I just returned from Chicago, where the American Business Awards were held at the Fairmont. MehtaFor picked up the bronze for Startup of the Year! In a room brimming with winners like YouTube and “small marketing campaign budgets” are considered below $3 million, that’s a rank we’re happy to take.
Although we didn’t take gold, here’s the acceptance speech that was at the ready:
“According to the Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, the English word with the most definitions is ‘run.’ We’re entrepreneurs. We run after our dreams—hard. We run our startups like everything’s riding on it—because it is. And, like Beyonce said, ‘Who run the world?’
I’d like to thank my clients, my writers and editors. Chintan for being my steadfast muse, whether he likes it or not. This is for all writers. For every English major who’s been asked one too many times, ‘What are you going to do with that degree?’ This is for all of us.”
You’ve probably heard about SEO—search engine optimization. If not, the (very basic) description is that it’s a set of evolving best practices to “optimize” your web presence (usually at least your website) so that it ranks higher on search engine results based on “your” key words or phrases. For example, if you own a dog grooming business in Dallas, one of your key phrases is probably “dog grooming Dallas”. Potential customers Google (since Google is the most popular search engine in the US) “dog grooming Dallas” and you want to show up as high on the Google search results as possible. Studies have shown most people only check out the first few links of a search, and most people never look beyond the first page of search results.
However, being an SEO writer is just one of many skillsets an SEO agency or self-described expert should have. There are many aspects to SEO from finding and analyzing keywords to making a website mobile ready, responsive design, page load speed management and so on.
That being said, “Content is king” is the rally key of many SEO pros. Without good, organic, high quality written content with natural keyword placement, SEO just can’t happen.
No Jack of All Trades Will Do
It would be great if you could hire a single person to “do all your SEO”, but that person doesn’t exist. There are creative aspects to SEO, technical aspects, and plenty of mingling in between. It’s very unlikely that you’ll find a high quality SEO writer who’s also an SEO professional who can make your site mobile ready. Those are two very different skill sets—and SEO requires many more than just those two!
Hiring an “SEO Writer” is also different from hiring other types of writers, even including Web Content Writers. SEO writers have a gift of taking keywords and phrases and fitting them seamlessly into quality content. There is an ideal “keyword density” for SEO text that SEO writers can achieve.
The great news for SEO writers, or a writer who wants to become one, is that there is serious job security. Every single business and person with an online presence wants or needs higher SEO rankings. Plus, “their” SEO keywords are always changing. This means virtually endless work that needs to be updated on a regular basis.
And they said you’d never get a writing job with that English degree!
This blog isn’t about Kimye. Cue either relief or disappointment (but if you really need your Kardashian fix, check out Hollywood Life).
Here’s the thing about clickbait: You kind of need to do it, because otherwise even the best content won’t get as many clicks, as much exposure, or as many shares. That being said, there’s a big gray area when it comes to clickbait. There’s sensationalism, and then there’s marketing standard highlighting. Obviously if you choose a title like, “Kim Kardashian Releases New Sex Tape” and the content is jibberish, a sales pitch for a hair transplant company, or features a clip of Kim K. talking about her efforts to get pregnant again in her new season, you’re not just committing libel. You’re also seriously taking “clickbait” too far.
It’s a catch-22 because your clients (and your SEO rankings) want your headlines to draw people in. Unfortunately, in an era where news is reported in real-time and the idea of breaking a story has pretty much died, how can you come out on top? Yes, you need a catchy headline with SEO elements, but what else? Getting someone to click on a link is just part of the process. If you’re offering up offensive clickbait, you’re also going to get a slew of bouncebacks. Ultimately, your SEO won’t improve from such a shortcut.
Walking the Line
Writing great headlines and titles have a lot of “rules” or best practices. You want it short and sweet enough that it won’t get cropped in search results (both on major search engines and on whatever website the story is being hosted on). For awhile people loved lists, even dubbing them listicles. Now a lot of people hate them, so you have a 50/50 split. You also need to create or curate images that are high quality, have SEO elements themselves, and won’t get you into trouble (copyright infringement, anyone?).
Unfortunately for those looking for a shortcut, they simply don’t exist. You might experience short term gains with clickbait and other gray hat tricks (since some clickbait strategies aren’t quite blackhat), but it won’t last forever.
Plus, the average content consumer is getting savvier with clickbait, and they know how to identify it and what it’s called. If you get “caught” by one viewer, your credibility and reputation may get marred. Leave the hyperbole to your fiction pieces. It’s a world where news happens and is reported nearly simultaneously, so it’s not a race to be first or the most outlandish. It’s a competition to see who can offer the best, most thorough, fact checked, edited content with (legal) complementary images.
