All posts by Kristine M. Smith

It’s the Whee-kend!

I was out with the goats beyond the fence line for an hour or so this morning before the big, bad, drippy clouds rolled in. I hear we may  get a wintry day sometime in the next 24 hours for about the third time in the Pacific NW this year , so I’ve super-duper filled the shed with fresh new straw for the goats. (The old straw was still fine so I just put the new atop the old. They’ve rarely been indoors since I mucked it out last time.)

I have such a good time with the goat babies.  They eat for a while after they’re let into the great beyond and then , one by one, they come over and jump onto my lap for a snuggle and scratch. They’re so darned sweet I can hardly stand it. It’s going to be hard to let three of them go next month after mom goats wean them, but I have to.  Even by extending their pasture, there isn’t enough land mass carrying capacity here on our property to feed more than about three small breed goats… maybe four… so I have to part company with some of this year’s brood. Candace Thompson wants three of them (Merrill, Rocky and Juliet) and I know she’ll be a terrific goat mom because she’s already a terrific sheep mom.  Lisa Twining Taylor wants Romeo and perhaps Maggie.  That will leave me with Jazzy, Tillie (Jackie’s favorite) and Mr. Tumnus.

The boys are all neutered now so the females are safe from indiscriminate breeding. I know Lisa plans to get a goat herd again (a milking herd) so we’ll always be able to go sit with and spoil her goat babies if we decide not to breed Jazzy and/or Tillie.

After the five are gone (sometime between May and September, probably) we’ll see if just three small breed goats can keep our greenbelt/pasture area free of blackberry bushes and other encroaching bushes, vines and trees. If not, then we’ll know it’s feasible to have one or two more…

I hope it is. I love baby goats. (I also love adult goats. Don’t get a critter if you don’t love them at all stages of life!  That’s my mantra!)

 

WOO HOO! I Love Good News!

I got some awesome news today. I was expecting to receive a monthly pension of about $73/month (lifetime annuity) from my time at a major motion picture studio . As it turns out , it will be $373/month!  What a godsend!

Receiving it is still nearly a year away, as is Medicare, but I’m very excited to know it’s three hundred more per month than I anticipated.  It will certainly make my retirement years less precarious.

If I wait until full retirement age (just under two years)–which I plan to do unless circumstances intervene to make waiting impossible–I’ll be getting $1,371/month from Social Security. That plus $373/month is almost $1,750/month…and Washington State doesn’t tax Social Security or pension payments. WOO HOO!

Truth is, I will probably keep working past full retirement age. (Why would I stop doing what I love because of a date on a calendar–especially since it took me 56 years to get into the career I’ve always wanted–writing for a living?) If I’m making enough without these retirement perks to wait until later to retire (say, age 70), my monthly Social Security payment will be $1,810/month. Add $373 to that and I’ll have about $550/week to live on.  Not a lot, but a heckuva lot better than I was expecting!

Women make less than men do (seventy seven cents for every dollar men make in the same job, on average). Women live several years longer than men in general. I’ve always thought it unjust–if not downright criminal–to pay women less than men since we live longer.  Add to that the fact that a lot of women (single and married) also come home (for almost two decades) after a day of work to tend to children who need help with homework, dinners, baths and other necessities, so they never do get much down time.  All of the home chores are unpaid but mandatory.

It just seems unfair that women don’t get at least the same pay as men for the work they do outside the home. At the very least, equal pay for equal work (and let’s face it, on average, women are usually more productive in the workplace than their male counterparts, I’ve noticed, because we were taught and expected to produce tangible results on the home front and out and about from very early ages!)

I love the meme that’s going around that shows an African woman hard at work carrying water and branches to her home from miles away. The caption: “If hard work were all that’s required to get rich, every woman in Africa would be a multimillionaire.”  So would a lot of women in every other country.  The deck is stacked against women in  every patriarchal system on the planet. But I hope not for much longer.

I probably won’t live to see the day when my Social Security and pension will be adjusted upward to compensate for the years I worked and earned less than men, but I hope Jackie’s granddaughters do … OR that they’ll be paid the same as men from the get-go when they enter the work force in just a few years.  I know a law is in place to mandate equal pay for equal work, but since divulging one’s income is frowned upon in corporate settings, who the heck knows if it’s happening?

Transparency would be a good thing… (Good luck with that!)

OK. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

 

Will Your Website Plummet on Google April 21st?

On April 21, Google will update its algorithm. Non-mobile-ready sites will be penalized; some will be removed entirely from Google’s mobile search index.

