Meetup for Creative and Digital Professionals in Bournemouth and Poole

A funny thing happened on the way to our first DotDorset meetup back in May…

While waiting for people to arrive I overhead a woman asking the bar staff about a meetup group. Thinking she might be looking for DotDorset I introduced myself. Turns out it was Danielle Rose, and she was talking about her own meetup group. Curious! Two meetups in the same pub on the same night at the same time. Curious indeed. And what might the meetup be about? Creative and Digital Professionals? Now THAT is an amusing coincidence.

 

Turns out that Creative & Digital Professionals (Bournemouth & Poole) has pretty much the same plan that we did:

“The intention of this group is to provide informal social gatherings for local creatives to meet each other and hang out, whilst hopefully having a lot of fun in the process.”

So I recommend you check out the group and pop along to the next meetup. They meet monthly, usually in Bournemouth.

How freelance copywriters should (not) contact clients

As a freelancer copywriter, making contact with potential clients is easy to screw up. It’s also easy to get a little bit wrong. And it’s very easy to waste your time, and the time of the business you’re approaching.

I have experienced both sides of this equation: I’ve sent emails that get ignored and I also get query emails from fellow copywriters.

So here are a few tips to help you start positive relationships with potential clients and maybe even find work:

1. Address your emails to people individually

I frequently receive emails from copywriters addressed to ‘Sir’ – or they just say ‘Hi’. That’s fine. But it tells me you haven’t bothered to learn my name. If you don’t have the time (or the sense) to find out my name, I don’t have the time to reply.

2. Email one potential client at a time

I’ve had emails from aspiring copywriters that are copied to other agencies. This is a very quick way to besmirch your good name.

3. Tell the client how you can help them

Copywriters sometimes write telling me they want to “expand their client base” or “develop their client portfolio”, and that sounds just wonderful for them, but why would I give two shits about their business goals? Your potential clients are only interested if you can help them achieve their goals. So keep yourself out of it.

4. Send a link to your portfolio

Your potential clients don’t really want an inbox full of your files. Send them a link to your website/portfolio so they can browse your work in their own time. And if you don’t have a portfolio or a website you should really get one.

5. Be friendly and don’t make demands

Emailing people is fine and dandy, but remember that it doesn’t entitle you to a response. Your email is probably unsolicited anyway, so be patient and remember that the recipient doesn’t owe you anything. It’s good to be friendly and conversational in your email, but mind that you don’t become over-familiar, cocky or demanding.

6. Networking is about more than one-off emails

Instead of just sending an email to a potential client, why not follow them on Twitter? Or read their blog posts? If you can make your name pop up in front of them, you have a better chance of being recalled when you’re needed.

7. Remember that direct marketing is okay but it’s even better if they come to you

In my limited experience, contacting potential clients can be effective, but it’s a fairly painful way to make a living. Far better to make yourself discoverable so that the best clients can come looking for you.

You may also like: Finding work as a freelance copywriter (Kendall Copywriting, September 2012)

Leif Kendall / Kendall Copywriting does not use Elance…

My name has been used to defraud freelance writers on Elance, and I would like to make it clear that I do not use Elance and anyone receiving a message purporting to be me (on Elance) should report the activity to the Elance administrators.

On Friday evening (30 May 2014) I received an email from a freelance writer based somewhere in the USA who was angrily demanding money from me. I’d never heard of her, her project (descriptions for fancy dress costumes) or the intermediary she was engaged through.

Following this email I received messages on my blog, on Twitter, on a scam website and via a freelance group that I belong to (The Farm), all from people claiming that I was refusing to pay them.

Gradually it became clear that someone was claiming to be me and recruiting a variety of freelance writers (all on Elance) to do various projects. So now there are 3 or 4 writers who believe that I have defrauded them.

The truth is that I know nothing about any of this, and have never even used Elance (I may have registered once…).

I have since referred this matter to the police in the UK via their Action Fraud service. I have a crime reference number which anyone affected by this matter should also use.

I do not use Elance, or any other online freelance marketplace. If you receive a message via any site other than this domain, please ignore it or report it to your authorities.

I’m currently speaking to Elance about this matter and am hoping that they can bar anyone from using my name on their website again.

 

You should divide your web budget between design, development and content

When you plan your website, how much of your budget do you assign to the content?

Too many organisations spend thousands of pounds on the design and development of their website, but fail to budget for content creation and management.

