Writing Effective Titles for the Web

Writing titles and headlines for the web is much different than writing them for print. When readers take a print newspaper or magazine in their hands, they know what they wants to read and know that they’ll find it there. But with the web, readers generally search for articles to read or to find information.  They go to search engines to search for what they want, or to websites that have been recommended to them. They scan and skim the sources looking at all the different headlines searching for what they want, and then click on the title that they think will contain their information.

So, what does this mean? This means that your title or headline should be such that it immediately catches the attention of the searcher. In order to prevent your title from going unnoticed, just follow these simple rules. They will make your content more visible on the web:

1. Keep your title short. The ideal length is between three to six words, and never more than ten.  This is because most search engines usually pick only a few sets of words.

2. Keep the most relevant words in the beginning. The most relevant words should also be the keywords of your content. But be careful – don’t overstuff the title with keywords, otherwise it will not only sound irritating but will also be ignored by the search engines.

3. Make your title the “summary” of your article. In other words, the title should clearly say what your article is about. This increases the possibility of the searcher clicking on your article.

4. Be sure to keep it honest. It is very important that your title is exactly what it says. Don’t let it be just something to attract readers. If your readers are attracted by the title but find something different in your article, they’ll never return. Your reputation as a writer will be affected. This is why honesty and truthfulness is of prime importance.

It’s really not very difficult keeping these points in mind. It only takes a little care and practice. Just remember this – your title is what defines the success of your article.

What do you think – does the title of this post have all the points given above?

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Freelance Writers and Time Management

Generally when you tell people that someone’s a freelance writer, the first reaction is, “Aah, so he is doing nothing”. Others, who do realize that freelance writing is actually work, think that it’s easy working from home. While the fact is that working from home is much harder than working outside your home. When you go out to an office as an employee, your timings are set. You work a certain number of hours in an environment of work and bring home a check of a set amount. But when you’re a freelance writer, things work differently. You have to set your own working time in an environment that has many distractions. Work is deadline-based; and if you don’t hand in your projects on time, you lose your clients and your work.

The most important thing in a freelance writer’s job is time. Quality work has to be handed in on time if a writer wants to keep receiving assignments. In order for this to happen, proper time management is essential. Here are a few time management tips that I personally have found to be very useful:

1.   Organize a working environment. This is very important in order to be more productive and efficient. Set up a room or a corner of your house as your working space. Besides your computer and internet access, keep all your printed references and writing materials in that place. Your project records, bills and other papers should also be in place properly filed. This not only creates a productive environment, but also keeps you in one place without having to search for things all over the house.

2.   Set writing time. Working from home has many distractions, so it’s very important to set aside time for writing. Allocate a certain number of hours every day for writing – no watching TV, talking to friends over the phone, or doing grocery during those hours. Only writing. How many hours to set aside depends on the project you’re working on. Some projects require more working hours, others less. So, you can either vary your writing hours from project to project, or you can keep the same number of hours, depending on which works better for you. Establishing a regular writing routine increases both productivity and quality.

3.  Plan ahead. Planning ahead always saves time. You know the deadline – so, schedule time for research, writing, and the revision and proofreading. Always keep an extra day or two free before the deadline – this gives you some extra time for improving your work, as well as give you some leeway in case time has been lost due to an unforeseen distraction or emergency.

All freelance writers know how important it is to maintain a reputation of efficiency and reliability if they want assignments to keep coming in. And this is only possible if quality work is handed in on time. Hence, the importance of time management.

How do you manage your time? I’d love to hear from other freelance writers.

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Best Place to Work

This is for all the freelance writers who work from home: What is the best place you can work without any distraction? Do you have any specific place, or can you work anywhere?

Please share your views and experiences here. We’d like to know what suits most writers.

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Stay Motivated When Writing Is Boring

motivation 2Staying motivated when writing for yourself is at times hard enough, but when you’re writing for someone else…. well, it’s not that easy, especially when the topic is one that you’re least interested in. This is what freelance writing is all about – having to write about things that interest your client, not you. But whatever the topic, you must stay motivated or you’re out of business.

In the beginning of my career, I sometimes found it difficult to remain inspired when the writing was boring, but not anymore. Now words flow easily, no matter how uninspiring the topic.

This is what keeps me motivated:

1. I know I am not writing for myself. I am writing for others. I am writing for people who are interested in the topic. They are going to read my words and gain something from them. Just the thought that someone is going to learn something from what I’m writing gives me a sense of satisfaction.

2. I myself am gaining knowledge about something that I otherwise would never have. Quite a bit of research goes into the writing – whatever the topic. During the process of researching and writing, I am learning as well. Learning and gaining knowledge is always gratifying.

3. Researching involves a lot of reading, and while you’re reading, you inevitably hit upon an idea – ‘now this is something I can write about’. A writer is always on the lookout for ideas to write their own articles on, and here I am, getting ideas without even having to look for them. So, the more I read and write, the more ideas I get.

4. A wide variety of writing increases your versatility. You become adept at writing almost anything at any time. This in turn hones your writing craft. In other words, I am improving as a writer on the whole.

5. I will be rewarded for writing. Now let’s be honest here – why are we writing? To earn some money. So, it’s not like I’ll get nothing out of writing something that doesn’t interest me. Besides all the benefits given above, I’ll also be paid for the writing. This in itself is gratifying.

Now aren’t these reasons enough to keep a writer’s muse active?  Just keep these points in mind and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t stay motivated, no matter what the topic.

What about you? What do you do to keep your words flowing? Do share your thoughts and ideas here with us.