To make sure your site stays put or advances on April 21st:

  • Avoid using Flash and other uncommon-to-mobile-devices software
  • Use text that your visitors can read without zooming
  • Size your content so visitors don’t have to scroll left-to-right to read what’s there
  • Carefully separate any links that you include on your site so each one can be selected without accidentally tapping an adjacent one

In a nutshell, if a smartphone user can’t easily read and tap links on your website, Google will  penalize it. 

So if you’ve been enjoying lofty, enviable page rankings, you may well find your site plummeting significantly and your competitors sitting in the catbird seat. Make sure your site is responsive (that it  automatically re-sizes itself to present on any mobile device without the user having to scroll back and forth to read it, see complete images, or tap a link).

Whoever adapts first to the new mobile-conscious algorithm change is most likely to smile on April 21st and thereafter.

Recommendation: I recommend Lisa Twining Taylor (DancingGoatWebDesign.com) if you need a responsive website built.

And just a word to the wise: In a vast majority of cases, it will cost a lot less  to have a new, responsive website built than it will be to try to adapt a non-responsive site.  You should be able to keep a lot of jingle in your jeans as a result of this tip.

 

 

Counting My Blessings: Angels All Around Me

Ya know, there are angels in my life. I’m not talking about heavenly angels here: I’m talking about earth angels.

Among them are Lisa Twining Taylor, Candace Thompson, Judson Forks, and Cleve Kingston. Also among them are Jim Westbrook, Ron Waterman, Brandon A. Cowles,  (three fellows I haven’t even met–in person–yet!).

There are more. Near and far.  But always as close to me as my heart.

The folks just mentioned always, always, always have my back. Sometimes they simply boost me when I’m feeling low. Sometimes they “viral sneeze” my stuff when I have an announcement, a campaign, or what-have-you. Sometimes they show up to lend a hand in other ways… in person or virtually.

Case in point (and I’m sorry I can’t  offer specifics because I’ve been sworn to secrecy; good people don’t advertise their angel wings):

A couple of people have come to my rescue recently in seriously significant ways. So this afternoon I’m just sitting here counting my blessings.

I hope you have the kind of friends I do. I sincerely do.  And I hope I will always be able show up to be the kind of friend when they need something, too…for as long as I live.

Thank you, my dear, dear friends, for everything you do that gives me a smile…or tears of gratitude. (Tears of gratitude have happened twice in just the past two days!)

I am truly blessed!!!

 

Update on My Doings

Spent a couple of fun hours last night with Rhonda Wilson, Lisa Twining Taylor and Heidi Smith while Rhonda cut our hair. I feel five pounds lighter and a whole lot more presentable!  (Not quite as presentable as the Kris in the portrait behind me with Doctor McCoy, but those days are long gone!

Kris-Haircut_opt

Just before Rhonda cut my hair and put it up in clips, she soaked it in the sink.  When I got to the chair, I essayed my finest Red Skelton impersonation by fluffing it out in god-awful angles and threatened to go into his “Gertrude and Heathcliff” seagull routine.  I didn’t get very far.  I lost my audience to gales of laughter just for striking the pose so I couldn’t continue… I broke up!  (In that, too, I was just channeling Red Skelton. He often broke up when his audience did!)

Photo courtesy of  Heidi Smith
Photo courtesy of Heidi Smith

We had a good time.   Heidi told us that a bridal place in Lakewood has closed down and that it’s offering a lot of great stuff at bargain basement prices.  It’s located in that little shopping center where the Goodwill Store is, not a stone’s throw (as I recall) from The Little Church on the Prairie (if I recall the name of the church right; it has been years since I lived in Lakewood). If you know where UPS/Kinko’s is, you’re in the right neighborhood.

Heidi has bought quite a lot of the bridal shop’s goods to re-purpose for her Christmas company. Her twin sister will be coming down from Canada soon to help her prepare for the Christmas rush by assembling all of the creative ideas they come up with.  Their products truly are beautiful.

Heidi showed us how she created a horse head Christmas wreath (she had photos of the process on her cell phone).  Lisa and I both said, almost at the same instant, “Do a Christmas goat wreath, too!  There are so few places that have goat things and there are gazillions of goat lovers in our area!”  So she’s going to see what she can do with that idea, too.

