How Sex Offenders Could Be Ruining Your Content Strategy (Yes, Really)

Creepy Guy

A cautionary tale about content gone horribly, horribly wrong

Normally I write for writers on this site, but today I want to switch gears and write for the people who hire writers. (But if you’re a writer, feel free to eavesdrop … and you should, because this post is a hoot.)

I just recently saw the most hilarious content backfire ever.

Want to see? Sure you do. Check out this paragraph from an article describing why Drexel Hill is one of the top small cities in Pennsylvania:

This is also a very safe town. While there are some registered sex offenders in this town, 21 to be exact, there is actually only 1 per 1,406 people in the town. Actually, only one area where safety is regarded as a concern in this town is in regards to the weather. There are more than average tornados and earthquakes in this city.”

What is the reader supposed to take away from this passage? I’m not entirely sure but here are my guesses:

  • If you want to move to Drexel Hill, keep your kids in the house and check into some property insurance riders.
  • Don’t be too concerned about the perverts because you’ll probably die in a natural disaster anyway.
  • You ‘ll only have to deal with sex offenders 6.23 hours per year because the rest of the time they’ll be busy with the other 1405 residents they’re assigned to.

But wait! Before we get all Armageddon up in here (WHERE is Bruce Willis when you need him???), the article says we should also know this about Drexel Hell, er, Hill.

A very good thing about this though is that there is a hospital in the town, Delaware County Memorial Hospital. This is much better than some of the other small towns that do not have a hospital as you do not want to go far when you need emergency medical services.”

Thank you, blog author, for pointing that out. I SO do not want to have to go far for emergency services, especially when I’m unable to make it to the storm shelter because I’ve been derailed by my friendly neighborhood sex offender. It’s like you just know me, you know?

Another town, Willow Grove, was lauded for being a “very traditional town where 53% of the households are married couples and only 10% are single mothers with no husband or male figure in their homes.”

As we all know, single mothers who are unable or unwilling to get laid are a scourge on all of our lives. Thank God at least some of the single mamas in Willow Grove had the good sense to insert a dude into their domiciles. We need to keep that situation contained.

Someone make it stop

One of my pet peeves lately is overuse of the word “epic.” But this mess? You can say it with me: epic content fail. 

So, yes, this was an extreme example. But you know what? There’s still a lot of terrible copy out there on the Internet and somebody, somewhere paid money to put it there.

Maybe even worse: There’s a lot of mediocre copy out there that’s not even worth reading. At least the bad stuff is entertaining.

How does this happen? I’m not telling you anything earth shattering here, but the way I see it, there are certain conditions that create bad or offensively mediocre copy:

  1. When companies look at content as words to fill a space. It’s all so much lorem ipsum as far as they’re concerned. This is usually related to  …
  2. When companies want to cheap out content. Bargain basement content is so dangerous. Why? Because anything that goes on a company’s website is the face of the business as far as the customers are concerned. These companies might as well hand a megaphone to the intern and ask him or her to give the keynote at the industry conference.
  3. When companies think of content as a box to be checked. “Are we doing content?” “Yep.” “OK, good. That’s important. Moving on …” Content is not a set-it-and-forget-it thing. Content can live on the web forever. It can take on a life of its own (for better or, more likely, for worse) if companies don’t pay close attention to it.

Of course, if you’re reading this, I’m probably preaching to the choir. Hopefully your content is the kind that inspires your customers to open their wallets instead of girding their loins.

Have an example of deliciously terrible copy? Send it to me! #guiltypleasure
I’m at trish@writeworks.co

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My BIG problem with the blogosphere’s biggest conference

Why the Blogher Conference consistently shatters my dreams

Quiz question: How do you know you’re moving in a week?

Answer: You find yourself sitting on a lawn chair in your living room, drinking wine out of a coffee mug.

That was me at the end of last week. Today I’m sitting at my cluttery desk — one of the few areas that remains unboxed — and mentally finishing packing while simultaneously working.

But before all that goes down, I wanted to talk a little bit about what I’m doing next week. I’ll be at the Blogher Conference in New York City. (Like to go? Click here to get 30% off a new registration.) Yeah, I’ll be doing my session right after Gwyneth Paltrow speaks. So no biggie.

