10 Tips for Improving Your Amazon Product Listing

Anyone who sells anything on Amazon is familiar with the many rules, guidelines and, peculiarities of writing their product listing page. It can be very confusing and sometimes sellers can have their pages suspended if they do something wrong. Often it takes a while to sort out exactly what the seller did wrong and ends up costing her sales.

Over the last 2-3 years I’ve written hundreds of product listings for clients and have developed a list of best practices when approaching a listing. If your page isn’t doing well or not converting the way you would like perhaps these tips will be helpful.

The Tips

Follow the rules. This means character limits, formatting, verboten words, and promises. Did you know that the only punctuation allowed in bullets and titles are commas and semicolons? Or that you aren’t allowed to put sales and/or discount information in bullets or titles? While you may flaunt the rules and seem to get away with it, eventually the Zon catches up with you and you risk having your listing suspended.

Reduce your keywords to 5-7. The urge to want to use as many keywords as possible is often irrestitible, but you should try to resist anyway. The truth is, if you have narrowed your focus to your ideal customer, you shouldn’t need more than 5-7 keywords. And no matter what anyone tells you, consumers do not read keyword stuffed copy. For good reason, it usually makes no sense.

Search reviews of your own product and competitors with similar or the same product for benefits, phrasing, and language that will resonate with your prospect. You may even find inspiration for an awesome headline. Look for phrases, features and, benefits that come up repeatedly in the reviews – these are the things that are resonating with the consumer or your product. Also, check the headline on the reviews, they may spark a great idea for an awesome headline.

Never, ever, ever, ever pay for reviews. This includes review swapping (I’ll review yours if you review mine), hiring ‘services’ that will do reviews, etc. Amazon has really cracked down on phony reviews in the last couple of years and in fact are suing several parties who were selling Amazon reviews. If you have fake reviews on your account you risk being banned from Amazon. They are that serious about it. This article about paid reviews you may find very illuminating.

Don’t waste bullet points on guarantees or bonuses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bullet points that talk about bonuses, sales discounts, and guarantees. It’s a waste of a bullet. There is ample room elsewhere in the listing to mention these items. And if you can’t come up with at least 5 benefits of your product perhaps you are selling the wrong product.

Stop using ALL CAPS. Ditto on stars, check-marks or other fancy symbols that you think will make your copy stand out. In fact, ALL CAPS when used in the Internet means you are yelling at a person. Do you really want to yell at your prospect? Honestly, these marks and symbols don’t do anything to highlight your product and it looks amateurish.

Don’t waste your product description. Many sellers spend all their time on titles and bullets and then just toss a generic paragraph of unimpressive sales copy down in the product description. It’s an absolute waste of space to do that. Your product description gives you the most room to really regale your product and speak directly to your prospect. Use your product description to take your prospect through the sales cycle, all the way to the call to action.

Ideally a product description should have: An attention getting headline that speaks to the prospects problem; A second para with appropriate subhead that regales the features and benefits of your product and how it solves the prospects problem; A short bullet list; Your guarantee and bonus (if you offer one) and; A call to action.

Educate yourself on copy writing. Whether you write your own copy or hire someone to write it for you, you should know the basics and understand the elements that need to be in your copy to be effective. An excellent (albeit huge) reference on copy writing is Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. It is available for purchase and though the price is prohibitive I highly recommend it. If your funds are limited you can probably find a used copy or even check it out at the library.

Stop making your copy about you. I hate to break it to you but there isn’t a prospect anywhere on Earth who cares about you—they care about themselves. They are considering your product because it will potentially benefit them. Your copy has to be about them, their problem, their pain and a solution to said pain or problem. Your product listing has to clearly show your prospect what’s in it for them.

Slant your copy toward your ideal customer. No matter what your product is, there is NO product on Earth that is for everyone. While everyone may be able to use your product it doesn’t mean they are looking for it or want it. You need to do your research and determine who exactly does need and want your product. Kitchen gadgets are for people who love to cook, entertain and nurture others. Health products are for people who are health conscious or are trying to solve a health issue. The bonus here, is that the more specific you are in narrowing down your ideal customer, the more you will sell and the more your listing will appeal to those people.

How about you? Have you had a hard time figuring out how to write your listing? Did you eventually learn what worked and what didn’t? Feel free to tell us your story or share your successful tips in the comments below.