Heidi gave me a Taj Mahal of a cat scratching edifice that her husband built.  I can’t wait for the cats to discover it.  I’ll get some catnip to lace it with so they realize it’s for them and then it will probably segue from a work of art to a work of…cat claws!!!  But the scratching part is replaceable, so that’s okay. That’s why it was created–for cats to scratch. It looks like it’ll last for a long, long time…

Rhonda’s husband, John of Big John’s Oil and Lube in Midland, came in shortly after Lisa and I arrived. He has lost 50 pounds and is a mere shadow of his former self. I told him he’s going to have to re-brand as “Tiny” if he keeps this up!  But he won’t really need to re-brand.  He has a big heart, big muscles and big talent as an auto repair guy, so Big John will still fit!

Not long after John got home, John Hall of American Family Insurance stopped by to see him. They disappeared into the bowels of the house and we never saw them again. (Big John might have been relieved to have an excuse to escape the hen party, for all I know–but he didn’t let on!)

Heidi headed home just about the time Lisa got into the chair. Lisa has thick, curly hair, which she hates (the curly part) (and we envy) so getting it cut strategically so it would behave ever after was Rhonda’s challenge last night.  She did a magnificent job!

In Other News…

Yesterday at 723 Building Business  I met the woman who is going to help me select my Medicare plan in December. Her name is Katheryn Evans of Strategic Sound Solutions, Inc. Her office is in Puyallup. I’m giving you her information because she is the full meal deal. She’s an insurance broker and financial adviser.

I was so impressed by Katheryn’s knowledge of the ins and outs of the various Medicare plans that are available here in Washington. She and I have already narrowed my options from a myriad to just three from the Original Medicare plan. I’m healthy (at least, right now–and have been  all my life) so I don’t have to worry about expensive prescriptions and stuff like that.

I’m so excited that I’ll be able to go to someone who can explain (already has, pretty much, in fact!) without making my mind go crazy.  I’ve been dreading the thought of having to analyze the dizzying array of options.  I feared making a huge blunder because I just don’t know enough about Medicare, and don’t really want to take the time to become an expert on it before deciding.  She was so straightforward and helpful. She handed out information that clarified so much for me.  She’s amazing!

What else?  Next week I’m going to be touring the Tacoma Rescue Mission (TRM) with Candace Thompson of Wild Child Group and Face2Face.  The TRM is going to be the first non-profit that Face2Face throws a spotlight on.  (They’ll choose and spotlight a local non-profit every three months.)  I’ve already heard great things about TRM. People have gone from there into college–even to Harvard–and become doctors and other well-regarded professionals. I’ll find out more about this next week and share more. Maybe I’ll take some photos, too…

Guess that’s all the news that’s fit to print at this moment! Enjoy your day! If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours and see what happens!

 

 

Hallelujah! The Copy is Done!

In one marathon session (okay, full disclosure here: in two half-marathon sessions) I was able to create all of the copy for the sub domain that I’ll be getting soon. The total word count is  5,637 words!   I went to bed at ten last night with Christmas Tree brain as a result–couldn’t get to sleep until after 1:30 because my creative synapses continued to fire for hours after I stopped.

That’s what happens when a Creative gets into the zone–we feed off the endorphins, I think! Maybe some neuroscientist can explain it better than that–I suppose–but that’s what it feels like to me: a natural “high” that gets fired by enthusiasm, joy and dedication to something that you know you need to do and that you love doing.

There haven’t been a bunch of projects for me to tackle for clients the past two weeks, so I thought I’d focus on my own needs while I can.  It doesn’t happen real often, so I capitalize on the opportunity when I can.

There was a time yesterday, though, when I got so involved with the copy for a client (for about an hour) that I totally spaced on a conference call that I was scheduled to dial in to. It was just awful!  When it occurred to me to look at my watch again, I had missed the appointment by 45 minutes.  I was apoplectic!

Thank God I was forgiven and given another appointment.  I was there on time…waited 15 minutes..waited 20 minutes… then realized I was having the same experience she had the day before with me!

I must say, I feel worlds better, as a result.  It’s nice to know we’re all human–and capable of spacing or getting waylaid in some other way!

In Other News…

I have a lot of DeForest Kelley archives. (Big surprise, huh? Not if you’ve read the appendix of Terry’s Rioux’s bio of De, it isn’t!!) Terry  tells me that Adam Nimoy, Leonard’s son, wants to have somebody to go through a lot of my stuff–convention videos, magazine articles, audios, etc.) and find anything that refers to De’s relating of the Spock/McCoy relationship. Terry said she would, so I’m going to be shipping a box of stuff to her sometime this week. She has been through most of it before, when she wrote De’s bio, but that was 15 years ago. So she’s the perfect person to do it. Plus I trust her with my treasures!