But what is the point of having a great-looking and easily-navigable website if the content is weak, or wrong, or off-message?

It’s hard to attribute a value to quality content, but it’s easy to see that while great design can impress potential customers, the design can’t tell people what you do, or what makes you unique. Nor can great design answer the questions that your potential customer have.

Great design is an essential component of a successful website, but without well-planned and well-executed content you have a pretty brochure that says nothing about your business.

If you want a website that is more than a costly but beautiful artefact, spinning in space, you need to think carefully about your content. 

And if your budget is tight, why not consider spending less on the design and functionality, and spending more on the content?

The joys and sorrows of writing a book

Writing

I’ve been busy. Really busy. Busier than a bee on crack. In between a packed schedule of web copywriting jobs I’ve been writing a book on freelancing. Here’s what I’ve learnt about writing books:

1. Books take longer to write than you think. I thought it would take a couple of weeks, but I hadn’t factored in the time required for research and interviews.

2. Books are fairly easy to write if you have a cast-iron deadline. I’m staring down the barrel of my publisher’s deadline. I dare not disappoint them.

3. Books require planning. The spreadsheet has been my friend. With everything planned from the very beginning, I’ve been able to pace the production. The spreadsheet doesn’t write the book, but it does give you a blueprint.

4. Books demand a long, steady effort. You can’t just vomit up a book. They take time. And a persistent effort. It’s not always easy to keep a book chugging along, especially when you hit the sections that don’t ignite your passions.

5. The last long lap is the hardest. Nearly there!

So there aren’t really any sorrows – not with this book at least. Not yet.

Piling spam upon spam: why unsubscribe confirmation emails are evil

Spam, Now with Real Bacon!

Picture this, if you will:

You are a busy person. You get too many emails. Loads of those emails are irrelevant, but you get them every month, like really shit clockwork. You’re clever, so you take the time to unsubscribe. It takes a few clicks, but it’s a good investment of your time. You’re all done and you feel happy: one less piece of junk mail and few less RSI-inducing clicks.

Then, THE BASTARDS SEND YOU ANOTHER EMAIL.

Disappointed that you’ve abandoned them, the automated marketing machine sends you a good-bye message. So the marketing spammers recognise your desire for less email, and send you one last email.

Why can’t they just let it go? And why do some unsubscribe options demand a password that you didn’t even know you had?

If people want to leave your unstoppable spam machine, just let them. And never darken their inbox again.

WriteClub in London

WriteClub, the casual networking meet-up for writers, is visiting London!

We’re continuing our mission of bringing writers together to chat, mingle and inspire each other.

The first WriteClub London meet-up is Tuesday 1 December.

Location: Yorkshire Grey pub, 46 Langham Street, London, W1W 7AX

For more details check WriteClub

Overwhelmed by Blogs? A Strategy for Reading Less and Learning More

Britain Going Blog Crazy - Metro Article

There are a lot of blogs out there – too many to read. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by blogs, with an RSS reader riddled with unread posts, or hundreds of bookmarked sites that you’re never going to revisit.

The Other Problem with Blogs

If you read a handful of blogs about SEO, or copywriting, or fruit farming, you’ll probably end up reading similar opinions in similar blogs by a bunch of people that you don’t know. It’s easy to waste time reading recycled ideas.

Going Local

I have a new strategy for reading blog posts, which brings me nice ideas and doesn’t overwhelm me, and I thought I would share it.

Step 1

I check the Brighton New Media website. (This website collates posts from Brighton’s digital media bloggers – so I can read them all in one place.)

Every day or two I peruse the new posts. I read as many as interest me, and leave comments wherever possible.

Step 2

I’m a regular Twitter user, so I tend to discover good blog posts from my Twitter friends. People share the good stuff, so it’s reasonable to assume that the good stuff will find its way to me, eventually.

So sure, I may be missing all kinds of wonderful stuff, but even if I spent most of my working life reading blogs, I’d still miss something.

For those not in Brighton…

The Brighton New Media (BNM) website is central to my strategy, so what should you do if you like my approach but don’t live in Brighton? I don’t know! Perhaps you could set up a BNM equivalent for your town.

Credit Crunch Lunch?

As the global economic downturn continues to bite chunks out of our prosperity, people seek new ways to cut costs. ‘Credit crunch lunch’ is one of my favourite terms – describing a frugal feast – referring to anything from home-made sandwiches to budget banquets at upmarket eateries.