I’m super psyched about this conference because I’ll be leading a Business Intensive session on how to set rates for writing. As you may know, this is a topic that I’m extremely passionate about — hence this website that, oddly enough, has been in desperate need of updating because I’m too busy implementing the strategy that I’m trying to teach other writers.

They say that the son of the shoemaker has no shoes … to that I add a hearty “no shit.”

But while I’m excited about Blogher, I also have a serious problem with this conference. Let me explain.

My big problem with Blogher

I’ve been to the Blogher Conference many times. I’m always blown away at the incredible mix of bloggers and companies in attendance. I often leave SO FIRED UP to go out and put my own big, messy stamp on the blogosphere … but that feeling is also accompanied by a few other less-than-pretty feelings.

Being in the presence of so many women (and men!) who are out there making a killer living through their blogs or making a name for themselves with their writing can be pretty intimidating.

When I get home and sit back down in front of my computer, I find myself thwacked in the face with self-doubt (so-and-so had such great ideas … my stuff feels lame in comparison), frustration (I’ve been at this so long … why am I not making any money yet?), and overwhelm (there is SO MUCH to do to make a dent … why do I even bother?). 

So if you’re going to Blogher, I want to share a dirty little secret: You CAN make money blogging — and you don’t need to get a sponsorship or land a book deal to do it. Yes, even YOU, the person who just likes to write about her kids and her messy house and who has no prayer of ever launching a “lifestyle” blog … and you, the person who likes to curse it up over the latest drama going on in your life … and you, the person who just really digs writing and loves the “therapy” that goes along with blogging.

You can make a full-time income blogging — you just may need to rethink your approach.

Come to my session and we’ll talk about how you can confidently charge what you’re worth — no more getting “paid” in premiums or as a percentage of clicks. We’re going to talk about how to charge $50 per hour, $60 per hour, and even more than $90 per hour for your blogging work and get a predictable monthly paycheck at the end of it.

Even better? You can make money without selling out your own blog.

If you’re already a professional writer and you’re not making enough money (which you probably aren’t, because, HELLO, YOU’RE A WRITER), come to my session and find out what you should really be charging for your work.

Disclaimer: My session is a “no gimmick” zone. If you want to make this kind of money, you’re going to have to work hard and you’re going to have to challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort zones. Asking for money? It’s an uncomfortable skill to learn. Knowing that you deserve the rates that you’re asking for — and you WILL — means that you may need to up your writing game.

The good news? If you’re blogging consistently, you probably already know more than you think you do. 

This session is a roundtable format, so come prepared with questions — or don’t, and join us to hear what other people have to say.If you can’t go, leave me your questions in the comments section and I’ll try to answer them here. Hope to see you in New York!

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Do you stink at asking for money? I’ll show you how to do it right

Do you love the idea of getting paid for writing but can’t figure out how to set your rates? Do you suspect that you’re being underpaid for your professional writing?

I have soooo been there. But then I got over it and learned how to confidently ask for the cash that I deserve.

Let me show you how.

Next month, I’ll be at the Blogher15 Conference in New York City, where I’ll be running a workshop on how to set rates for your writing. My session takes place on Friday, July 17th at 2:00.

Do I know everything about this? Hell no. But after years of being underpaid, I figured a lot of things out the hard way. Come and learn from my mistakes — and start making real money.

Hope to see you there!

The life of a working freelance writer is fraught with peril

Hi all! Sorry for the extended hiatus. The life of a working single-mom freelancer requires a certain amount of precision to keep pace — and February/early March messed with my shit big time.

These people who swear that they’re my children had school for about a total of an hour and a half during the past six weeks. On top of that, I had two (really exciting) potential gigs pop out of the woodwork and I went deep into proposal-writing mode. And then, you know, I had all my regular paid work to do.

What can I say? I flat-out ran outta hours to write here.

Hang tight, chickadees. I haven’t forgotten about you! I’m working on the next post and promise to have something up on Monday.

In the meantime: SPRING! Woot!

Monday is THE DAY You Start Getting Your Life Back

Who’s excited about Monday?

Me me me me!