In exchange for sharing my archives, I’ll get credits at the end of the documentary that someone is making. Finally! My name up in lights!  Almost famous again! LOL!

IF YOU have anything  in your bag of tricks that can help Terry and Adam with this important project, please contact Terry Rioux. You can find and befriend her on Facebook.

 

The Value of Hiring a Professional Writer

 Looking for a professional writer? Stay Tuned!

One of my power partners, Lisa Twining Taylor (Dancing Goat Web Design) is building me a sub domain that allows me to showcase the writing services I provide and post portfolio examples so interested parties can get a closer look and decide if I’m right for their projects. I’ve already chosen a theme (layout template) for it that will make navigation a snap and presentation compelling. Now I just have to come up with the copy for it…  Luckily for me, that will be easy enough!

Which reminds me of something that might astound you…

Want a laugh–or a scowl? On freelance websites I visit frequently, I’ve seen wannabe and newbie copywriters seeking professional copywriters to write the copy for their websites…or bogus testimonials for them!  Yes, of course, I shook my head and moved on. I’m sure they found someone else to write their copy for them, but that’s beside the point.

The point is that there are greenhorns out there who are trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. It makes me sick because every time they manage to pull it off, they invariably disappoint their clients, who get a bad taste in their mouths for freelance writers and make it that much harder for the rest of us (the good’uns) to make a living!

I can’t stress enough the need to know what great copy writing looks like and does over time before you start looking for a copywriter.  When you realize the long term ROI of great copy, paying respectable prices for it becomes easier–and pretty much a regular part of doing business.

Think about it: How many copywriters worth their salt are going to settle for secretarial wages (or less) after they’ve spent decades honing their writing skills and developing their copy writing chops?

Professional copywriters are as valuable to businesses as any other vaunted profession–attorneys, IT professionals, investment advisers, bank presidents, and more–and we know it!  We’re usually just silent about it because it sounds arrogant to self-proclaim in this way.

And hey, we sort of expect clients to recognize our value without having to be told; after all, they’re reaching out to us to help them make money–lots and lots of money!

Alas, it isn’t always the case that clients recognize the full value of hiring a professional writer.

Not that this is anything new. Writers have always had to fight for their professional acclaim and equitable treatment. Actors, directors and producers always support writers’ strikes in Hollywood because they know that “If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.”  You can set the stage, dress the stage, light the stage, cue the cameras and call “ACTION!” but unless the actors have been given lines to analyze, memorize, rehearse and breathe souls into, you’ll be filming an expensive fiasco.

Words can transform the circumstances you’re in into the circumstances you want. Handing an untried greenhorn the responsibility of creating the results you want is, in a word,  irresponsible.

I know that “everybody has to start somewhere”, but do you really want that “somewhere” to include your outreach efforts? You only get one chance to make a good first impression. If your ideal clients are introduced to you in a clunky/ jarring/off-putting/ sub-standard way, they will flee as fast as they arrive–and they probably won’t come back to see if you got any better at reaching out to them.

If you can’t afford a professional copywriter, wait until you can. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

 

Spellbinder: Someone Who Can Induce a Waking Trance

Copywriter defined: a spellbinder. Our job description includes “putting readers/viewers/visitors into a waking trance”–which is far more ominous than it sounds.

You’ve been in a waking trance thousands of times. Whenever a movie, book, sporting event or other cherished activity (including watching your children play or sleep) has you enthralled and thinking of nothing else, you’re in a waking trance. You’re “spellbound”–and it’s your unique perspective on the activity you’re immersed in that casts the spell you’re under. You do it to yourself willingly and without reservation!

A copywriter’s job is to find out who their clients’ target audiences/ideal clients are, what their pains, problems or predicaments are that are making them miserable (or what  pleasures they seek that haven’t been met yet)  and clearly deliver the messages that will have them picking up the phone, filling out the form, or downloading the special report that promises to deliver a solution to them.

It’s really as simple as that! (And as damnably hard.)

The challenge is that there is no magic net that lifts every potential prospect into the boat. When a client tells me their target audience is “everybody” I know it’s going to take a careful conversation to convince them that by trying to appeal to everybody, they’ll appeal to nobody strongly enough to put them into a waking trance of their own making.

