Tuesday, December 28, 2004

marketing in 2005

As 2004 wraps up, we're all busy planning for the new year. This includes outlining our marketing plans for 2005. (I'm actually taking a break from this very task to type this entry.)

I just received my weekly ezine from Debbie Weil, president and publisher of Wordbiz.com. Her latest article discusses online marketing techniques (read it) and how email and ezines are still going strong. Blogs are excellent means of communication, too---and they're definitely complimented by email and ezines/newsletters, not overshadowed, despite what some folks seem to think. Together, this trio of online marketing tactics can do wonders for your business, including keeping your name in front of your contacts, helping spread your knowledge and in turn boost your credibility, etc.

I'm preparing to send out the first issue of WriteTips (my ezine) for 2005 later this week. If you haven't signed up yet, you can do so now! It's free, and you'll score all sorts of tips to help improve your writing. If you want to see what WriteTips is all about before signing up, you can view archives from 2004 here.

By the way, my newly redesigned website is just about ready. I hope to have it go live by Jan. 1.

Happy new year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

happy holidays!

There isn't a whole lot going on this week thanks to the hustle and bustle of the upcoming holiday. Shopping and baking have sort of gotten in the way over the past few days, but that's ok...I finished up a couple of big projects last week, so the break is nice. I've made a point to continue working on the revision of my website, however, and I hope to launch it by Jan 1. This revision is part of my plan to streamline my promotional materials. I've got a great new logo, thanks to Rebecca Richardson. It needs to become part of the website, though, and that's a big reason for the overhaul.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

On fairness to clients

What I love about being a writer is the diversity my job brings. No two days are the same, and no two projects are alike.

For example, this week I put the finishing touches on a media kit for a client, attended a BNI networking function (and attended a holiday party for this group...'tis the season!), revised a brochure/flyer package for my local Chamber of Commerce, and met with a potential client about writing web copy. I also finished an editing project...let me share with you this experience.

Over the summer a fellow showed up at my door. Keep in mind that I work from home and don't typically see clients at my home office. I try to meet with them at their place of business or in neutral territory, such as the local coffee shop. So it was a bit strange to see someone on my doorstep, waving a piece of paper with my address scribbled on it and claiming the library had given him my name as a typist. He was writing a novel--longhand--and needed someone to type it for him.

I politely explained that I don't offer those sorts of services. I pulled out the Yellow Pages and gave him information for two typing services, as well as the local university's English department. An undergrad would be happy to earn some beer money, and a grad student would probably love to have the opportunity to eat well for a few days.

He was satisfied and thanked me, and he left. I did not hear from him again until he showed up again on my doorstep two weeks ago. This time he had the typed manuscript in hand and wanted me to proofread it.

Now, I don't promote my services to individuals, really. I try to work with businesses, mainly, for several reasons. But this fellow was insistent that I had to do this for him.

I had a couple of projects scheuled to be wrapped up that week, and of course Christmas is coming and I hadn't (and still haven't!) started my shopping, so I figured why not, in a few days I'll have the time and could put the payment towards something nice for my husband.

I took his manuscript. I reviewed it and called him the next day to let him know it would take about 5 hours (it was just about 75 pages) to proofread. We met again (at the coffee shop this time), signed a contract, I collected my deposit, and began the work.

This project--which I thought I had reviewed thoroughly enough to quote an accurate, fair rate--ended up taking 12 hours. I was, thankfully provided with an electronic copy (which saved time as I could make changes directly rather than scrawling notes on paper), but English was the author's second language and there were lots of changes to be made regarding basic sentence structure. The project took more than twice as long as I expected.

But I will not charge him more. The error was mine. I should have been more thorough in the review of his book. I will eat the additional 7 hours of work. (Yikes.)

Maybe it's because this is the season for giving that I'm being accommodating. But I don't think so. While other situations may have warranted a discussion about boosting my fees, this isn't a business with a big marketing budget. It's just a guy with a dream--to publish a piece he's worked very hard on for some time. He even hand-wrote it, for Pete's sake!

In the end, it's all about fairness to clients. Well, it's about making a living, too, of course. But fairness is what will earn you a decent reputation. It's what'll bring clients back for more. Deliver what you promise, when you promise it. That's not to say there isn't room for negotiation, but every situation is different and this fact should be recognized.

There isn't enough fairness in the world as it is. Anything I can do--personally or professionally--to help the ratings in this department is worth it.

Just don't ask me to type your manuscript for you.

And if you request an estimate on a project, please don't be surprised if I quote a range of the dollar amount next time!

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Website update

I've updated the "What's New" section of my website...please visit if you're interested in seeing how a freelance writer manages to keep busy!

Also, I received a very nice testimonial from a Diane Ruch, a local realtor for whom I wrote a holiday greeting letter. She included the letter with a free calendar to clients on her contact list. In her own words:

"Cassie, thank you so much for the perfectly written letter! It was the exact message I wanted to send along with my business calendars. Thank you also for convincing me that it's ALWAYS a good time to ask for a referral; even when I send a gift. What would have taken me weeks (and I still wouldn't have been satisfied) only took you a short time. I see why you chose this career, you are terrific!"

Thanks, Diane. That's super nice of you!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

WriteTips December issue

The final issue of 2004 WriteTips ezine was sent this morning. This month we're talking about ways to make sure your business web site is functioning at its best. A well-planned, well-written website is the ticket to getting potential customers' attention...how does yours measure up?

I'll file this issue in the archives next week. If you haven't subscribed to WriteTips yet, why not get on board? It won't cost you a thing!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Bly's blog

Yet another notable fellow has hopped on the blogging bandwagon: Bob Bly, master writer and inspiration to freelance copywriters everywhere (including yours truly) has launched one of his very own. (Visit it.)