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So you want to be a freelance writer, eh? One way to get started

I’m an author and hope one day to be a household word in the mystery genre. From my lips to God’s ear, right? Anyway, I also make my living as a freelancer. A few days ago an online bud told me she wanted to start freelancing and asked if I had any suggestions on how she could start. And that’s how this post came about.

The following tips/suggestions are based on my own experience and what worked for me. There may be hundreds of other ways to approach freelancing and nothing is written in stone. I’ve always found that where there is a will there is a way, so if you have a better approach, feel free to mention it in the comments or just do it your way.

1. Subscribe to Funds for Writers and Writers Weekly. In my opinion, Funds for Writers and Writers Weekly are probably two of the best newsletters for freelancers because they have articles and listings for work, contests, etc. And reading the newsletters will just help you get the mindset. There are millions of other newsletters but I recommend you only go with a couple; otherwise all you’ll do is read newsletters.

2. Decide on a niche. You don’t have to have a niche – I really don’t. However, when I first started I did a lot of writing for lawyers. I was once upon a time a legal secretary so have a basic grasp on the law and the more you write about various types of law (or any subject) the more you understand it and can write about it easily. If you have a particular expertise or experience in a topic or field specializing in a niche may work for you. If you are a jack of all trades or get bored easily, you don’t have to specialize.

3. Practice writing in that niche on your blog or start a blog specifically for that niche. If you do decide to specialize and you have no clips you should either 1) start writing posts about that niche on your current blog or 2) start a blog specifically for that purpose. A free blog is fine, what you want to do is to be able to practice writing really good articles/posts and also to have samples to show prospective clients.

4. Add a “Hire Me” page to your blog. Whether on your current blog or in the case that you set up a separate blog for your niche writing put it on that blog. You don’t have to make the page fancy or sparkly – just an easy to read and navigate page that tells the prospect what you can do for them and how they can reach you. The page should be written from the viewpoint of ‘what I can do for you’ – which can be a little tricky because you have to write in such a way that shows you are competent but doesn’t sound like you are bragging.

5. Read “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz. You can get it at Amazon but yes, it is hideously expensive. You may be able to find it in a used bookstore. Or possibly check it out from your local library. You may also be able to find it here but if at all possible get  your hands on it and read it.  I won’t blow smoke up your skirt, this book is huge and not an easy read. You won’t zip through it like a novel or even the usual book on writing techniques. It will take a while to read and you may want to read it several times because there is so much information in it, it is truly mind-blowing from a copy writing point of view. Schwartz is one of the most famous copywriters ever. In the copy writing world he is still a god. Personally, I learned more about writing from this one book than any other book I ever read about writing.

If you can just get the basics, you will understand how to write anything because all copy writing is written for the purpose of sales. Period. There is no other reason it is written. No matter what anyone says that is the truth. Websites, business posts, business blogs, magazine articles, etc, all written for the purpose of marketing/ selling something. Anyway, Schwartz is a genius and even if you never do copy writing you will gain a lot of insight into human beings by reading his book and it will make you a better writer. I promise.

6. Stay away from writer mills or other sites that requires you to sign up and bid for jobs. You get paid peanuts and they put you through the ringer and you can’t use any of your work for clips/samples. Do not ever sign up with a writer’s mill. These sites are typically in it for the owners to make money while the writers make peanuts, and truly get nothing out of it. They can’t approach clients privately. They can’t use their work as samples. And the editing process is ridiculous. And above all else they do not value writers. So stay away from them. Likewise craigslist for writer gigs. Many of them are scams but even the ones that aren’t have thousands of people applying for the same listing – so your odds suck. Although you can find things from time to time, generally speaking it will just drive you mad.

7. Study and understand SEO . If you don’t understand the basics of SEO then you need to either find a simple, easy to understand book or a website that you can learn the basics from. Generally, writers aren’t expected to do the SEO/keyword research but you must understand how to use keywords in your writing and why you’re doing it – and to do it so it isn’t just paragraphs of text with keywords stuffed into it.

8. If you don’t have one set up a PayPal account.  It is free and very easy to use. I get a lot of work from people outside the U.S. and I couldn’t do that if there weren’t an easy way for them to make payment. You do have to pay transaction fees which sucks but they aren’t outrageous, and it’s a business expense so at worst it’s a wash. There are other similar services which may be better but I have had great luck with PayPal.