Need proof? Which two people do you know who are compelled to immediate, synchronized action by exactly the same information? Darned few, I’ll wager! Only “sheeple” behave that way–among them lynch mobs  incited to violence that they’d enjoy getting  behind, political operatives, paid and unpaid Internet trolls, and scores of other  group-think androids that I hesitate to name…but you know who they are if you watch  cable news or listen to talk radio. Blow the whistle and they respond like Pavlov’s dogs! Sheeple are pretty much always in a waking trance of their own making and  volition!

This is why I always get a giggle (and a little bit of heartburn) when someone tells me that he or she has a teenage son or daughter who gets straight A’s in English who can write their sales copy for them, or that they can find someone on a cut-rate freelance  services website who will do a great job for them for less than I charge. Buyers get what they’re willing to settle for. I know, because I see a lot of copy on websites that is fit only for lining the bottom of bird cages…and guess what? It delivers the same result: Crappy!)

I don’t know any teenagers (or many adults, for that matter) with sufficient training and psychological underpinnings to discern how to appeal to busy, multitasking consumers quickly and powerfully enough to stop them in their tracks and put them into a waking trance.

Busy people give a sales piece a total of five to eight seconds to capture them. But capturing them is only the first hurdle. Next you have to be sure they remain riveted in place. Every word, every line has to compel them forward. No period at the end of any sentence must be allowed to usher them out; the next word has to cue their brain to insist that they read on!

If you think this is easy, try it yourself. Consumers drive hard bargains these days: they won’t stick around to be bored or lectured. They want to know, quickly, that you “get” them, that you can help them, and that they can trust you to deliver what you promise. Lose them anywhere along the line and they’ll find someone else who won’t, someone else who doesn’t waste their time.

If you’re trying to write your own copy, read HYPNOTIC WRITING by Joe Vitale, WEB COPY THAT SELLS by Maria Veloso, TRIGGERS by Joe Sugarman, and six or seven other copy writing books. Not just once– five or six times each! Hand copy the examples until the cadence and rhythm of a great sales piece becomes as much muscle memory as it is book learnin’.

It will take years to be exceptional. It absolutely will not happen overnight or in a year’s time.  You’ll keep getting better if you keep at it religiously, but you won’t be great for a very long time.

You can’t microwave excellence.

It doesn’t work that way.

If you define yourself as a copywriter, you’d better be as spellbinding as Professor Harold Hill!

(If the last line throws you for a loop, watch ‘The Music Man’ starring Robert Preston. Focus on his communication skills, not the fact that he’s a cad.)

 

 

Learn About Copy Writing Here

Those of you who are coming here to learn how to write your own copy should start from the first blog I wrote way back when and move up from there.

I piled so much into the first several months of this blog that I began to feel a bit like a tough taskmaster, so I backed off substantially.

I’m going to head back into the discipline soon on this blog. Before I do, please review (or read for the first time) what went on before. This way you’ll feel like you’re “in the loop” and won’t be running across terms and acronyms that are foreign to you, terms and acronyms like…

 

WIIFM?  (What’s in it for me?)

ROI (Return on Investment)

CTA (Call to Action)

CYA (Cover Your — REAR END)

USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

Ideal Client

Target Audience

Triggers

Waking Trance (Hypnotic Writing)

Slippery Slope

FUBAR (I’ll clean this one up a bit: “Fouled” Up Beyond All Recognition”)

Looky Lous

Negative Nellies

Viral Sneezers

…and more

 

 

 

Google Algorithm Change April 21st

If you haven’t heard about the new Google algorithm change that’s coming on April 21st, please be aware that it will likely affect the page ranking on non-responsive websites; they may drop significantly in Google rankings. If you’re in a good spot now with a non-responsive website and this concerns you, you can find out more here:

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2015/02/finding-more-mobile-friendly-search.html

A responsive website is one that automatically re-sizes itself to fit on the screens of mobile devices so the user doesn’t have to scroll back and forth to read a line of copy or to see images.

With the huge increase in consumers using mobile devices to find what they need while they’re on the fly, Google realizes that search engine results should prioritize the companies and individuals that are responding to the way their consumers are looking for them by making their sites easy to view from any mobile device.

If you want/need your website to be made responsive before  April 21 (or after, if this change does bite you in the butt), I recommend Lisa Twining Taylor at Dancing Goat Web Design. She develops ONLY responsive websites.

Don’t rely on the folks you’ve used up ’til now to do this for you. IF they didn’t make you a responsive website from the start, they might be scrambling to learn how to do it now because of this algorithm change. Not many business owners and entrepreneurs can afford a learning curve when their business websites (your virtual storefront) are at stake…