But a ‘credit crunch lunch’ is not always a happy meal; for one of my fellow co-werkers, the reality of the credit crunch lunch is this horrible mess:

creditcrunchlunchjpg

What is this? I don’t know. I didn’t know the day it barked at me from the fridge and I don’t know now. Is it spam? Is it dog meat? Is it minced ham and chips?

Refusing Blogs – Should You Tell Clients: “No blog for you!” ?

Hard work can hurt
Blogging is hard work. It’s not a quick, easy way to build web traffic. It’s time consuming and easy to get wrong. So should web developers and social media consultants be less keen to offer them to clients?

Andy Budd recently blogged about social media consultants, and his post got me thinking.

As Andy points out, many corporate blogs are dull, unpopular and don’t reward the effort expended on them. Some organisations are never going to be able to blog well. If everyone’s too busy – or too bored – to blog, what’s the point in having one?

Should web developers and social media consultants think twice before loading another organisation up with a blog? Perhaps there should be a test to prove commitment to the blog before you’re allowed to have one.

Of course, the question of whether blogs are suitable for an organisation applies to other social media tools. And I think that’s the point – not all social media tools suit all organisations.

It reminds of me of pet ownership. Everyone wants a pet, but nobody wants to pick up the poop, or walk it. Well, you want to walk it at first, when it’s fun. But then it’s cold, or raining, or Top Gear is on, and you don’t want to walk it any more. Who is going to keep blogging when Top Gear is on?

(Picture courtesy of normalityrelief via Flickr)

Creating a Web Presence – Why Bother?

The Short Version:

If you don’t have a web presence, your competitors will overtake you. You’ll miss out, without ever knowing about it.

The Long Version:

I recently worked with a new client who has very little presence on the web. One of the first things I do when a new client gets in touch is Google them.

I’m not being nosy; I want to know:

  • who they are
  • what they’ve done
  • what they’re doing
  • what people are saying about them
  • what they’re saying about other people

It’s important to me that my clients are reputable, respected and not notorious for late payment, spamming or other nefarious activities. And I think Googling a business or individual is the very least you should do to check someone’s credentials.

Now, this particular new client had almost no mentions on the web. Which seemed weird. So I asked my new client if they had a web presence and she said:

“I have a web domain but I’m yet to develop it and I have a linked in account but don’t check it. What advantages does a social media presence have?”

Rather than reply by email, I thought this was a good opportunity to blog about the reasons for having a web presence – a chance to create a blog post that I can point other clients and colleagues towards when this question arises.

So, what is the value of being mentioned on the web, and maintaining a healthy social media presence? The value is manifold:

Supporting Evidence

It’s nice to see evidence of a person’s life – their actions, their works – the web is a perfect place to scatter this evidence.

Connections

Who do you know? Who have you worked with? The web lets you demonstrate your connections in a way that feels more genuine than anonymous claims in a CV. LinkedIn is especially good for showing connections and displaying recommendations – all deeply authentic because it links you to the actual people you’ve worked for.

Sense of Self

Your web presences allow you to give a bit of yourself away. Don’t be a cold, flat CV – be a human being with opinions, preferences, idiosyncrasies and embarrassing musical tastes (see Last.fm).

Build Trust

Every time your name appears on the web, it increases the sense that you are a real person who does real things, and who can be relied upon in a real sense. If someone Googles your name and finds nothing but a private Facebook profile, they have learnt nothing. Give searchers everything they could possibly want.

Networking

The web is incredibly democratic – you can speak to anyone on Twitter and (if you go about it in the right way) get their attention.

Industrious social media operators can side-step traditional recruitment processes and make friends with potential employers. Social media tools like Twitter and FriendFeed give you access to interesting individuals – and the chance to make their acquaintance.

How do you do all this?

It’s easy! Just follow my twelve-step program:

  1. Read blogs
  2. Join Twitter
  3. Read blog posts about Twitter, like this one
  4. Start a blog.  If you’re technologically-challenged, use WordPress.com, TypePad or Blogger
  5. Tweet regularly
  6. Blog regularly
  7. Comment on other blogs in fields that interest you
  8. Use @replies on Twitter if you have something interesting to say (that ensures the recipient sees your tweet)
  9. Join FriendFeed
  10. Maintain your LinkedIn account, updating connections, asking for and giving recommendations
  11. Work on getting a proper website. Again, if your technical expertise is limited, consider WordPress.org
  12. Once you’ve been blogging for a little while, offer to contribute a post to another blog

Scratching the Tip of the Social Media Iceberg

As you’ve probably guessed, there’s more to it than my 12 steps suggest. Every social networking site has its own quirks and requires different strategies to get the most out of it.