Suggested approach/sequence

This is based on the assumption that you have no experience as a freelancer:

1. Set up a separate free blog which you can use solely for the purpose of practicing writing good SEO articles in the niche/niches you’ve chosen. As I mentioned earlier you may want to write about work or fields in which you have a lot of experience and/or familiarity. For example, if you worked for human resources in a large company, you could write posts about that – tips, tricks, etc.

2. If you want to try to get work right away, you could approach people you know. Offer to help write their website, brochures, sales ads, instruction booklets, or blog posts for their blog.

3. You could also approach web designers – even better if you know them personally. Web designers always need copywriters because though they build the sites, typically they don’t also do the writing.

4. You could put an ad in the local paper, church newsletter, mention it if you belong to any clubs, associations, etc.

5. Or if you feel really ballsy. Google the niches you’d feel comfortable writing in and check out their websites and blogs. If the website sucks or their blog hasn’t been updated lately. Contact them (from the info on their contact page) and offer to write blog posts or help them improve their web copy. You get the idea.

So there you have a list of hopefully helpful tips in breaking into the freelance writing universe.

You may have noticed I did not use the word easy in the title or anywhere in this post – that’s because it isn’t easy. As with any other career, you will not become a freelance writer overnight. No amount of tips will bring that about. You should be prepared to supplement your income or maintain your current job until you are generating enough work regularly to provide the income you need.

And too, self-employment is not for everyone. It can be lonely. It can be stressful. And the only benefits you get are the ones you provide for yourself. If you are the type of person who likes security, freelancing might work better for you as a sideline. Or you might prefer a position as an in-house writer in a large corporation or marketing agency.

So how about you, fellow writers? Do you freelance too? Any good tips to share? Knock yourself out and feel free to add to the list.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

Are You a Shy Writer? Book Review – The Shy Writer Reborn

shy writer reborn book reviewI don’t know about you but I am a shy writer.  Despite my apparent gregarious nature online – in real life, I’m the one sitting in the corner sipping a glass of wine while everybody else is working the room.

I’ve always been shy and since childhood, have been chastised for it in one way or another.  Which of course, only succeeded in causing me to burrow deeper into my internal world.

Though through lots of effort, some happy accidents, and being in the right place at the right time, I’ve managed to make a living as a writer and even published a novel.

For any shy writer, the idea of self-promotion, marketing, getting the word out or sometimes just asking someone to read our work, makes us cringe and is the source of many a nightmare that sends us into convulsions of trembles.

Good news, there is a book for us – the shy writers of the world

Speaking of happy accidents – I had the opportunity to read a book called, The Shy Writer Reborn, by C. Hope Clark.

Many of you may be familiar with Hope through her Funds for Writers newsletter, her blog, or her new Carolina Slade Mystery series.  I have been a fan of this cheerful and tireless writer for many years and often it has been her cheerful and practical advice that has kept me going during times when I doubted my own writing abilities.

What I was surprised to learn was that Hope too, is a shy writer and in reading her book I discovered how she managed to overcome her shyness and succeed as a writer, while never compromising her own integrity and true self.

Here is the review:

Hope Clark’s The Shy Writer Reborn is funny, charming, and real.  As writers, we read an awful lot of books on what we should do, how we should approach our careers, and the best way to promote our businesses and books.  However, I’ve personally found many of these books to be a disappointment – lacking in real, practical information that can be used to achieve my writing goals.

Clark’s book is jam-packed with useful, practical tips and exercises that any writer could use to further their career.  Through the use of personal experience and anecdotes, Hope seems to cover every possible situation a writer could find herself (or hope to find herself) in and how to handle it.

She covers social media, writer’s conferences, public speaking, marketing and promotion and everything in between.  I can honestly say that I could use this one book alone as a guide to further my career as a writer beyond what I thought was even possible.

But more than anything, what stands out about this book for me is that Hope has a true and abiding empathy for other writers and helping other writers is a profound mission for her.

Hope’s own words serves as the best description of her own driving force as a writer:

“That force to become better and dig down deep to find the tools and power to do it with, shows in a person and his product.”

If you’re a shy writer, or any kind of writer who wants practical guidance on how to achieve your goals as a professional, this book should be tops on your list.

