Posts Tagged ‘freelance’

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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As I keep telling those who inquire, I am definitely NOT setting the world on fire. But business is OK.  Things have picked up and, when you combine that with my usual lack of organization, fun stuff like this blog can start to suffer.

It’s the name of the game: juggling several projects at various points along their timelines. Complete first draft of project A, then take initial meeting on project B. Get C to first draft, then begin the draft 2 revisions to project A.  Edit the weekly newsletter, do some billing, do some marketing. And so on, gently down the stream.

I’m not a naturally organized person, but between the white board, Yahoo calendar and my super-deluxe leather- bound American Express appointment book, I manage to keep it together.  Most of the time, anyway.

It’s a challenge, but I’m certainly not complaining. Just giving my  legion of fan the 411 if my posts seems to be scarcer lately, or somehow lacking the mind blowing, heart breaking, bowel shattering clarity that makes you question why we’re here and what it all means.

So, please bear with me. For now, it’s back to work. But cheer up…there will be plenty of time for blogging when we’re living in VAN down by the RIVER!

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terror2In terms of readership, someone who posts twice a week should probably not pick Friday as one of those days. But this is when I have time. I’m usually done for the week by now. Either the newsletter is wrapped, or I am shooting off the approved final draft to the programmer. After that, blogging and then maybe some marketing.

But it’s an odd week, and I just don’t have the time. Instead, I thought I’d catch you up (all 25 of you, plus mom) on the latest and greatest in the project pile:

Aforementioned newsletter: That’s weekly corporate intranet newsletter for all you search engine fans out there.

Institutional Architecture website and brochure. Like, schools and such. The challenge is to never, ever, use the words Institutional Architecture …they hate that.

Biotech Website: A bunch of copy has been submitted. Typically, it lands on the client’s desk two minutes after he has left for a month-long tour of the Far East subsidiaries!

Property Management Website: Small job, but interesting. An honest client who is keenly aware of the low opinion people hold of property managers, and is combating it with actions, not hype.  Usually, the hype is Plan A.

Promotional DVD video script for large grocery retailer: Love doing video scripts! Ironically, this is the one that really bunched things up this week, as it went from “no real rush” to “is it done yet?’

Anyway, that’s the Friday scoop. And please don’t think I’m whining about my workload. You have to be WORKING to have deadlines…and I thank the Lord for that. Have a good weekend!

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By the way, the author is fully aware that he claimed to be too busy to post, and posted anyway (with pictures, no less.)  The author hopes you appreciate this sacrifice (and, also, irony.)

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Obviously, we all have a slightly different work styles when it comes to writing. How we gather information, how we get inspired. I have one method that I hesitate to reveal.  Not because it’s so inventive, but because, at first glance,  it seems to be a waste dubious investment of time.

The best $12 I ever spent.

Phone Tap: The best $12 I ever spent.

I refer to tape recording my initial discovery meeting with the client… either in person or by telephone with a line tap.  Afterward, I transcribe the call and distribute to everyone present and ask for any additional notes or impressions.

There are a couple of benefits to this practice:

Digesting a Corporate Culture: At your initial discovery meeting with the client, they will dump on you every brochure they have produced in the past ten years.  It’s almost always T.M.I., man! How much of this stuff matters? More specifically, how much of this stuff matters to THESE people asking you to do THIS job TODAY?  Best recent example: A Big Important Company with every reason to crow about their history…and lots of background material to prove it. In the meeting they said, “We know nobody cares.  Show a couple of dates, a couple of mergers, a couple of technological advances, and move on!”

Flesching Your Kincaid, so to speak:  Ever write a page of brochure or web copy, then run the spellcheck and find that you are 35% passive, a 3 on readability, and writing at the 12th grade comprehension level?  Come on, it can’t be just me!  Parenthetical phrases, five-dollar words and other examples of fancy-schmancyness abound. Now, spellcheck an interview transcript. Zero passive, 65 readability, 7th grade comprehension. Truly, you are writing the way people speak.  That’s usually what I am after, so I try to preserve the language as I transition from transcript to copy.

Breaking the Back of the Story: I don’t know how I came up with such a dire name for this concept. Considering the frustration you feel when trying to find your inspiration, it’s a pretty good title.  In this instance, transcribing an interview and arranging it into neat sections and ideas is the perfect activity while you are waiting for the inspiration to arrive. When it does, you will have all the dumb little details organized. You have broken the back of the story, and now you can throw your head back and laugh maniacally as the guts spill out! Charming.

Drawbacks? Of course, this takes time. I am a decent typist (for a boy!) Indeed, my two index fingers are a blur on the keyboard.  But it can be slow going. But I budget for it, and I always tell the client to expect it. And, for all the reasons stated above, I feel it’s worth it.

