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…

 

Remembering Harve Bennett

 

*sigh*  I received an invitation to attend Harve Bennett’s memorial service at Paramount. I will cherish it always.  Alas, I can’t go. I’m tied up with six baby goats and six baby chicks and I live too far away these days to be able to make it a quick day trip. If I flew there, I would want to stay a few days to reconnect with some Hollywood friends, and I just don’t have that luxury right now.

I met and spent time with Harve Bennett twice–once at his home in Pacific Palisades before he moved to Oregon–and once at a restaurant. In both cases, I was along for the ride while Terry Lee Rioux interviewed him for her biography of DeForest Kelley.

In both instances, Harve was extraordinary.  I quickly sensed his decency and equanimity. I could tell he was the full meal deal: sensitive, astute, thoughtful, and a true gentleman.

The visit at the restaurant is a particularly telling anecdote about Harve’s capacity for kindness.  As it turns out, in LA there were two possible locations for two cross streets, and Terry and I managed to get to the wrong location, which was quite a drive away from the right one.  (This was well before Google Maps and customary use of the Internet.) As soon as we arrived and saw no restaurant, we called the restaurant where we were slated to meet to say we were seriously waylaid (during rush hour traffic) and getting to the right location would take a while. We asked if Harve and Marianne Tyler (Harve’s VP at the time) would prefer to re-schedule or wait. Harve elected to wait–even though it would be at least an hour.

When we finally arrived, of course, we were apologetic but he waved off the inconvenience as it it were a trifle not even worth mentioning.

We had asked for an hour or 90 minutes of his time. He waited an hour for us to arrive and then we spent at least another 90 minutes.  At no time did he show any sense of urgency or discontent.  He simply invited Terry  to schedule additional time to meet him at his home office in Pacific Palisades.  Terry did so and I accompanied her there. We spent another two hours there. Terry got the interviews and information she wanted and assurances that she could call him again, any time, if other questions came up.  What a guy!

But here’s the thing: before I ever set eyes on Mr. Bennett in person up close and personal in the above way (other than the  time I  heard him speak at De’s star ceremony in 1991 and the brief seconds I spent thanking him for attending De’s memorial service in 1999), I received a phone message from him saying that he very much wanted to be a part of Terry’s resource list as she compiled interviews about De.  In the voice mail message (which I saved) he said he would be honored to contribute to the memory of that “dear, dear man.”  And contribute he did. (Get FROM SAWDUST TO STARDUST: The Biography of DeForest Kelley, STAR TREK’S DOCTOR McCOY to get the details.)

I am one of the world’s luckiest people to have been afforded the opportunity to meet and spend actual quality time with one of the nicest, most prolific producers in Hollywood.  If you don’t already know his extensive list of credits, here is a link to take you to them:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0071790/

Harve Bennett will forever remain one of (very few) favorite Hollywood celebrities. He was, as he called De at De’s star ceremony, a “really, really” great guy.  (Perhaps it takes one to know one.)

If you haven’t heard Harve’s recounting of “The Con of Wrath” be sure to hear a bit of it during De’s star ceremony, which you can find on YouTube.  De and Harve pretty much ran the event after the organizers collected the money from the attendees and fled, leaving TREK fans arriving in Houston to no hotel rooms or tickets. From what I hear tell (via Harve) De  emcee’d the event both days (by the seat of his pants, without pay since the actors’ fees disappeared right long with the fans’, but De convinced the actors to stay and play anyway because the fans were there and got rooked, too); Harve got the fans hotel rooms. It was a would-be fiasco that Harve and De redeemed for the fans.  (If I have gotten any aspect of this story wrong, please let me know and I’ll correct it, Houston fans!)

Rest in Peace, Mr. Bennett.   Those of us who knew you, even briefly, love you and will miss you every day of our lives.

 

 

Farewell, Leonard Nimoy

LLAP In Loving Memory of Leonard Nimoy
LLAP In Loving Memory of Leonard Nimoy

 

I’ve been expecting this sad day for quite some time, but it’s still hard.

I’m glad Leonard Nimoy has been released from the bondage of COPD because the malady is miserable, and wishing him more time  on earth here with us would be cruel. We need to be grateful for the time we had with him, rather than wishing for more of it.

But Mr. Spock was almost as much a part of me as Dr. McCoy was.  If not for Spock logic, in fact, I might not have survived my teenage years.  Learning to conduct myself as Spock-like as possible, I was able to cure my ulcer, deescalate the war with my alcoholic father, and find another way to express myself that preserved my dignity. Before Mr. Spock, I wasn’t living up to my own standards, let alone anyone else’s.