My thoughts beyond the review

One of the interesting things that happened as I read Hope’s book was that out of nowhere I would have ideas.  Not even about the topic I was currently reading in the book, but things to do with the current novel I’m working on, how I might change the focus of my freelance business, shifting the theme of my blog.  Everything and anything.  Maybe it was just because the book is just that damn good or maybe because it’s the old, if she can do it, than so can I, reaction.  But in the end it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that a shy writer can succeed as well as an un-shy writer – and using C. Hope Clark’s The Shy Writer Reborn, as a guidepost, you will probably increase your chance of success a hundred fold.

Highly recommend this book.  Check it out.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2013

What’s Your Business Story?

business story writing

In today’s world, the Internet is to business what water is to a duck.  And although electronic communication has increased our reach around the world it’s also made doing business less personal than it used to be.  Despite all of the technological advances we’ve made and will make in the coming years, nothing has really replaced human contact.

When I was a kid growing up in the Midwest, there was a Mom & Pop business on every corner.  And we all shopped at these neighborhood establishments, knew the owners, usually on a first name basis, and liked it.  It was nice to know the people you did business with.  They were neighbors, friends—people we knew and trusted.  A handshake was the contract and you never dreamed of going back on your word.  Few businesses follow that neighborly model anymore.

We don’t write letters, we send emails.  We don’t meet for lunch, we tele-conference.  We don’t make deals on a handshake; we hire teams of attorneys to draft 100 page agreements, covering every possibility under the sun.  We don’t know our customers but we’re obsessed with the numbers and getting more.

Tell a story and your customers will know and like you

Your business has a story, a narrative that started long before anyone knew who you were.  You worked hard.  Maybe you worked your way through college because you had a dream.  And that dream kept you going through the night, over the weekends and kept you up at night more often than not.  You knew if you just kept at it, you could realize your vision and your dream.  But do your customers know that story?  Do they know you?  Yes, you probably have an About Page on your website and have sent out press releases or post cards telling people all about your business.  But has that story been distilled down to the facts, accreditations, and the obligatory bio with as much life as a cardboard cutout of who you are?  Your public persona?

A perfect example of a company that has used the story approach to expand its business is Trader Joe’s.  It started out as a local convenience market in California in the 1950’s and now has hundreds of locations, thousands of employees and does billions in business.  Trader Joe’s story is told in a unique, refreshing, and down to earth way.  And goes even further with their timeline narrative.  After reading their story, what shopper wouldn’t want to at least go there a have a fun shopping experience?  Their primary form of advertising is a circular called the Fearless Flyer – word of mouth pretty much did the rest for them.  Wouldn’t you like to have people flock to your business because your story was as appealing as Trader Joe’s?

Every business has its own story – tell yours

Despite opinions to the contrary, people don’t respond to sterile bios and dry copy.  Despite all our gadgets and techie toys we still want to know the people we do business with.  We want to feel that we could be friends and neighbors—we want that connection.  It’s just human nature.  So what is your business story?  Do your customers know who you are, what you believe in, and how you feel about the world?  Don’t you think it’s time you did?  I promise you if you do tell your story that people will want to do business with you.  And they’ll tell all their friends too.

Disclosure: In my freelance writing business one of my specialties is business story writing and I have linked to that site in this post.

Writer Chick

copyright 2013

 

 

 

How Understanding Copywriting Can Improve Your Fiction

improve fiction by learning copywritingA few weeks ago, I got an email from one of the blogs I subscribe to, offering a free download of a book on copywriting by one of the best copywriters ever, Eugene Schwarz.  The book is called “Breakthrough Advertising” and you can download it for free here  (although there are a lot of typos) or you can buy a hard copy at Amazon (although it’s pricey).

Anyway, I downloaded and started reading this book because aside from writing fiction, I also make my living writing copy for websites and other materials.  I mean why the heck wouldn’t I want to learn from the best?

I wasn’t even through the introduction when I thought, ‘Wow, this is incredible.’

More information than I knew what to do with

The book is a whopping 240 pages and it is jam-packed with useful, applicable advice.  So much so that I found myself writing voluminous notes as I read.  It seemed like every other page, I had a realization about something – whether it was a mistake I made, something that was missing in my own copy, or even a way to better approach a story I just couldn’t stop having ‘aha,’ moments.  In fact, it inspired an entire train of thought that fleshed out a fiction series I’ve started.