Besides, when this copywriting thing falls through, it might make a decent plan B. Did you know that thousands of court reporter jobs go unfilled each year?!

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I am never one to jump on the bandwagon. No, I am usually the one running at top speed trying to catch the bandwagon long after it has passed by.  There are too many examples to name, so I will just stick to the topic at hand: Social Network Marketing.

I didn’t get into the whole Social thing until it was my job to do so, back in the spring of 08.  In that position I:

  • Wrote fake blogs on various consumer topics to support advertisers’ websites
  • Commented on those fake blogs, as well as real blogs, and directed people back to my advertisers’ sites, and
  • Spammed the heck out of people’s MySpace pages for advertisers like bars, clubs and radio stations.

During that time I joined social sites like facebook and LinkedIn, primarily because it was part of the job…apparently a part of that job I didn’t stick around long enough to do.

Since returning to this vale of tears known as freelancing, I have been  passively noting the Social goings-on…what the kids might call Lurking. I have friended, linked, lived, loved and learned… but never really saw what it had to do with me professionally.  I have made a few observations, however.

  • The people who I have seen on facebook for months, yakking at all hours of the day about the weather, playing trivia games and posting pictures of their cats are the same ones now crying, “Laid off! Can U believe it? So unfair!”
  • The weird, competitive drive to have the most friends is present even on LinkedIn, which I always thought was the more mature, professional site of the two. Specific example: an agency guy I have been trying to hook up with for six years, but who has never answered an email.  A month ago, HE links to ME. But he still won’t answer my emails.  However, his friend count increased by one, so…hooray?

On the positive, useful side of the coin, I see people working the system to their advantage. One guy in particular, an agency friend in Chicago, has a tendency to note on LinkedIn everything he is doing…working on budgets, timelines, strategic frameworks and so on. Now, I don’t really care and, as a result, I thought he was wasting his time. But now I get it! He is on there so much that he has that elusive top-of-mind recognition, and is certain to be the person you call whenever you need…whatever it is that he does.

OK, I don’t have it all mastered just yet.  But I am taking the first step. I am posting this entry, and then heading straight to LinkedIn to promote it.  That’s right, I have finally caught the bandwagon! This can only mean one thing: Social Networking is officially obsolete.

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It is an historic day. That’s not to say we haven’t had our share of history in the past few years…but it’s nice that this is something positive for once.  Today we will inaugurate our first African American as president.  I admit that, politically, this was not the result I was hoping for. But for America, given our history, it’s a pretty cool thing.

Now, I’m no champion of race relations. I’m FOR them, sure. I guess I have always taken the Christian-slash-Republican-slash-property owner -slash marketplace view, a confusing but workable philosophy that says:

  • We’re all God’s children
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Keep your yard nice and we’re cool.

Basic “human decency” stuff…I’m certainly no Freedom Rider.  I’ve tried to do my (very, very , VERY) small part by casting actors of color in almost every industrial video I have produced in the last 20 years. I have wondered why Friends and Seinfeld and Raymond and Frasier and a thousand others couldn’t have done the same. I watched with smug satisfaction as the marketing manager from TinyTown USA went flush with terror upon entering my studio to see that I had hired a black woman as her spokesmodel. And I cringed in sympathy as I witnessed a white auto industry executive complimenting a black auto industry executive for “being SO well spoken!” …not in 1979, but 3 years ago.  (I turned away before he could pat her head or give her a Milk-Bone.)

So, what does this mean to, or say or prove about America? Hell, who knows?  But a LOT of people said it would never happen, and here we are.

One thing’s for sure…the world is a tough neighborhood, and we can’t afford to fail. That’s why, despite my political leanings, I will be saying a prayer for President Obama today. I urge you to do the same.

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pressTo recap: As I have mentioned once or 16 times, I edit a weekly corporate online newsletter.  The gig began about 18 months ago. It has its light periods and its heavy periods (I lose a lot of iron but, fortunately, I take One-a-Day.) In general, it is a relatively steady, and greatly appreciated average 10 to 12 hours a month.  Of course, I wouldn’t mind it being more.

So the email from my contact at the corporate newsletter definitely caught my eye. It started out most promisingly:

“Starting next week two other business units will be contributing to our newsletter…”

I started doing English-major math: one…plus two…is, um, three!

She continued, “I told them all about you, how you punch it up and make it all sound like one person wrote it…”

Yes, concise, entertaining, singular voice. Go on…

“…but they said they have no money.” (Cue sound of sad trombone.)

Sigh. When I originally sat down with the marketing director those many months ago, this was the hope. That our little exercise in value-added awesomeness would inspire other business units in this big multinational to start up their own newsletters, hopefully with me on board.

Hey, half a loaf, right? More like none of the loaf because they aren’t asking me to do anything.  My contact is going to add my stuff with the other people’s stuff. So, while this doesn’t hurt me financially, I am dead certain it is going to hurt the product. We are right back where we started…the classic corporate newsletter that is written by six different people of varying writing ability. The singular voice is no more.