I met Leonard briefly in 1968 and again in 1971.  (He was playing Paris in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE at the time this photo was taken in 1971).

Kris Star TRek Con 1986

I gave him love beads in ’68, which he continued to wear during a quick interview he did with a Seattle TV station.I can’t find the photo right now or I would post it, too.

I contributed covers and articles to his official fan publication.

When he came to Seattle to do VINCENT  on stage (in 1978, I think) I planned to be in the audience–but a cougar at the sanctuary where I volunteered fell ill so I elected to stay with her and nurse her through the crisis.  I sent Leonard a note telling him why I couldn’t attend, and he sent me a program, signed, saying I made the right decision.  (Dang…where is that program and that note? I’ll have to search my archives and try to find it.)

That’s how thoughtful he was.

Although DeForest Kelley will always claim the most real estate in my heart (if you’ve read my book, you know why), Leonard Nimoy will always have a big chunk of what’s left over.  I bought his books of poetry, his music albums (love SPOCK THOUGHTS, which is Desiderata renamed, ‘no comment’ on his singing voice!), and watched his career unfold after TREK. He was a multifaceted professional with a wonderful heart, mind and soul.

I miss him already…

“First star to the right and straight on ’til morning!”

 

 

Photos from FORUM Feb. 23, 2015

Hannah Kris and Dave at FORUM Feb 23 2015

 Hannah Krueger, Dave Robbs and Kristine M. Smith

(Dave photo-bombing…with delighted permission!!!)

TKris and Justive at FORUM Feb 23 2015

Justice and Kris at FORUM event Monday Night

Candace Thompson’s FORUM takes place one evening a month in Puyallup. It offers up to four local small businesses each time the chance to pitch their companies and get valuable feedback from a panel of small business owners who have traveled the road before them and can share insights on how to take a business to the next level.  It’s a lot of fun.  To register to pitch your business to the next panel, email candace@wldchildgrp.com. Find out more about her and Wild Child Group at wldchildgrp.com.

 

 

 

 

Writing AdWords Ads

Sometimes my Muse surprises me. I submitted a quote on a project that I thought would take me about an hour to do — write four Adwords ads for a current client to split test.  Instead, I cranked out seven of them in a little over 30 minutes (no extra charge). The fellow loves them all. I’m darned proud of them myself. Can’t wait to see how they convert.

Compelling Adwords ads aren’t easy to write. The parameters are limiting:

Headline can be no more than 25 characters including spaces
Desc 1: can be no more than 35 characters, including spaces
Desc 2: can be no more than 35 characters, including spaces
List Display URL for more info…

But they’re kind of fun to write.  I know this client’s service very well (I’ve written three other pieces for him) so there was no learning curve at all, which is why I was able to crank them out in such a short time.

I usually write rhyming Adwords Ads. (Think the old Burma Shave signs, if you’re old enough…)  This time I didn’t; I couldn’t think of any way to rhyme the total message.  They work well, anyway.

In Other News…

I need to spend some quality time with my goat babies today. I haven’t been with them more than 15 minutes a day the past two days, except for last night when I brought Mr. Tumnus into the house for a few hours.  He always acts like he NEEDS me DESPERATELY when I visit him in the shed or pasture, so last night when I went out to bed them down, he did the same thing.  So I brought him indoors. He didn’t pee or pooh the whole time I had him in here.Bravo!

I read that you can potty train goats.  That is soooo tempting, but then I’d want a goat buddy in here all the time with me…and that would get distracting!  I have to stay focused and make a living! GRRRR!  Thank God I love what I do or I might forsake it to become a goat herder!)

 

 

 

Power Partners Make the Difference

 

On Friday  I’ll be meeting with Eli Struck and Candace Thompson for the first of monthly strategy meetings in addition to my customary network meetings…one of which I may drop soon since it has gotten me zip, zilch, nada in the way of projects in well over a year now.

If all goes according to plan, I should be making some serious money as a copywriter…ongoing!  All I really want is ten hours a week at $250/hour plus the elimination (or reduction) of non-billable outreach time (networking, project search and quoting time).  If I can get that going on reliably, I will be one happy camper!

Looks like it’s about to happen. I made $4600 in less than six days earlier this month (without networking and with only a little bit of time on Thumbtack). If I can do that once a month, I’ll be in high clover!