Here’s the takeaway

It would take several pages just to summarize all of the useful information, tips, secrets, and examples Schwartz provides in his book but my biggest take away from the book was this: no matter what you write, you aren’t writing it for yourself.  You are always, always, always writing it for someone else.  You are always speaking to someone else.  You are always appealing to someone else.

And what’s more is that this is especially true for fiction.  So many writers come up with stories that they think are wonderful but then never go anywhere.  This stymies them – why are the stories being rejected, why doesn’t the publisher realize how brilliant this story is?

I’ll tell you why, it’s because it doesn’t speak to the people it serves.  As a fiction writer, the people you serve are your readers.  Your writing has to be all about them.  It has to address the problem or desire they have when they go looking for a book – if it doesn’t, they won’t finish it, and probably won’t read another story from you.  Even though fiction is largely sought out for entertainment purposes it doesn’t lessen the strength or depth of that desire.  People want entertainment, so give it to them.  But it has to be what they think is entertainment – not what you think is entertainment.  Although in some cases, it might be same.

As a writer you have to be able to step back from your own wants and desires and ask yourself, ‘What does my reader want?’  What interests my reader?  What excites my reader?  What makes my reader want to turn the next page?

If you can do that, then you will have a successful book.  If you can’t, no matter how good the writing, or how fascinating the topic is, your book will fail.

Get the book, learn a few things, and see if your writing doesn’t improve

I know that writers are constantly reading the latest book on writing technique and how-to’s that promise to make you the next best seller on Amazon, so adding yet another book to the pile may not excite you.  However, if you get nothing out of this book other than the ability to identify who your readers are and how to reach them, then I’d say it’s time well spent.

Update: A reader just informed me the free download is no longer available. You may want to check the Gutenberg Project to see if it’s available there.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2013

How to Always be a Broke Writer

one centYep, that title is a shocker, ain’t it? But here’s the thing – in our industry we read a lot of articles.  We want to know how those who came before us succeeded.

Maybe we try to emulate somebody who has broken in, or get all hopped up on the latest internet marketing approach to promoting our awesome services.

But what you don’t often read about is how to fail.

Now, why would knowing how to fail help you?

Good question.  The short answer is so you know what not to do when you’re blazing the paths of freelance writer-dom.

And you might be surprised to see yourself on the following list:

  1. Don’t specialize, be a jack of all trades and master of none.  There are a lot of reasons this is a bad strategy. But the most compelling is that you’ll never be all things to all people.  By specializing you have a smaller focus but a much chance at real targeted marketing. Plus you end up really good at something.  Everybody loves that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to turn down work that you can do and are happy to do. However, in terms of your business model and marketing, if you focus on your speciality and promote that you’re more likely to get the kind of clients you want doing the kind of work you are great at doing.
  2. Be reactive.  Like it or not, you have a business.  You may be the only employee and the only one producing your product or service but it’s still a business and should be run as one.  Hanging around and waiting for your existing clients to give you more work is reactive.  Be proactive, send out letters of introduction, list yourself in some directories, join the local Chamber of Commerce.  Chances are, right now only you and a handful of people know what you can do.  Don’t keep it a secret.
  3. Don’t choose a business model.  In other words just go at your writing career willy-nilly and hope for the best.  This will definitely keep you broke and require you pick up part-time jobs that don’t involve writing. A business model doesn’t have to be complex or fancy, it just has to be a specific approach that will advance your career.  For example: Figure out who you’re going to write for, what type of writing you’ll provide, what your fees are and the way you’re going to promote your services.  That of course is bare bones, but even bare bones is better than nothing.
  4. Promote haphazardly.  Now, I’m all for marketing and promoting and I’ve read, studied, listened to and used a bagillion different techniques for marketing. However, trying to run a website, a blog, Facebook page, twitter accounts, Google ads, banner ads, guest posting and free information products in order to saturate the market usually leads to you becoming a nervous wreck.  While there may be a day when you can master all of the above and still have time to actually write – but for now, pick one channel of promotion that you can handle and is effective and stick to that.  Your chances are much better for yielding a result.
  5. Don’t promote or market.  This should be a no-brainer but you’d be shocked by how many writers don’t promote or market.  They feel funny about singing their own praises or can’t be objective enough about their skills to even figure out what to say.  But if you can’t figure out how to promote your services how do you think you’ll be able to do it for a client? Suck it up, get rid of the false modesty and do a real assessment of your skills and promote the heck out of it.  If you need help, ask a client or business friend to help you figure it out.  Again, if you keep your skill and services a big secret you can definitely look forward to a job as a barista somewhere
  6. Work for clients who don’t value you.  This may be obvious and yet so many writers do this.  Part of the reason is that they don’t have enough confidence in their own skill or maybe they are just starting out and feel they have to pay their dues before they can get the choice assignments. But the problem with working with clients who don’t value you is that they make you feel bad about yourself and your work. And if you’re feeling bad all the time, you won’t have the energy or vibe to get better clients.
  7. Give up.  When you’re self employed and don’t get a regular paycheck it can make you grumpy.  Especially if things aren’t going great.  And I know writers who make an I-give-up declaration once a week.  No, they don’t mean it but does the universe know that?  Often we are the most likely to sabotage our own efforts.  Do what Napoleon Hill suggests – focus, be determined, believe in yourself.  Tell the universe you never give up because frankly you’re going to have to if you want to succeed at anything.  Nobody who has ever gotten anywhere has given up.  In fact, just the opposite, they refuse to give up.  Emulate those people.

