots of Money During a Recession

Money MoneyIn his blog post “How to Make Lots of Money During a Recession,” Steve Pavlina gives the upside of a down-turned economy. All in all, I agree with Steve’s sentiments.

Here’s the truth, folks. You can make money whether the economy sucks or everyone’s riding high on a great wave of money. And if you don’t know that you can make lots of money no matter what’s going on in the world around you, it’s time to re-educate yourself about how money works.

When the economy’s heading south, the best thing you can do is sit still. If you’re employed, hang in there. Don’t offer to leave in lieu of a nice severance package, don’t start a business that no one wants, and don’t listen to the media.

The worst thing you can do is make hasty decisions based on what others are doing. Truth is, the crowd usually gets it wrong.

Ways to Not Freak Out or Be a Freak During a Recession:

  1. Turn off the television.
  2. Ignore negativity from family, friends, acquaintances, and anyone else who spews bad vibes.
  3. Stay balanced and peaceful.
  4. Create your own reality.

Steve says, “We can live without…gas-guzzling SUVs for a while. Those non-essentials can be put off.” Obviously Steve Pavlina’s never been to Texas. Bigger is better here, whether you’re rich or poor! (Not that I disagree with Steve – SUVs and pick-em-up trucks on Texas roads do nothing but guzzle what little gas we have left on this planet. Just try taking those big, ugly toys away from the Texans that own ’em. Them’s fightin’ words!)

I’ve heard, first hand, from middle class folks who lost their jobs in 2007 and 2008. These were good people, working in the high-tech industry in Austin, with families, mortgages, car payments, and credit card debt. Add to that no income, no severance pay to speak of, and no more health insurance. The result was a group of ashamed, bewildered people who were down on their game. Things like losing your job wasn’t supposed to happen to them. After all, Austin’s a happening place with plenty of money, right?

It’s very true. Central Texas continues to attract businesses, and people from around the nation are flocking to Texas. Doesn’t mean there won’t be some companies that have to pull back and tighten their belts due to over-expansion.

I hope that by now the people I met back in 2007 to mid-2008 have started their own businesses and are doing fine.

I know the recession happened. I’ve heard how hard it’s been for plenty of folks over the past five to six years. I still don’t see it, however. Maybe it’s the area where I live, maybe I see what I want to see, or maybe the reality I’ve created is bomb-proof. Not sure where the insulation comes from, but I truly believe that if you don’t buy into it, it’s not going to happen. Or at the very least, you’ll be minimally affected.

What to do During a Recession:

  1. Fill the void and provide what people need and want.
  2. Remember that no matter how bad times are, some people still have money and are spending it.
  3. Be creative and think from a higher place.

There are holes everywhere that need to be filled. There’s always a way to make money, and it makes me sad to see people thrashing about and agonizing over not having money. I don’t know, call me overly ambitious I suppose, but if I wanted money, it’s never been a problem. If I told myself there was a cap on my income, then I had problems with money. When I felt unworthy and undeserving of having money and nice things, guess what? I had no money and I didn’t have nice things. And those little opportunities to make money in different ways were non-existent.

When I’ve looked for ways to make extra money or start a new job, the path was always wide open. All I had to do was make up my mind that things would be a certain way and so it was.

Manifesting Money and Providing Value

Steve isn’t shy about the fact that he’s against manifesting money. Course, it’s easy to say this when you’ve got plenty of money. I disagree on this point, too, simply because manifesting money and financial abundance doesn’t mean your focus is only upon separating cash from people’s wallets. I think that you can focus on manifesting financial abundance and money AND deliver quality, value, and good will.

It depends on your personality and what you’re about.

Steve is absolutely right when he suggests businesses that don’t offer value for their customers will find themselves without any customers.

I think having money goals, and very clear ones at that, are the foundation of creating money. For me, knowing how much money I need in order to create a better lifestyle or simply pay the bills is imperative.

Focusing on money to the extent that you mistreat others through manipulation or lies or tricks is wrong, however.

Being at Peace No Matter Your Financial Situation

Steve speaks from the heart when he says, “If I could learn and apply this lesson while going bankrupt and having less than $100 in the bank, surely you can apply it today.”

Since I walked away from my healthcare position and into the world of self-employment, I’ve had the mindset that being self-employed would work for me. No. Matter. What. In spite of some speed bumps, self-employment has worked for me, and is infinitely better than being someone’s employee.

And I think this is what’s carried me through the past six years. Guts, determination, and a clear vision of where I was going and what I wanted to do.