I created The Jessica Tyner Scholarship Fund before MehtaFor became a full-fledged business. However, the importance of giving back and social responsibility has always been at the heart of MehtaFor. That’s why the Scholarship has always been featured on the website, and I encourage clients and non-clients alike to apply (if they qualify) and to help spread the word.
I’m excited to announce the 2015-16 Selection Committee! Last year, the selection committee was comprised of established fiction writers and poets. This year, I sought out another niche of the literary world, and arguably the most important: Book lovers and readers.
Please welcome Niyomi Mehta, Erin Smith and Alex Smith who have volunteered their time, efforts and unique perspective to help select the 2015-16 recipient(s)! Niyomi is studying Interior Design in Mumbai, India and knows first-hand the challenges facing today’s students. Erin spent years teaching at the university level in Abu Dhabi, and is now pursuing her PhD in Math Education in Columbia, MO. Her husband, Alex, is pursuing his PhD in Special Education.
Without the selflessness of selection committee members, no scholarship (including this one) would exist. Here’s to a successful year…bring on the applications!
What does it mean to be a WOC in business in 2015? I’m one of six women of color featured in the Women in Business & Industry’s article, “6 Things the New WOC in the Office Wants Employers to Know”. Check it out and share your experience!
When I was in graduate school (for writing, of course), the department head shared a story of when he used to make big bucks ghost writing books. His anecdote went something like this: “Well before ‘vanity publishing’ was a household phrase, ghost writers were scraping in lofty incomes playing to egos. As a ghost writer, I would always ask the client to meet me in a public place like a small coffee shop. I got there early and set up at a window. My fees for ghost writing a book were the same as the cost of their car. Every time, clients would show up in something like a new 5-series BMW. If they’re willing to spend $50,000 on a car, they won’t think twice about spending $50,000 to immortalize themselves.”
Today, ghost writing isn’t just for books (although that’s still a huge market!). There are ghost writers for blogs, articles, white papers and even social media posts. The majority of my income comes from ghost writing. That’s why I have very few live links featuring my genuine byline—and that’s perfectly fine with me. However, what I find interesting is that, apparently, it’s not acceptable to a lot of writers.
When I’m first negotiating with a new client, the trepidation in their (written) voice is nearly palpable when it comes to bylines. They’re almost always apologetic that my real name won’t be used. Sometimes I’ve even been asked to create a fake bio for pseudonyms (“Larry” was my favorite) and I write as Larrys, Evelyns, Joes and Barbaras. Personally, I don’t care. I’m not getting paid or sought out for my name. I’m getting paid for what I deliver.
When a client pays me for a product or service, the end result is theirs to do with as they wish. This isn’t like writing or publishing poetry, which is what I consider my passion project. The work I get paid for on a daily basis isn’t “my baby” because, quite frankly, I’ve sold that baby to someone else. I was simply a surrogate.
Is Ghosting for You?
Unfortunately, not all writers are ready to “give up the ghost” and they prioritize having their name attached to their work. There are a myriad of reasons for this, and none of them are wrong. Maybe they’re attached to their work and can’t bear to let someone else take credit for it. Maybe they’re trying to build their reputation as an expert in search engine optimization, social media, or circus training. Maybe they just don’t think the fees they’re getting paid are worth the value of their words.
However, bear in mind that (much like contracting), you can probably get more money if you let a client use their name (or whatever name they like). What’s more important to you—the income or the credit? It could vary from piece to piece and client to client, but until you’re a thought leader in XYZ field, your worth is likely higher for your writing rather than your name.
Breaking up is hard to do, whether it’s with a love interest or a business client. People tend to hold on to things longer than they should. They cling when the relationship isn’t benefitting them, when it’s not fitting either party, and when it’s obvious ties should be severed. Nobody likes to have “the talk”—and it can be even more nerve wracking when you feel indebted to the other party. I’m no exception.
I’ve continued working for clients even when they still paid me at a rate 50 percent less than my standard. I felt indebted to them because I had worked for them for so long. There was a time, years ago, when our agreed upon rate was fair for my experience. Maybe they gave me a chance in an industry that I didn’t know at all. It’s likely that I “liked” the client and let emotions get involved where they didn’t belong.
As a writer, whether freelance or with your own business, there will come a time when you need to break things off with a client. Don’t linger. The Band-Aid approach is best.
Here are a few clues that the relationship is dead. The sooner you snip off that dead weight, the sooner you open yourself up to more, better, and more lucrative opportunities.