Why should you listen to me?

Well, because I’ve made every one of these mistakes and more.That’s how I know it doesn’t work.  Experience, baby.  Not the easiest way to learn but effective.

So, did you see yourself in the list above? If so, what did you do to change things? Do you have any tips for success you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2013

Gobsmacked – Scammed Again

I consider myself an intelligent person, so whenever someone manages to trick me I feel utterly gobsmacked. A couple of months back, I was contacted by an internet marketing company to which I’d submitted a resume. The man I spoke to was charming, funny and you got a sense right off that he was regular folk. Someone you could be friends with. Good, right?

After we hung up, he immediately sent a contract and some tax forms, which I filled out and sent back the next day. Then I didn’t hear from the fellow for over a week – just when I was about to give him up for lost. Again, he was charming and offered reasonable excuses which I accepted. After all, I wanted the work and he complimented me quite a bit on my blog which he said he had been reading.

Then a couple more weeks went by and again, as I was about to give him up for lost, the phone rang. He had work for me. And wasn’t I delighted to hear about that? He offered me a price, which I accepted and told him to send the info and it turned out to be a pretty healthy chunk of work, which I finished in about three days. They were press releases, not the main type of work he had called me about but some ‘extra’ work that he thought he’d throw my way. He also told me there would be no delay on the pay and that I had only to send him and invoice and as soon as he got it, he would write me a check and send it off. Okay, this is the part that gets dicey. A few days go by and no check. He is only two states over from me and 5 days certainly should have been enough time, since I emailed him the invoice with the last press release. Oh, and he’d already assured me that the client loved the work. So, what was the problem?

The client was out of town and they hadn’t paid him yet – but oh the other work was going to be a go in a few days and again being the anxious writer I was, I let the fact slip that our agreement was that he would pay the invoice on delivery, not when his client paid him. Stupidly, I began the other work and worked on it flat out for four days and go it to him 4 days ahead of schedule. No acknowledgement, no thank you for the work, nothing. When I finally called him he said he hadn’t had time to look at it – which was odd since the deadline he’d given me had passed. If that was the deadline wouldn’t it have made sense for him to have looked at it/edited it? I started to get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach but I’d invested time and work (all of which he had) and I had to continue to believe this was all going to work out fine.

The next day he sent me the pages with his edits, but he also sent me the pages of the other writer on the project and I saw that our pages were vastly different. It worried me that he hadn’t mentioned it – he hadn’t given me any guidelines, though I’d asked for them. But since he seemed okay with the pages I let it pass. He told me that once the client approved, he’d send out a check (which was the agreement). I also asked him about the check for the previous work and he said he was still waiting for his client to pay me.

Then I got a somewhat hysterical call from him two days later, saying the pages were wrong and claiming I’d lifted copy off another dentist’s website – which not only shocked me but made me feel sick to my stomach, as I didn’t lift anything from anywhere. I assured him that wasn’t the case and I offered to rewrite the pages more to the style of the other writer and he said okay. I rewrote the pages (50 of them) in about 36 hours. Just as I was ten pages from completion he called again and apologized for being so worked up and claimed he’d quit smoking and that’s why he’d been so anxious. I told him not to worry about it and finished the pages. I sent them the next day.