How can you find peace when everything around you is falling apart? Sit still! Like I told you in the first few paragraphs of this post, sometimes doing nothing is the only way to go. It’s especially the best way to go when you’re tempted to do things you’ll regret. Or engage in non-productive activities that lead you away from your goal instead of moving you towards it.

Some people find peace through mundane activities like doing dishes or cleaning the house. Others find meditation or deep breathing to be relaxing and balancing. However you get to a place of peace, do it and stay there. Balance is how you move forward and make good decisions for your future.

When you’re broke and bill collectors are nipping at your heels, the urge to hide and panic is real. Hiding isn’t going to solve your money problems, but work will. Panicking doesn’t help you work efficiently, so forget about being a freak. Go about your business as usual and make money. This economy offers a multitude of solutions. The money may come quickly or it may come slowly, but I promise there’s a variety of new ways to create cash flow into your life.

Where Steve and I Disagree

Steve says recessions are necessary and that they weed out businesses that aren’t needed. Steve also says it’s better for thousands of people to be out of work than to continue to work for businesses that are antiquated. I disagree with this – it’s never better for people to be looking for work when they could be productive. This latest recession is living proof of what happens when people get laid off or fired – we have millions of people who’ve existed solely because of unemployment benefits and state programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and WIC. While I agree that some companies are dinosaurs that need to get with the times, people out of work isn’t good for our country, and it’s not good for the economy.

As I see it, people who are out of work are looking at employment the wrong way. Just the other day, there was a woman who was discouraged about finding a job. I hear this complaint again and again. Thing is, this woman, like so many others, has marketable skills. She has a good education. She knows and understands people and this woman knows her way around the online world. Why not start a company using the skills she has? That’s exactly what I told her, and I hope she takes my comments to heart. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t be able to start a viable, money-making business.

People want to be employees. It’s a sickness in the American culture. What blows me away is that people still crave being an employee – people who are perfectly able to freelance or start companies. I, too, used to think this way, but I moved with the times out of necessity.

You must move with the times if you want to succeed. Being an employee is dangerous in today’s world where nothing is permanent. Starting your own business or freelancing is the only way to fly, as I see it.

And folks, that’s how you make lots of money during a recession.

  • Figure out what you want to do.
  • Determine if there’s a market for it.
  • Create a product/service that delivers high value to your market.
  • Rinse and repeat.
  • Move with the times. If the market changes, change your business model.

What have you done to make money during the recession?

 

If you want to read Steve’s post, you can find it here.

 

Writing With Steve: Introducing Steve Pavlina & His Work

This post introduces Steve Pavilina and tells you what the Writing With Steve series is about.

I discovered Steve Pavlina in 2007, after he’d already been around for several years. By this time, he had a big following. I was impressed with Steve’s simplistic writing style and ability to delve honestly into subjects many bloggers wouldn’t touch. Today, I begin writing with Steve.

Steve Pavlina was a guru of sorts, and probably still is. I don’t follow Steve anymore, but I did stumble upon his site a few months ago. To say that I was shocked that he’d put his entire work into the public domain is expressing my feelings mildly. My creative and marketing mind, however, saw an opportunity.

Always the optimist and opportunist, I seized the moment and came up with a great idea. Like Julie Powell blogged as she prepared and cooked Julia Child’s recipes in the movie Julie & Julia, I am reading Steve’s body of work and blogging about my experiences.

 

Thoughts About Steve

Steve had it all going on in the mid-2000’s. He had thousands of followers and an active forum. Steve had begun speaking at conferences. He was also getting ready to publish his book, Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth.

I enjoyed Steve’s writing because it inspired me. More importantly, much of what he said resonated deep within me. Did I believe in everything Steve spoke of? No. But what I did agree with, I was on board 100%.

 

Digesting Steve

I think what matters when you read other people’s opinions is the takeaway. Steve’s work gave me a deep feeling of understanding. It’s like he reached inside of me and touched my soul. Kinda like music you dig that makes you feel high. Steve Pavlina did that for me.

What I’ve found is I now have a way to give that back. I can share those feelings with you.

No matter what you think about Steve, his lifestyle, the divorce with Erin, etc., you can’t deny that the guy strikes chords. Whether Steve pisses you off or makes you feel like you can do anything, this work is worth reading.

See how my interpretations work for you. Share what you think in the comments to get the conversation going.

Why Is It So Bad to Work for Content Mills?

