Archive for March, 2009

Previously on Battlestar Galactica…

*sigh* 😦 …Fridays without BSG? What am I supposed to do…get a life?

Anyway, I told you about a sudden demand for SEO article writing that is keeping me busy.

Now, I don’t have any particular philosophy on this kind of writing, I just have a method that works for me…practically, financially and ethically.

I know some who are happy, um, appropriating someone else’s work and changing the wording just enough to get by the similarity filters.  For the record, that’s not cool. Others are complete purists who refuse to write anything that is not completely original.  For the record, that’s not practical.

Economics…and ethics, of course, dictate things here.  Some jokers want to pay you ten bucks for an SEO article. If you somehow agree to that indentured servitude, I defy you to get the job done by ethical means. Better yet, don’t take the gig. Just tell the prospective client to call 1-800-I N D I A.

On the other hand, those who insist on writing 100% farm fresh original content…well, I hope you get good wi-fi reception up on your high horse. Seriously, this the kind of black-and-white ethical stand  that is easy to make because nobody is hiring you.  By my estimates, that will cost about $100, and nobody will pay that.

So, my advice? Find the happy medium, and get happy.  (Ah yes…the bold, “straight down the middle” approach.) I don’t think it’s much more difficult to find 3 or 4 sources and synthesize (not just copy/paste) the ideas (not just the words) into something new.  Maybe that’s just me. If you can’t do this and punch out 350 words in under an hour, then perhaps this strange little niche is not for you.

Hey, what do you know? Maybe I do have a philosophy on this topic!

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A brief post today, because it’s been that kind of week.

Last time I mentioned these lean, low-to-the-ground web design and development shops that I tend to partner up with. These guys get in, marshall their resources and then (to quote the Beastie Boys) they’re out, they’re gone, and they keep it on and on.  They leave behind an attractive, functional site that looks far better than the budget would suggest.

One such band of pistoleros is the Charleston-based Metatation. They have their finger on the pulse of web 2.0, and where the business is right now. For the record (and this is not an original thought) “where the business is” is that every local pest control, landscaper and garage door installer is beginning to see the utility of creating a website to replace the crusty old yellow pages ad that (A) they are convinced no longer has any value, and (B) gets black stuff on your fingers.

This doesn’t mean he is willing to take out a SBA loan to pay for it. But if someone can do it professionally for five thou…er…36 hundr…uh…$2850, then let’s make it happen!  Multiply this by…a bunch…and you’ve got yourself a web design business.

Now all you need is an award-winning copywriter 😉

Anyway…here is a nice little residential real estate/property management website we did together. Simple, but highly functional, and it nails the Charleston vibe with the cold, steely precision of…some kind of cold, precise steel thing. I guess.

Take a look.

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straddlingSometimes I feel like my clients and I are straddling two eras of web development. By “my clients” I mean those hardworking designer/ developers who raise their clients’ websites up from the good rich soil of teh intarwebs.

And by “we are straddling” I mean HE’s straddling and I’m sitting on his shoulders, dangerously displacing his center of gravity.

On the one hand, I have one or two clients currently working with one or two Big Firms on one or two Big Sites. 20+ pages of philosophy, history, leadership, products, capabilities, clients, case studies, and on and on.

On the other hand, you have the small, sometimes virtual shops working with several small clients on several small sites–often WordPress or otherwise blog-based.  These sites might include a Home/About page, a product page or two, and Contact.

Obviously both have their pluses and minuses.

One has a huge budget, killer graphics and functionality and lyrical, heroic copy honed to perfection (and it only took 8 drafts!) However, it has way too many cooks, and takes so long to complete that at least one person on the client side will have retired by the time the site goes live.

The other is nimble, lean, and to the point. Nice (not killer, but nice) graphics, concise copy, simple functionality, and so on. The entire creative and decision making team might consist of 6 people instead of 20.

One will likely take several months from initial meeting to going live. In fact, I have one approaching the 9-month mark. The other is in, out, done and invoiced in a matter of weeks.

One entails a BIG payday…somewhere down the line. (Don’t be surprised if it comes in the form of a Social Security check.) The other, much MUCH smaller, but definitely sooner and more of them.

So what are we looking at here? Is this the difference between Web and Web 2.0?  Between messaging/branding/consulting and simply creating a website? Between building an impressive client portfolio and paying the bills?  The answer is yes.