The day after that I recieved a cc of a mass email sent to all the writers saying payment had been scheduled and would be sent out Monday. Well, as it turned out it took 10 days for the payment to reach me and it was only for the previous ‘extra’ work – not for the pages.

When I called him again, he said the client was paying on the 15th (of May) and he would cut the checks the next day. The 15th was only few days away so I agreed, even though he’d had the pages for three weeks and they were already on his client’s website.

Well, and the rest of the story is this, after continually calling and emailing and getting false assurances that the check is on the way time and again, there is no check and I’m pretty sure there won’t ever be a check and that he never intended to pay me in the first place. Quite possibly the only reason he paid me the first check was in order to get me to do the work on the bigger project, realizing he couldnt’ stall me any longer and I wouldn’t deliver on the bigger job if he didn’t pay me the small check.

After reading this, you’re probably thinking, duh. And you’d be right to think so. You’d think that all the signs were pointing in the wrong direction and I should have seen them. And I did, sort of…but the guy was just so darn likeable and I just didn’t want to believe he was a shit. I just didn’t want to believe that somebody I liked would do something so shitty – that I’d been so naive and easy to take in.

So, what I’ve learned from this experience as well as a few others is this: Writers are often treated poorly, especially those who are striking out on their own newly and needy for work, the pay offered is close to being an insult and then not getting the small amount offered is even worse. From here on out, I don’t care if the person is charming or not, in fact, I may just shy away from charming perspective clients, I may just look for the just the facts, kind of client who sticks to business and keeps his word. And I will never ever work again on spec – if that means I get less offers than I guess it does. If that means I get no offers, that’s fine too because I can always go get a conventional job if I have to. But from here on out, a deposit is required for my services.

My advice to any writers out there, looking for work, don’t fall for this type of scam – they treat you nice and act like your friend but all they really want is work for free – even if he does utlimately end up paying me, it’s now been seven weeks since I completed the work and turned it in to him, yet he was paid by his client over a month ago. Is this the kind of client you want? I don’t think so.

As a writer you have to value your own work before someone else will. This writer has just begun doing that, as of now. I hope you do too.

Writerly Things

I just had one of those really stupid realizations, you know the kind I mean? Where you literally slap yourself in the head because it was so obvious, like why did it take two years? Yup – that’s the kind.

Although, I spend a lot of time yakking about writing and my writing dreams and how I want to publish and get an agent and be rich and famous and all that crap – I’ve never really done a post about writing itself. Okay, relax, this isn’t going to be an online workshop on story form or anything like that.

However, it did dawn on me that though not all bloggers are writers, many of them are and I thought I’d do a quick little post about some pretty groovy writer resources I’ve come across in recent times. So, those of you out there who are writers and want some good links – continue reading. Those of you looking for fart jokes …. I’ll see what I can do.

Currently, my number one, favorite writing link is C. Hope Clark’s Funds For Writers. She offers many things but also sends out a weekly enewsletter that is chockful of tips, articles and markets. I love this enewsletter and anxiously await it each week and comb everything possible I can from it.

Next up is Beth Erickson’s Mindset Moments – it’s a free little thing you can sign up for and you get daily little writerly inspirations. She also offers a good enewsletter that has markets and articles as well. Definitely worth the read.

Worldwide Freelance also offers an enewsletter, which is not nearly as good as Hope’s and Beth’s but often has good articles and nonfiction markets. Additionally, they have an onsite database for markets as well. Plus when you sign up for their newsletter you get a nice little free ebook on well paying markets. Definitely worth a look.

Writer’s Gazette is put out by Krista Barrett, who is an accomplished and published writer and also provides a free enewsletter with markets and articles. Sometimes it’s a little short but she is an enthusiastic person and clearly likes to help out her fellow writers.

Absolute Write is another who offers a free enewsletter and has articles and markets, plus they have other venues and resources that may be just what you are looking for.

Aspiring crime/mystery writers may like Crimes and Clues which offers lots of facts, tips and tricks on the crime trade. Great resource.

If you’re looking for an agent, you can try Agent Query. This was the first place I looked and though I didn’t find anyone they still have a very impressive database and it’s worth a look.

And of course, the list would not be complete without the standardbearer of the industry, Writer’s Digest is its own institution and has everything from books, writing prompts, news, and markets.

And finally, a great article on how to set your freelance fees.

I guess that just about does it. Have fun.