QuestionI found the search string, “Why is it so bad to work for content mills,” while studying Big Grey Horse Media’s Google Analytics page. I felt immediate compassion for the unknown person out there, searching for the answers to this question.

Course, then I was compelled to write!

 

Why Is It So Bad To Work For Content Mills?

The short answer would be to read and study my prior articles about what it’s like working for a content mill. I’ve summed it up pretty nicely, and you can take my experience as a content mill worker and as someone who has private clients.

Content Mills Got You Down? Research, Query, Write!

Building a Successful Business: Content Mills vs. Private Clients

If you want the longer answer, read on.

Here’s the deal. It’s only bad to work for content mills if you think it’s bad to work for the mills. What I’ve seen happen, in the majority of cases, is writers either 1) burn out or 2) find other ways to write and make money. I’d say the rest of the people continue to write for one or more content mills. These folks make it work for them.

I’m part of a writing group that includes folks who write for content mills. I also look at discussions about the mills in several writers’ forums, and I glean information that way, too. Some of the people I know have written for one mill or another for years. I hear continuous complaints about working for content mills.

And that’s the problem.

In my opinion, one of the worst reasons to sink everything you’ve got into one or two content mills is that they close! Yep. In Angrythe blink of an eye, an intense Google crackdown of online crap can and will obliterate the mill’s places in the SERPS. Google crackdowns do the same thing to the mill’s clients’ sites who have nothing but keyword-stuffed, written on the fly nonsense.

Or it could be that the mill has no more work. I’ve written for mills that were great the first year (i.e., plenty of work, decent pay for a mill) but then the business model changed, and presto! No more work. Or the projects that are left pay less but ask for more work on the part of the writer.

Another reason I don’t suggest working for a mill is the inconsistency in editing. It seems that content mills hire editors the same way writers are hired. A group of people edit hundreds or thousands of articles daily. While the editors always have a in-house editorial standard to uphold, there’s always inconsistency in how the editors approach the overall process. This can be confusing to writers, especially new writers, and irritating as hell to seasoned writers.

Ranting, Bitching, and Griping

I understand the need to vent negativity. I understand the need to express how I feel and to get rid of emotion that doesn’t serve me. But ranting, bitching, and griping online? Maybe one, maybe twice, but after that, if the mill isn’t serving your needs, it probably is time to move on to greener pastures. It amazes me how folks can continue to gripe about a content mill, for whatever reason, yet show up the next day and expect things to be different.

Why Do I Think Content Mills Are Bad?

Actually, I don’t think content mills are bad. If you want to write for a mill, that’s your business. And truly, I don’t think mills are inherently bad. All a content mill is doing is making money like the rest of us.

IdeaWhat makes a mill bad is how writers perceive the mill. Which plays back into the loop I’ve already described.

I’ve never seen anyone get rich from a mill. And I’ve seen plenty of people go into the mills foolishly thinking it’s a job, or something secure, or a way to pay the bills consistently.

Remember this and you will be okay:

  1. Content mills do not have your best interests at heart. A mill is a business. They are serving their clients, and you are not their client.
  2. You have your best interests at heart. You are your business. Serve yourself and don’t make stupid choices.
  3. Never put your heart and soul into one income source. And if you don’t know why you shouldn’t do that, then you probably need to be someone’s employee. If you do take the gamble of only one income source, make sure your plan is a good one.
  4. Be smart. Take care of yourself. No one is going to take better care of you than YOU.

 

If you’d like to talk about your goals, if you need support, or want someone to help you get started, contact me. I help writers set goals, get busy with marketing, and reach their dreams.

Images courtesy of HubSpot.

 

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!

 

Response to Jon Morrow: Quit Your Job & Move to Paradise

Geese on the Llano River
Geese on the Llano River

I loved reading what Jon Morrow had to say about how dedicated blogging led to his life in paradise. What a journey! I can totally relate to his decisions, and I dig his tenacity.

Bloggers have to jump in. Head first, feet first – doesn’t matter which body part you use, it matters that you get wet. Like any endeavor, if your heart’s not in it, the results will be poor. I equate blogging and socializing on the web to the past positions I’ve held with former employers. Do the best job that I can and shine, shine, shine! The reward? The deep satisfaction that I’m helping others.

Truly, that satisfaction is what propels me, and I bet it’s what lights your fire, too.

What if you begin blogging and find it’s not for you? What happens when your motor stops? Are you stuck on the lake, or do you find someone to tow your boat back to shore? Perhaps you started a niche site and decided the topic wasn’t sustainable. Maybe your blog isn’t all that and a bag of chips. So what? Keep moving and turning the pieces around until they fit. If the puzzle doesn’t work, start over.