What do you do in a situation like this? Well, here’s what I did: the mature, business-y thing.  I told my contact, “if these folks need any help getting started, any tips on style, send them to me…no charge.”

I figure, build some good will. Help them get off on the good foot. Take some pressure off of my contact. And, who knows? The purse strings may loosen eventually. In the meantime, I can only hope that my contact will tell her boss about my courageous, selfless act of value-addedness.

Hope, hell…I’m going to request it!

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When does an article cross the line from “informative” to “optimized?” Hey, who knows? I have my own definition: when it stops sounding natural (or organic, as the freaks say)  and starts reading like a bunch of keywords with punctuation.

This won’t be groundbreaking information, but I try to approach an SEO  assignment like any other, from an audience perspective.  I try to write as if I were addressing people, not search engines.

Of course, I have my list of keywords in mind, and I try to reference them whenever it feels natural. Then, when I am done, I go back and look for any additional organic opportunities I may have missed.

After that, I look for any in-organic opportunities, no more than two or three, to wedge in a few extra keywords.  I do this because, without a few sore-thumb phrases glowing on the page, some clients don’t feel like I have earned my two-point-seven cents per word.

Hey, that’s why they call it “adding value!”

Anyway, here’s a recent example. Again, a topic I knew nothing about: employee benefits.  See what you think, both in terms of sounding intelligent and in organic SEO.

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All the cool kids are doing it. By “cool kids” I mean sweaty web nerds. And by “it” I mean domain mapping.  As I understood the concept, I could somehow employ elfin magic to drop the “WordPress” from my URL and go commando with simply “LivelyExchange.com.”

The only problem? I don’t own LivelyExchange.com. I used to own it, for years and years. Somewhere along the way, though, I must have found another use for that $14 per year.  Now, some squatter owns it, and I didn’t even bother to inquire as to a price.

Instead, I did an end-run and purchased “ALivelyExchange.com. Then I routed all hits to this blog. Same site, new name.

The pros? The web gurus tell me that this makes the site looks more professional, and less bloggy.

The cons? First, this may put a dent in my Google rankings in the short term, as the switch takes effect.  Second, those 500 business cards I just had done are instantly obsolete.

The price of progress!!

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Blogging about blogging reminds me a little bit of the Staples commercial where the hipster is trying to find his EASY button in the cluttered office…

We have a few minutes before the hole in the universe reaches our quadrant, so read quickly!

I was at a Christmas party over the weekend, where a group of salesmen (hardcore 1099’s who live entirely on commission) were anxiously commiserating about the coming year.  Misery loves company, of course, so someone turned to me and said, “How about you, Mike? You operate on the tattered fringe of the business world. How’s your oh-nine look?”

Suddenly, I realized…not horrible. Now, it’s safe to say that 2009 won’t be anybody’s banner year. Comparitively speaking, “not horrible,” “gettin’ by” and “payin’ the bills” will look pretty good this time next year.

Intrigued, someone asked “Mr Lee, how DO you get these shirts so soft?” Naturally, I shushed them and whispered, “Ancient Chinese secret!”

Some hotshot! Actually, I had never thought about it. However, I had just completed my last blog entry about a client/partner success story, so the topic was somewhat fresh in my mind.  I think it boils down to a few points:

  • Narrow focus on the right client
  • Cold calling the right way, and, oddly enough…
  • Blogging

The salesman I was yakking with was entirely on board with my first two points.  But number three elicited a hearty “WTF?”

Honestly, I am not a salesman, so I am not the best resource. I only know what has worked for me. And “worked” is a subjective, relative term.  See if this makes any sense…

Blogging has elevated me from number 60 (or so) on Google for “copywriter+charleston+sc” to top-3 in six months.  Correction: it took about a month to get there, where I have remained.

My blog’s back pages contain my value statement, resume, references and writing samples.   It’s all in one location, and easier to access than tearing open the envelope, reading my cover letter, popping in my CDROM, etc.

I like to think that my blog posts make some kind of impression. They give a glimpse of my personality (lucky you.) And they can be a kind of soft sell. For instance, rehashing some humorous incident that happened to me while producing an industrial video in Germany is a subtle way to remind you that I have produced internationally… if that’s your bag, baby.

Finally, most importantly, by the time a client calls or emails, he or she has read the value statement, resume, etc., and is very nearly sold. They are calling to “talk about upcoming projects and look for the right fit.”

All in all, this cocktail-grade conversation really helped give me a brighter perspective on 2009. In appreciation, I will not reveal my yak-mate’s sales profession. Why? To give him a head start as…you guessed it…he begins his blog! Knock ’em dead, killer!

Or, should I say CAT killer?

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