The best way to get started with anything like this is slowly. Take measured steps – always take a bit of time to see how people use websites like Twitter and LinkedIn. Follow the lead of others, and try to understand what constitutes bad behaviour in each forum.

Further Reading:

Matt at Zen Bullets has an interesting post: Write Your Autobiography, Before Someone Else Writes It For You

Bizarre Signage

I had to share this with you, even though it has a tenuous connection to copywriting… I’m not even going to try to justify it:

Seen in a fisherman’s club in Eastbourne –

dontmentionthebingo

I love the anger in the writer’s words. Don’t talk about the f@!?ing bingo!!!

Useful lessons for freelancers – #7: Don’t expect other people to do it all for you

If people offer to put you in touch with rich veins of work, thank them, but act as though it isn’t happening. Never rely on other people to do your work for you. And always assume that those helpful people will forget to carry out their promises, just in case they do forget.

But never resent people for forgetting little things like this. Remember that everyone is just as busy as you are.

Business Book: sharing insights, concerns and bright ideas

I’ve blogged before about the importance of allowing ideas to flow freely around your business – because it’s crucial that insights and ideas reach the people who can implement them.

But I recently noticed something that I think many businesses could adopt in order to facilitate this flow of ideas…

In one of Brighton’s fantastic cafés (I can’t remember which) I noticed that the staff made notes in a big book behind the till. They recorded things like:

  • Changed water filter 8:30
  • Asked cleaner to wash floor properly (again!)
  • Drunk guy threw up on the steps (cleaned and disinfected)
  • Don’t forget to light the candles in the window – customers think we’re shut if they’re not lit!!!

So the book was primarily a method for different shifts to communicate, and for observations to be recorded. But it’s a great idea- and one I think many businesses could benefit from. Bright ideas come from all quarters – the secret to success is creating a channel for ideas to flow.

The pitfalls of marketing within the social web

lollipop

My friend and associate Raj Anand, founder of Kwiqq and an enthusiastic marketer, recently encountered a small controversy.

Inspired web marketing?

In a moment of marketing inspiration, Raj decided to see if he could manipulate the social bookmarking website Digg and send one of his blog posts racing to Digg’s front page. By simply offering a lollipop to everyone who Dugg his post, Raj wanted to see if he could get the substantial number of votes required to make his post number 1 on Digg.

In order to spread the news of his lollipop offer, Raj made use of his social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Raj also posted a message to Brighton’s New Media (BNM) email group. And this is where Raj’s experiment began to derail.

Some members of the BNM group objected vociferously to Raj’s posting. It was rejected as being pointless spam. It must be said that some BNM members defended Raj’s actions, but generally the reaction was that Raj was spamming the list.

Marketing and social media

As I watched the reaction to Raj’s marketing stunt with interest, I began to wonder what lessons on modern marketing could be learnt. The simple lesson is very clear: be careful when using your social networks to market your business. Many people are sensitive to anything they perceive as spam. And as soon as someone feels that something is spam, it becomes, in effect, spam.

International differences

I think that if Raj had attempted his Digg promotion in the US, he might have received a different response. In America, this kind of chutzpah is more likely to be celebrated and embraced. UK audiences are more sensitive to what they perceive to be brazen salesmanship.

The fine line between spam and content

Some people in Raj’s networks saw the novelty in Raj’s Digg promotion – it was a harmless, fun marketing exercise that was attempting to manipulate a popularity contest with a bribe.

Others viewed Raj’s offer as a cynical marketing stunt that abused his social networks with an empty gimmick that was only intended to achieve publicity.

So Raj’s one initiative could be viewed in two disparate ways; there is clearly a fine line between spam and content.

Anyone planning on using social media as a marketing tool must exercise caution – because the risk of  offending and alienating an audience is easy to misjudge. Even those with good intentions (like Raj) can easily cross the line into spam territory.

Judging the market

The simple way to understand the online communities is to use them. If you’re new to social media, go slowly. Start off as a user and watch everyone else. Contribute.  Often the best benefit to be gained from social media is the start of your reputation as an upstanding, helpful and knowledgeable individual.

(Picture courtesy of Anaulin)

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