Or walk away from the project.

I’ve seen how the web works from the short time Big Grey Horse Media’s been up. It’s been less than a year, and when I’m moving, blogging, schmoozing, and keeping up with my web properties, the results are fantastic. When I slack off due to a roadblock, or when client projects take precedence (hey, a girl’s gotta make a living), traffic stops and my blogs grow stagnant.

Lake LBJ
Lake LBJ – Sunrise Beach, Texas

Evolving with your blog is crucial. In October 2010, I took Big Grey Horse Media online. The first incarnation was a simple structure that let clients see my writing portfolio. From there, I began posting and interacting with others. Traffic came and it was a blast! It meant so much to find others engaging and commenting on a daily basis. It’s a fantastic high knowing someone found my blog special, inspirational, or just a nice place to take a pit stop.

The funniest piece of my puzzle was finding that I had no more to say. There are a bajillion web pages about copywriting, social media, etc., and I had no desire to continue writing those topics on the Horse. My heart wasn’t in it. While I was knee-deep in client work this spring, it came to me that Big Grey Horse Media was pushing for a big change.

Like a fictional character, the Horse had a mind of its own. It was up to me to either follow suit and nurture new growth or stop the project. The reasons why I found blogging about worn-out topics distasteful is because it was time blaze new trails. I needed to write about what turns me on…because when my juices are flowing, you will get excited, too.

From the beginning, my greatest intention and motivation was to attract the attention of Texas businesses. I also was hell-bent on writing for Texas publications: travel-type articles, features, and human interest stories. That’s what pulls my heart. And that’s what Texans want. Real stories about real people, cool businesses and events, the Texas wine industry, and travel around the State of Texas. That includes all the great foodie stops and chili peppers, too!

Why not bring this to my blogs? Why not be the writer I’ve always wanted to be? Why not blog around Texas? My intentions were pure; I simply had lost focus.

Swimming Geese - Llano River
Come on in, the water’s just fine!

So that’s what happened, this is where Big Grey Horse Media is at, and we sure are proud to be doing what we do. It’s a shoestring start-up, and there are never enough hours in the day. Way too much for me to do alone! I got my family involved and they are helping with projects so we can turn out beautiful things you can latch onto.

Two principles that help when I’m overwhelmed with projects:

1) Step back and puts things into perspective, and

2) Have faith in what’s emerging.

Jon Morrow, I don’t know you personally, but your story touched my heart. And it isn’t because you have a disease, or lived in a tiny apartment and had a miserable existence, or even that you had un-Godly medical costs. It’s because you continued to change your life. You are authentic. You have so much to give the world, and you freely share your passion.

You’ve touched this girl’s heart. I wish you all the best, and when I travel to Mexico, I’d love to meet you.

Are you having trouble with your blog? Want to quit your job and move to paradise? Not sure how to do it?

Step back and put things into perspective. Have faith in what’s emerging. Have fun while the ride lasts. Those nudges are your creativity, inspiration, and intelligence. Follow them!

Swim!

Right freaking now!

 

How to Be a Good Writer: Keeping Perspective in Your Writing

Writers are a creative bunch. We love to blow our horns and write about subjects we dig. In our enthusiasm, however, it’s easy to get carried away. Remember the importance of keeping perspective in your writing.

How does getting carried away damage or make our writing lose credibility? One way is to take a quote and use it out of context.

For example, I tell you that someone told me, “John Smith is an alcoholic.” I do not tell you that I believe this is true. I only tell you this is what someone else said.

You write that I said,” John Smith is an alcoholic.”

When you print and publish that I said John Smith is an alcoholic, it’s not true. I told you what someone else said. I quoted that person. I clearly stated who told me. But you quoted me as saying it, when in fact, it’s hearsay. You don’t know if what I said was true or fabricated. Or perhaps it’s what I believe to be true, based on the information I have. Until you go further, to the source of the quote, you don’t know if this is indeed what I was told.

Writers, be careful how you put words on the page. When I interview sources, I tape record the entire conversation (with permission). I also take notes. But that recorded tape is my lifeline for getting the quotes straight.

It’s true that writers often condense or mildly rearrange what a source said. The writing community does not frown upon this practice as long as you keep what’s said in context. So far, I haven’t condensed or rearranged a quote except to clean up “um’s” or hesitations found in natural speech. I store the recorded tapes and a typed transcript should I need to prove what was said during the conversation.