This is further proof that more and more folks are taking business blogging seriously. According to one source, Bly had been skeptical about entering the blogosphere. Now he's apparently decided to take a stab at it. If you check the comment section you'll see that he's enjoying a good deal of response--which shows that people do read these things, after all!

Of course, Bly is a major figurehead in the copywriting world. People know who he is and they respect and trust his opinion. Follow his new blog or any other of your choice and you'll see how this relatively new method of online communication can help your business establish a presence on the web. And not just any presence, but that of an authoritive figure, an expert, and a leader. All this looks good in your customers' eyes.

So what are you waiting for? If you have questions about blogging for your business, or if you want to dive in but aren't sure you can come up with content regularly, contact me. I'd love to help.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

New service: website critiques

Websites. If you’re in business, it’s pretty much expected that you have some sort of presence on the Internet today.

That said, there are a lot of poor websites in cyberspace. Some common problems include:

Each page has a completely different look/feel. As a result, business identity begins to diminish…and potential customers begin to forget whose site they came to or even why they are there in the first place.

Poor/confusing navigation
If a visitor has a tough time maneuvering through your site, chances are she’ll leave it for good. We’re busier than ever today and our attention spans are decreasing, so make it really easy for visitors to navigate around your site.

Weak content
Your website exists to communicate with your customers: to provide them with information about your product or services and to persuade to do business with you. Poorly organized and written content will hurt—not help—your business. Examples include typos and misspelled words, lack of headings to separate chunks of text, and not breaking large pieces of information apart. Writing for the web is not like writing for print materials…a whole new set of rules is required.

Thinking about the effectiveness of your website? We now offer website critiques. Contact us to get feedback on design, usability, and content aspects of your site today.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Get organized!

Organization is, perhaps, the most difficult part of any job. It's an ongoing process. And you may feel as if there just isn’t enough time to plan for this very basic—but very necessary—task.

I occasionally fall victim to poor organizational skills. I have lists upon lists scrawled on Post-it notes, and sometimes I can’t remember which note contains urgent to-do activities and which includes important tasks for the week, but not necessarily for the day. This is compounded work-at-home issues: laundry, dirty dishes, yard work…all of which are actually nice breaks from my daily desk-time but can end up sucking up way too many minutes.

But most of the time, I’m pretty good about organizing. I’ve got files on all my clients—past and present—and a system for keeping track of potential work. Really, I have no choice but to be organized in this area. Not being able to answer a client’s question when it arises or being unable to find the second revision of Company XYZ’s brochure copy is bad for business. And since it’s just me running the show, I make an extra effort to be on top of things. No reminders from anyone…except for additional scribbles on Post-it notes. (What can I say…it’s an addiction of sorts.)

Having problems staying organized with your own time and resources? Check out these tips from Carol Halsey for prioritizing and organizing. http://www.pilestofiles.com/articles.html

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Newsletters for president

I did my civic duty by casting my political vote this morning. Hope you did, too.

Now I'd like to put in my vote for newsletters. At the end of each month, it seems all my newsletter duties begin to surface once again. I currently serve as editor of 2.5 newsletters (the .5 is a volunteer position for one organization I'm involved with, and I'm set to resign after the final issue). Since they all come due around the same time, my schedule gets pretty frantic.

As editor, it's my job to assign, follow up, write, edit, and assemble content. The hardest part is following up--when you're in charge of contributors, it's no easy task to make sure they submit their information to you in time to put together the piece and ship it off to the printer. Especially if they are contributing out of the goodness of their hearts (i.e., for no pay).

But all bottlenecks aside, I really enjoy the process. It's just a lot of work. But totally worth it.

Does your business or organization have a newsletter? If not, why? Newsletters provide an excellent way to communicate with customers or employees. You can motivate, inspire, inform, and entertain with a well-planned, well-written newsletter. Give me a holler if you'd like to learn more about the benefits of publishing one of your own.

Here are a few of the newsletters I currently produce:

Illinois Heartland Chapter STC: Heartline (quarterly)
Central Illinois Jazz Society: Jazzscope (monthly)
Cassie Hart Copywriting & Editorial Services: WriteTips (monthly)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

November ezine preview

I've just finished the November issue of WriteTips, my monthly Ezine. This month's topic focuses on business blogs. It addresses questions such as:

  • What is a blog?
  • How do I start blogging?
  • How can blogging be an advantage for my business?
I've also added a few links to notable blogs from both business and casual perspectives. If you haven't signed up to receive WriteTips yet you can do so here. Did I mention it's free?

You can also preview archived issues here. Please note that the recently released issues won't appear in the archive section until the following month, so if you're eager to get the scoop on business blogs right now, sign up today!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Holiday letters

Even though the end of October has yet to arrive, it's not too soon to start thinking about the holidays.

Last week I wrote my first holiday letter of the season for a client. She's prepping her mailing list, which includes family, friends, and past & present customers. She'll be including a free, refrigerator-sized magnetic calendar in the package. The letter is brief--it simply wishes her prospects a happy holiday season and lightly asks for referrals.

Her timing is perfect. The package will be mailed in early November (the first page of the calendar starts in Nov.) and she may be one of the first folks to wish her target group season's greetings. She'll stand out because her letter won't come with a zillion other holiday cards...and because she's giving away freebies!

Have you thought about putting together your holiday mailer yet?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Welcome to Writing4You!

After reading many interesting tidbits about business blogging, I have decided to give it a whirl for my writing business. I'll post as often as I have time to do so, and I'll provide an account of current projects, problems & how I solved them, and other useful pieces of information related to writing. I look forward to communicating with potential, past, and present clients!