I don’t think either is necessarily better. Ideally, you’d like to have some of both… the few, big payday prestige projects, and the several nice bill-paying projects.  These days, I will take what I can get. And I will be thanking the Lord for it.

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And now, today’s cautionary tale of Social Media Suicide:

Tweeting Idiot Blows Big Opportunity in Crap Economy

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The following rant is made possible by the fact that you can delete friends on Facebook without notifying them.

Sleepy Moon Guy: Keeps his browser open all day long, and sitting on Facebook.  Indicated by the sleepy blue sliver of a moon symbol next to his name.  Technically, he’s an “online friend,” but he lies in wait, stealthy-like. If you happen to drop in for a moment, the steel trap springs shut and…and I guess you have to chew off your arm to get free.

The “Go on, ask!” Girl: Brief, cryptic updates like “my heart hurts…” Designed to make someone, anyone, anyone at all, ask “Aww, what’s wrong?” Anyone except me, that is.

The Twitter Newbie: You hear it on TV a lot lately…puzzled news people giving it their best, Seinfeldian “what’s the deal with Twitter?”  I get the deal with Twitter, OK? I get it better than most people who use it– like Twitter Newbie.  TN probably has a reason to tweet. Maybe he has a new business he’s trying to promote. So why is every tweet something like “I’m driving,” or “Just had lunch…chick-fil-a yum!” or, my favorite, “tweeting rocks!”  Here’s a tip…get the rocks out of your head and learn to tweet. Secondly, stop saying tweet.

I could go on and on about the TMI people and the ones who are constantly flinging food at you or challenging you to a pillow fight. But that would eliminate just about everyone. So, I’ll end my Facebook beef right here.

You may say, “Dag, Boo…you must spend a lot of time on Facebook to form such a passionate opinion about it!”  To which, I may reply “Dag, Boo? For real? Are you that kid from To Kill a Mockingbird, or what?”

Dag, Boo...that literary reference didn't seem very forced at all!

Dag, Boo...that literary reference didn't seem very forced at all!

Seriously, though. It’s not a waste of time if I am judging you. That’s the first rule of blogging!

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My sister found yesterday’s Photoshop masterpiece vaguely disturbing, and I had to agree. Neither one of us could quite put a finger on why, though.  Then, it came to me…as through a thick fog of distant yesterdays (you know, the kind they always had in the basement on That 70s Show?)


Frank Zappa: Subconciously inspiring blog illustrations from beyond the grave!

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Rikki-Tikki-Tavi always left a little food on his plate at mealtime. His mother had warned him that “an empty plate equals a slow mongoose!”

I first read that Kipling story when I was 8 years old. To this day I am haunted by these questions: “Does a mongoose eat from a plate? Why is there a mongoose at our table? …and …Who ordered the mongoose?”

It used to be implied that an empty plate was once full. It implied that, in  your fat-and-happy, Dow-at-11,000 gluttony you hoovered it all down and then passed the plate back for another slice of roast beeste.

Today, post-Obamapocalypse, an empty plate tells the world that, well, there’s nothing on your plate.  The freelance jobs aren’t coming. Next stop: selling beer cans, stolen copper tubing or plasma (in that order.)

So now, as a public service, Nimble Mongoose Productions presents: “What’s on Your Plate?” And, of course, by “Your” I mean “My.”

Weekly Corporate Intranet Newsletter: a timeless classic.  Just keeps chugging along.  This one is all about doing the job well, hitting the deadlines, taking a load off of busy internal folks, and nurturing the relationship.  Coming up on 2 years of service, Praise Be.

SEO Article Writing: A new development, coming just at the moment I was ready to remove this unused service from my list. Suddenly I am serving two clients and three series of articles. The keys here are quality and SPEED. Speed in meeting the deadline, and in making it worth the writer’s time.

Website Content:  Currently providing web copy for 7 different sites at vastly different stages in their development, from initial discovery to “will it ever end?” The key here is ORGANIZATION. I just replaced my 12-by-15 white board calendar with a deluxe 24-by-36 model…purchased at a yard sale from an out-of-business shopkeeper. IRONY!