WC

Oh yeah, and here’s that fart joke:

Copywriter for Sale

After my self-imposed sabbatical from the work-a-day world I faced the facts – 1) I was running out of money and 2) It was time to get back to work and 3) I kind of missed working.

Easy, right? In fact, hardly any effort at all, because I got a call out of the blue from my former asking me back. How cool was that? I didn’t have to look, I simply needed to decide and the phone rang. The Universe was on my side, right? Not so much. Turned out things weren’t going well and they admitted that they didn’t have any busines and couldn’t really afford to pay me. Yikes!

I stewed, I was pissed, I worried. Okay, enough of that and I segued from Plan A to Plan B. – 1)updated the resume 2)networked with friends and acquaintances 3)sent out my resume til I wanted to puke 4)went on job interviews 5)played the part of the perfect candidate. How did that go? Uh….

Just when I thought all was lost, my friend asked me if I’d like to do a little copywriting job. Would I? Well, duh, yeah. I set to the task and it was fun and didn’t take too long at all. I sent it off, my head filled with dreams of doing more and making a buttload of money while doing it.

Except that, there was no other work to offer me. Sorry WC. Back to Plan B…more resume submission, more job interviews, more worry.

Then again, like magic, my friend had another project, was I interested? Oh yeah! We’re going to revamp a manufacturing website. What fun! And it was…sort of… The writing part was fun, the creative part was fun, the trying to get the client nailed down was a little like herding cats. Lots of starts and stops and after a while I couldn’t quite read the copy because I’d read it so much that nothing really got into the part of my brain that comprehends. The words melted and made pretty colors & shapes while the song MacArthur Park played a never-ending loop in my head.

I thought to myself, ‘You could do this. You can write – whether it’s boring, funny or serious – you’ve got the chops. You too, like thousands of others, can become a copywriter.’ It made sense. I could be my own boss, make money for myself, as I’d done for decades for other businesses, how hard could it be?

Off I went, searching out information, high and low. I found all manner of tips, tricks and secrets of the trade. I stumbled onto this website and this website and found great advice, lots of enthusiasm and motivation and free/cheap tools to help me on my journey of the self-employed. The more I read and researched, the more convinced I became I could really do it. The Universe was obviously holding up a sign that read, “Do this, stupid!”

I got so enthused that I decided,”I need a website!” I researched domain names, what would I call myself? Unfortunately, most of the obvious names and the names that would get picked up by the search engines were taken. Drat! How would people find me if the search engines couldn’t spider to my site? After much debate and surveying a few hundred friends, I came up with a name. Progress!

Trying to leverage what little funds I had, I opted to go for a free hosted site – I could always upgrade as my finances improved. Easy, right? Not so much. The site where I found the domain name promised a free web page, email, an evening dress and McDonald’s coupons but once I started the process I got confused. They kept asking me questions I didn’t understand, did I want this too for just another $2.99 a month? How about this for another $5.99? And shouldn’t I buy all the versions of my domain name in case I got famous and somebody tried to muscle in on my branding? Insert scream, here.

I went back to the free site that had been recommended by a friend – and where I stopped cold when I was prompted to find and buy a domain name – this time I went ahead with it. Click and the domain name was mine. Excitement coursed through my veins as I moved onto the next steps, building the website with their easy web building tools.

Apparently, I don’t have the IQ of a monkey when it comes to using easy web building wizards and tools and I ended up on a click-fest that got me nowhere and frustrated. Eventually, I sort of figured it out and started going. Then oops, what the heck was I going to say? How would I do this? No, that looks stupid. Nope, what sounded good in my head read pathetically on the page. Maybe another site that was more user friendly? Crap, another fee to transfer the domain name. Back to the original site. Damn, this doesn’t come with an email address? Should I or shouldn’t I? The hell with it!

I would share the url with you but frankly, I’m too embarrassed for anyone to see it and it could be years before I am not too embarrassed. To my horror, I found out that the site already had several hits and I cringed at the thought of people reading it. Oh well, will have to work it out…someday.

So, today is the day. I’m nearly finished with the manufacturing website job and I have to push myself out there. I need to ‘pull the trigger’ as one of the groovy copyrwriting gurus advises. I have to convince others to hire me. I have to be persuasive. I have to write to live.

Maybe a job isn’t such a bad idea after all….

So, anybody out there want a slightly used, will-work-for-food copywriter? Do you think I could list myself on Ebay?