With the power partners I have now–Lisa Twining Taylor (Dancing Goat Web Design), Eli Struck, Candace Thompson–and my new engagement with Thumbtack, I see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I very much look forward to saying bye bye to Elance,  high-profile ghetto of bargain basement opportunities for professional providers and untested/untried wannabes who enjoy fighting for their survival because of the mostly-miserly clients who shop there.  I got my start at Elance but have made less than $112,000 there in seven long years of hard-scrabble bidding .  That’s less than $16,000/year before they take the onerous membership and percentage fees out of it (8.75% plus whatever membership level you choose).

Thumbtack doesn’t have membership or percentage fees, so it’s the better freelance project source. And once you get a client at Thumbtack, you don’t have to keep paying them for the intro for two years via percentage fees.  You pay only for the original intro ($1.64 or less per credit; most writing project intros require from three to six credits) and that’s it.

And get this! The “bidding war” ends after the first five candidates apply unless any of the first five decline to engage so buyers aren’t inundated with quotes, as they always are at Elance, so analysis paralysis doesn’t set in and projects actually get awarded!

Even better: the clients at Thumbtack are far more likely to appreciate the VALUE of professional providers, too. They’re willing to pay professional rates for professional work. They know that their ROI depends on the quality of the provider they choose.

Wannabes need not apply at Thumbtack. If you do, you’ll lose. Stick with Elance until you get the writing (or other) chops you need to compete in the big leagues and then segue over.

Don’t shoot yourself or Thumbtack in the foot by presenting yourself to it too early. Clients are required to leave feedback so if you don’t exceed your clients’ expectations 99.9% of the time, lay low until you do unless you’re willing to face the uphill battle of reputation management.  (Trust me… you don’t!)

A good reputation will take you far. A bad reputation can ruin your chances for all time. Remember: the Internet has a lonnnnggggggg memory… all but eternal.

 

 

 

 

 

More Projects, More Money…

I got a $1050.00 project from a completely unexpected source this week.  I was able to get it done in two days (off and on).  I edited five existing web pages and wrote four others from scratch.  I also edited a lot of descriptions (without charging for them) because I saw  typos and grammatical errors galore and didn’t want those to remain…

Exceeding expectations is always my goal. I won’t know this client’s verdict for a day or two because the lady who hired me is off work for a week following some minor surgery.

Yesterday I also gave an extreme makeover to a sales page for a client who hired me for the first time last month, so that’s an additional $210.00. He’s going to keep tapping me for copy, looks like.  I’m delighted ’cause he’s delighted.

I edited and enhanced something for John Assaraf’s company, too, for $200…and dog sat three dogs for six days for $150. I think that’s everything this month, including the $3K project I did a couple of weeks ago.  So that’s more than $4, 500 in under 12 days … a RECORD!  (My highest-grossing month before now was just a tad over $4K.)  With any luck at all, this won’t be the last month like this one! We’ll see!

I turned down appearing on a 5-minute video for pay today. A company in the Middle East wanted me to present their company USP via video after seeing my presentations on this website.

After much consideration, I decided to pass.  Their website is sub-standard and needs a lot of work. The company is a start-up. I just didn’t have enough information about them to feel good about recording a video for them with my face and voice on it.

If I’m going to do something like that for anyone, I have to feel certain that the company or entrepreneur is the full meal deal and that their reputation is as good as my own.  As mentioned a few times before, I’m a gatekeeper of sorts: I don’t agree to tackle a writing (or any other) project unless I feel certain I’d feel fine putting my own name behind the product, service or cause by way of an public endorsement.  I simply refuse to mislead clients, even when they aren’t my clients!

I think a copywriter should agree to write only for firms and folks who definitely meet or exceed expectations most of the time–like 98% of the time or better.  (I’m well aware that no one can please everyone 100% of the time.  Some Grumpy Gus types won’t be happy no matter how many hoops a provider jumps through to please them. I’ve had two clients like that myself.  Only two, thank God!)  I know a lot of copywriters don’t have these scruples, but I do. I need to sleep at night.  I don’t want to take part in  misleading buyers…

In Other News…

This afternoon I built an outdoor platform for the goats.  It needs a little more bolstering (some more nails) but all six goats (two does and six young’uns) got on it today all at once and it stayed put, so it’ll be okay until I get to McLendon’s for more nails tomorrow morning. I may also buy a piece of 1/2″ or 3/4″” plywood to make extra sure it’ll serve the purpose.  The piece that’s serving as the main platform right now is old and weathered.  I want to overlay it with something better and then nail them together and make sure the “legs” are going to serve commendably, too.   The babies will grow, so the platform needs to be able to bear a lot of weight.

I’ll get some updated videos of the goat babies uploaded to Facebook this weekend sometime.

Weaving Words Into Wealth by Turning Browsers into Buyers