They won’t/can’t meet your current standard rate
I’ve posted about this before, but I highly encourage writers to only charge per word or a flat rate per project based on average word counts. Never charge per hour—but make sure you have a personal “hourly rate” that you “need” to meet in order to grow your business. If it takes you 20 minutes to create a $20 piece, that’s $60 per hour. For some writers at certain points in their career, that’s a reasonable amount.
However, if you have a client or project that ends up paying you anything below $60 per hour, it’s time to call it quits. Otherwise, you’re stalling your career and your revenue.
You dread their projects
There will always be times when you don’t want to write at all, or you don’t want to write for a certain client. However, if this happens every single time you have to write for a specific client, that’s a red flag. You’ve reached burn out and there’s only one cure: Letting them go. Only you can ask yourself if the pay makes it “worth it”. For example, if your minimum hourly rate is that $60 but this client pays $100 per hour, you might think it’s worth sticking around. Or you might not—that’s your call, and only you know what your hour is worth.
They’ve been complaining more often than usual
In my experience, it’s very rare for a client to complain or ask for re-drafts after your initial learning curve. Of course, some clients are more demanding than others. Personally, if a newish client has continual requests for changes, I usually end things right there—it’s clear this isn’t a good match for either of us.
On the other hand, if an existing client starts suddenly requesting more changes, has more complaints, or otherwise is taking up more time than usual, read between the lines. This means one of two things: Either there’s a new manager somewhere in the mix you’re not meshing with (and likely never will), or you’re nor performing like you used to because you’re burned out. Either way, it may be time to move on.
So, how do you break up with a client? There are as many ways to break up with a client as there are to break up with a significant other. Be professional, be clear, and don’t leave any wiggle room. You can certainly come up with an excuse if you like, such as a mysterious new project that will take all of your time, but avoid bridge burning. After all, you never know when that client might come up with a new project that’s more in line with your passion—and pays handsomely.
I know things have been quiet on the blog front for awhile. I’m in India until February 16 for a formal engagement ceremony (and the Wi-Fi, at best, is ornery!). However, I’m happy to announce that my first bid request for a new project just rolled in on the MehtaFor site! I’ll be hitting the computer clacking when I’m back in the US thanks to my current and potential projects.
Some of you know that MehtaFor transitioned from my “old” website that, quite frankly, was a holding place until some behind the scenes paperwork/deals/etc. were made.
Thank you to everyone who helped make the soft launch of MehtaFor successful. I plan to roll out the “official” launch by the end of February!
As a writer, I find it much more challenging when a client requests “evergreen” content rather than news-related, trending, seasonal or anything other type of content with a short shelf life. However, the term “evergreen” is a bit of a misnomer—kind of like the namesake. Even evergreen trees will eventually fall, whether from disease, natural disasters, logging or lack of nourishment. Nothing lasts forever while remaining relevant, and the written word is no exception. But that doesn’t mean writing evergreen content is pointless.
As a rule, evergreen content should last as long as possible while remaining helpful, entertaining or both. For example, one of my clients that especially likes the evergreen approach is an endodontist (dental surgical specialist). When it comes down to it, the approaches, tools and strategies for dental surgery are “rooted” (couldn’t help it!) in tried and tested approaches. A root canal is a root canal, even if the latest YAG lasers make the process faster and more efficient.
There will always be demand for evergreen content because basic 101, proven best strategies, and “best of” pieces will always have a place in content marketing.
Make it Easier on Yourself
What helps make content “evergreen” in the digital era is the fact that “forever” isn’t quite as long as you think. The odds of a website today holding true for over ten years with largely the same content and layout is slim to none. Businesses close, they get sold, they get re-branded and the owners want an overhaul of the website. This means that evergreen content you’re writing likely has an intended lifespan of one to five years. That’s a much more feasible goal than forever.
However, you never really know when a website could stick. When writing evergreen content, avoid citations that will date the content. If there is a bunch of links or mentions of 2015 throughout the article, how’s that going to look in 2016—or 2018? The only time dates should be included is when they’re already settled in the past, such as the year the first porcelain veneer was created (it was 1928 for those gearing up for trivia night).
If you’re a writer asked to pen evergreen content, steer clear of breaking news, trending items, or just about anything that will date your piece. This is a time to cover the basics, provide a refresher course on the subject, or delve a little into history. Get as much information as you can from the client, because they might have a very different idea of “basic” pruning, home staging, re-upholstering, or whatever other niche they may be in than you do. Your best source of information with evergreen content is, well, the source. Make use of it so you and the client will be happy with the results.