So that’s the plate round-up, for the most part. I wouldn’t say it’s FULL…I mean, I can still see bits of Chinet between the piles of food. But I have no complaints.  And since I am giving out “keys” like I know what I am talking about, let me say this…Faith helps. It’s not something that I trumpet in this forum, but I don’t hide it either.

My Faith informs me that there will be good times and bad times. That I should treat both as learning experiences, as opportunities to exercise trust or thankfulness…or both.   That I should do everything in my earthly power to keep the ball rolling. That I should always act conscientiously and with integrity.  That whatever slim talent I have comes not from within, but from Above.  Most of all, it informs me that I will likely never be that perfect, serene person I have described in the previous sentences…but that I am forgiven.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled sarcasm.

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It had to happen sooner or later.

Just the other day I was rifling through the pages of my site, seeing which pages need updating, which need to be cut, etc. I paused at the Article Writing/Business Blogging page and, as my index finger hovered over the Delete Page button, I began to reflect on that brief, intensely weird bit of Curriculum Vitae in my career.

As I have mentioned previously, I worked for a web directory firm that shall remain nameless.  They sold domain names and set up rudimentary websites for a nominal fee. Where they made their money was on banner ads and monthly maintenance, in the form of SEO writing that drove traffic in the client’s direction.

Anyway, it was a brief but intense stint. I packed a lot of experience into a short amount of time. When I bailed out at 30,000 feet (read all about it) I was dazed. Dazed, but determined to make something useful come out of that experience.

So I devoted a page of my site to blogging and article writing. Then I sat back and played the Waiting Game. Then, as Homer Simpson suggested, I tired of the Waiting Game and switched to Hungry Hungry Hippos. Then, I forgot all about it.

So, there I was, finger hovering over the Delete Page button, assessing the 7 months of total inactivity this page had inspired. The music swelled urgently, and there was a series of quick cuts between my hand poised at the mouse, the screen, a twitching eye, the screen again, a bead of sweat forming on my upper lip and finally, a super slo-mo shot of my index finger descending toward the left-click button.

Suddenly, the telephone rang , because that’s how it works in these stories.  A client who I had been trying to engage for over a year was asking if I was interested in writing SEO articles on a regular basis for a small business website. And, get this, he was willing to pay my going rate. Clarification…he gave a per-article dollar amount that happened to be my hourly rate. It’s up to me to get it done in an hour.

Needless to say, we are in business. Strangest of all, a half-hour later (I am not joking) a different client who I have also been trying to engage for a year called for the same reason, for some other small business website. Praise be, he was also willing to pay me like a grown up!

Believe me, I am thanking the Lord for this odd bit of fortune…and real SEO types will back me up on just how odd it is!   The moral, which I will attribute in part to a writer friend in the UK, is this:

  • Determine your worth.
  • Establish and publish a rate.
  • Determine how much you are willing to deviate from that rate, and
  • Don’t waver!

In the end, you may not get hired…but you won’t get ripped off, either.

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that's GOOD cough syrup!

that's GOOD cough syrup!

The past ten days have been a fog.  A thick, mucous-y, Vick’s-Vapo-Rub-smelling fog. It started as a sinus infection  and morphed into a flu of the congestion/ fatigue/ weakness variety.

And this presented a new problem for me. The last time I was this sick, I was NOT terribly busy in the copywriting realm.  This time, I had six different projects going on at once, with three different deadlines. Actually, three deadlines that happened to be the same day…today.

In another life, I recall weakly shuffling up to the edit console, still wearing my coat and scarf, and carrying a box of tissues and a bottle of cough syrup. I plopped down, coughed pathetically, and turned to my executive producer searching for a little sympathy. I received precisely none.

That’s one of those times when you make that silent vow that someday you will be your own boss, and when that day comes… Well,when that day comes the only difference will be that there’s no executive producer sitting there. Everything else, including the deadline, will be the same.

Ironically, my biggest project had the longest lead time. Something like ten days, which I thought was about twice what I needed. And I was determined to use the time. Then, the gleep hit me and I could barely read the screen or string three words together. I hardly started the project until last weekend. In the end, I believe it all came together pretty well. Solid first drafts, anyway. I thank the Lord for that, at least.

So, that explains my absence lately. Hopefully, it also explains to the client why my copy reads like it was written by someone absolutely flying on cough syrup.

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