Keep the context of what you read and hear. Blowing information out of proportion, sensationalizing to draw attention, or mis-using quotes damages your credibility.

My rule of thumb? When in doubt, check it out. If the answer isn’t forthcoming, don’t do it. Sitting on a story that you’re not sure of is far better than reporting falsely to get a headline.

How to Be a Good Writer: The Importance of Checking the Facts

As a writer, I know the importance of checking the facts before I publish an article, or prior to sending copy to a client or editor. Otherwise, I end up looking mighty foolish. I take facts seriously, and recent events have caused me to be even more careful about how far I’ll go before I stop researching a piece.

Whether I’ve got the byline or it’s ghostwritten copy, I always go the extra mile to ensure what I’m writing is factual. Writers must be diligent with the facts of a story. Our words are the meat wrapped around the bones, or facts. The creativity to shape the muscle of the story is ours – but the bones are what hold everything together. Facts make stories credible.

Digging on the Web and Why It’s Not a Good Idea

Unfortunately, many writers scrounge the web for information to back up their stories. From recent experiences, I’m telling you to never, ever blindly follow what you read. Because a piece has been published from a credible source does not mean the information is accurate.

Take my sister’s missing persons case. In 2007-2008, I turned to the web for more information and places to publish. I found Websleuths, a resource chock full of folks who help solve cases. My sister’s case was listed there because she had been considered as a Jane Doe named “Princess Blue.”

Words can’t explain how excited I was to see others talking about my sister’s unsolved missing persons case – and I wrote back with a big “thank you.” From that point on, interested people jumped into the thread, helping me to sort through the questions my sister’s case posed.

Because of that, I formulated more questions, posted more information that was purely speculation, in some matters – and in others, factual info from our childhood, impressions, and opinions I had, as well as what I believed to be true information about the case.

Armed with my information and encouraged by the Websleuth community, I went back to the lead investigator, Captain Gay Dickerson of the Katy Police Department, and began asking questions. That was 2008. In 2009, Dickerson brought the entire case file to my mother’s home, and Dickerson, my mother, and I poured over every piece of paper.

Needless to say, I found I had been lied to by the initial investigators. What does that do? It makes what I thought were facts (as posted on Websleuths and other missing persons sites) untrue.

I also did not have complete information. If you read what I posted on Websleuths as compared to what I write about today, the entire picture has changed.

And I didn’t go back and clean up what I’d written. From 2009 until now, I’ve been digesting what I know, while keeping quite a bit under my hat. We also had many questions to answer; most of those were posed during the meeting in 2009. The case needed time to unfold, and there’s still much I cannot divulge. However, at this point in time, I can clean up and restore what is the truth.

Do Your Research and Keep Digging Until You Reach the Bottom

What does this mean for writers? Don’t take what you read on the web as gospel. Even from a credible source, the information can be wrong. In my sister’s case, I worked with what I knew to be true at the time. So that makes much of what you’ll find posted about Elizabeth Ann Pfeifer outdated and wrong.

I’ve had two bloggers write about my sister’s case, one last summer and one in the past two weeks. Both used what they found on the internet. Neither contacted me, my family, witnesses, known suspects who’ve since been cleared, or the suspect, before publishing their stories. The blogger who wrote last summer interviewed Captain Dickerson, but did not accurately reflect what she said. The crux of  this story was based on things the blogger found that I had written in 2007 or so, in spite of getting the low-down and current news from the lead investigative officer. Needless to say, the story was highly inaccurate. I went behind the blogger and had the Houston Chronicle’s editorial department re-write the story. This time the editorial staff spoke with Dickerson before publishing the blog post.

Advice, Consequences and Conclusion

Check your facts, writers. Don’t rely upon reading what you see and regurgitating it. In my sister’s case, it’s more than mildly annoying since the case is far beyond what we knew even in 2009. What’s been written and exposed to thousands of web readers, if not millions, excuses one person (the primary and only suspect) while incriminating all the other people who’ve been cleared.

Check your facts, writers. Always check your facts – it takes more time, it involves more research, and sometimes it’s difficult to put together (when your sources won’t cooperate or are unreachable). Do the legwork, please. Write and publish only what you are proud of, and can stand behind. If you’re not sure, stop. Never send out copy that could be inaccurate or downright incorrect.

Writing well is not as easy as people think. Have you read internet copy that was outdated or wrong? Would you use incorrect information in your pieces? Have you written copy that you didn’t fact check? Or do you always dig deeper and find the right answer?