Why am I so excited? Because I can’t wait to start sharing all my strategies for getting freelance writing work with you. It’s actually a little silly how excited I am about this. I love being my own boss, setting my own hours, saying yes to work that interests me and no to work that doesn’t … and I think you will, too.

So hey … if you haven’t already signed up for email updates to get the inside scoop from me every week, do it now. What are you waiting for anyway?

And tell your writer friends to sign up, too. Don’t worry, there’s enough work everyone. Promise.

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The Downtrodden Writer’s Guide to a Kickass Freelance Writing Career

Writing Tools

down·trod·den adjective \ˈdan-ˈträ-dən\: without hope because of being treated badly by powerful people, governments, etc.; suffering (so sayeth Merriam-Webster)

Are you a downtrodden writer? You probably are. You’re probably sitting around feeling like a sad sack of misery because even though you KNOW you can write, you can’t figure out how to get someone to pay you for doing it.

Kills you, doesn’t it? There are words everywhere you look. You know someone got paid for writing them. So why can’t you seem to catch a break?

I have so been there. In fact, four years ago I was a newly-divorced mom of two who did most of my grocery shopping at The Dollar Tree due to the fact that I was so grossly under-employed. In fact, my inability to land a decent-paying writing job led to this rather colorful (and wildly profane … don’t say I didn’t warn you) rant on my personal blog in which I swore I was done responding to job posts forever.

But then, somewhere along the way I figured a few things out. I figured out how to make a living. Then I figured out how to make better living … and on my own terms. No offices. No bosses. No groveling for work. In fact, now I find myself in a position where work often comes to me … and I frequently have to turn it down because there are only so many hours in the day, y’all.

If you’re a writer, I want to show you how to do this. I don’t have all the answers — far from it. But I can tell you what I’ve learned and and I can share the exact things that I do that get me regular and well-paying work.

Starting January 12, I’ll post a new article every week on how to get writing gigs. I’ll walk you through how to assess your current skill set to match it with corresponding writing opportunities (and you might be surprised how many there are). I’ll show how to completely bypass the worthless job listings and build your own client base so you can receive a regular monthly income that you can actually live on.

Warning: This will be WORK. You knew that though, didn’t you? Expect some tough love about what your freelance writing career is and what it is not. Spoiler alert: This is not the way to get a book deal, although if that’s your goal you can follow some of these steps to get some paid work while you chase your dream (and you should chase your dream).

Here’s to your kickass freelance writing career in 2015!

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Missed Connections: Freelance Writers and Businesses Don’t Know How to Find Each Other

Here are three things I know:

1. It can be hard to get paid for your work when you’re a writer. In a world where some people think fifteen bucks is adequate compensation for a blog post … well, it can feel downright impossible to make a living with words.

2. Marketers and business owners don’t have the slightest clue how to hire a good writer. I’ve talked with enough of them to know that they have no idea what to look for when evaluating writers, so they often end up with content people who are churning out copy that’s best described as “meh.”

3. Writing has never been more important than it is right now. In the digital age, it’s all about engaging with your customers through content. Whether that’s blog posts, e-books, videos or social media, more often than not, those messages start with words.

So let’s do the math: Writers and business owners need each other.

Over the last few years I have half accidentally-stumbled and half barged my way in to the field of content marketing. It hasn’t always been easy — in fact, far from it, back when I was newly divorced single mom of two barely keeping my head above the poverty line. But eventually I found myself making a living — and then a darn good living — largely while working from home.

Now I’m in a spot where writer friends — both professional scribblers and “hobby” bloggers — ask me for advice. Rather than setting up coffee dates with everyone, fun as that is, I thought I’d just try to capture and share what I know here on this blog. (Psst … subscribe for email updates on the left.)

I’ve also recently found myself in the surprising position of talking to several companies about how to run content efficiently and how to hire writers who are worth their money. I’m happy to share those insights as well.

Content is changing and going in new directions all the time — it can be overwhelming and I certainly can’t claim to know it all. There are lots of ways to be a professional writer. I’ve managed to forge my own path over the years and carve out a sweet little professional niche for myself. If I can help other people do the same, it’s my privilege to do so.

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