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The Importance of Perseverance

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

perseverance 3I have often been asked what I consider to be the most important ingredient for success in freelance writing.  Well, to me, there are many important ingredients, some of which I have discussed in previous posts – Qualities of a Professional Freelance Writer and How to be a Successful Freelance Writer – but the most important is perseverance. No writer, no matter how good he or she is, can ever succeed without perseverance. But what exactly is perseverance?

The dictionary defines ‘perseverance’ as ‘persistence in anything undertaken; continued pursuit or prosecution of any business, or enterprise begun’. This means that whatever you set out to do, in this case writing, you have to persist despite all difficulties or hurdles that may come your way. An ideal example is one of a child learning to walk – he walks a few steps, then falls, picks himself up and starts walking again, again he falls, and still again he gets up and starts all over again. Each time that he rises and starts again, his walk becomes faster and more persistent.  This is how a writer should be – each time he fails in an attempt, he should rise and try again, and that, too, with a stronger resolve.

A writer may face failures in many ways. Well, some may not be failures per se, ‘difficulties’ may be a better word, but for the sake of convenience I am calling them all by one name here. Now, what are these situations? The most common are:

1. Writer’s block. This is a situation in which a writer is unable to produce new work. All writers, aspiring or experienced, face such a situation sometime or the other during the course of their career. Unless a writer learns how to overcome writer’s blocks, he/she may stop writing altogether. What is required here is perseverance, perseverance to continue writing despite blocks. This may sound easy, but believe me, it isn’t (I’m sure all you writers out there understand what I mean). Try and find the cause and try to remove it. Even if there is no cause, or you don’t know what it is, don’t stop writing just because you can’t. Write and keep writing. The results may not be good, but keep writing, regardless of the quality of output.

2. Criticism. This is again something that almost all writers face. If a writer’s work is praised, it is also criticized – sometimes very scathingly. This hurts, often very badly. Why? Because a lot of hard work goes into the production of each piece. It’s your baby, you have produced it. But if you let criticism overtake you, you can never continue to write.  Take it in your stride – if it is from an expert, learn something from it; if it is from a layman or just intended to pull you down (this is very common), just ignore it and continue to write. Don’t stop just because you have been criticized.

3. Rejection. All writers’ works get rejected by publishers some time or the other. Even the greatest of writers have had their works rejected. Don’t let your spirits down if your manuscript gets rejected. Believe in yourself and have the persistence and tenacity to continue. If not one publisher, then the next; if not the next, then another. There are a number of publishers out there, someone is bound to publish your book.

4. Lack of assignments. Assignments and projects don’t come easy. There are countless freelance writers out there, each one trying to outdo the other. Unless you learn to go out there and compete with them, you will never get any assignment or project. Persist in your attempts by contacting and keeping in touch with potential clients and marketing yourself in all the right ways. Don’t be disheartened if there is no response. Continue pursuing your goal and you’ll definitely succeed.

Perseverance is the key to success. Like George E. Allen once said – “People of mediocre ability sometimes achieve outstanding success because they don’t know when to quit. Most men succeed because they are determined to.”

Do you agree with this?

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What Not To Do As a Freelance Writer

mistake 1

The journey of a freelance writer is not smooth – the road is fraught with pot holes and sharp bends. The slightest mistake and you end up in a mess. We’re all humans and we all make mistakes. I, too, have made quite a few in the beginning of my career. But time has made me wiser and I know now how to avoid them. Here’s what I learned –

 

1. Don’t treat writing as a hobby: When you’re working alone from your home, you tend to take things a little lightly – but don’t, because this is the root cause of all mistakes. If you have made writing your career, then treat it like a career – not as a hobby. Treat the people you write for as your clients, not as friends. Make rules for your business and follow them strictly – never break them. Keep records of everything – your clients, your payments, your receipts, your drafts, copies of all the correspondence and written assignments, everything. You never know when you might need them.

2. Don’t procrastinate:  Always reply to all your e-mails as soon as you read them. Never delay, even if your clients are slow in writing. Keep to your deadlines. Your deadlines are your absolute commitments, commitments that should never be broken. Getting things done on time is what makes your reputation, and your reputation is important for the success of your business. It’s what shows your clients how reliable and competent you are. It’s what makes your clients return to you with more assignments.

3. Don’t restrict yourself: By restricting, I mean don’t keep to one kind of writing – diversify to several areas and subjects. This way you’ll never be out of work. If your client wants you to write on a subject that you feel you do not know, or on a genre you haven’t attempted before, don’t refuse. Do research. And by research I do not mean just read one page of reference or explanation, but go to several sources to learn – books, websites, experts in the field, as many sources as you can think of. Clients appreciate writers who are willing to learn. Diversifying opens you up to more market opportunities.  

4. Don’t forget to follow up: Don’t forget your clients once you have completed the assignments. Keep in touch with them through e-mails. If you are one who forgets names, then write them down, but don’t forget to let them know what a pleasure it was working with them and how you look forward to more. You could even suggest a new idea that can prove to be beneficial to the client’s business. The reason for doing this is simple – If you don’t follow up, it won’t be long before they forget who you are.  

 

What lessons have you learned the hard way? Why don’t you share them here with us, so we can all learn from each other’s mistakes?

 

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Freelance Writers and Writing Genres

Genre refers to a category of works that share a common style, form, or content. A literary, or writing genre, to be write 2more specific, follows the same technique, content, or tone. Examples of literary genres include fiction, non-fiction, satire, and poetry. These can further be sub-divided. For example, fiction may be sub-divided into short stories and novels (which can even further be divided into romance, mystery, tragedy, history, etc.); non-fiction into biography, journals, essays and so on; and poetry into lyric, epic, dramatic, etc. Genres have often been a subject of debate as different people have different ways of dividing the different types of writings. But whichever way, the fact remains that there are genres; and each writer follows one or more genres of writing depending on his/her expertise.

 

A freelance writer, too, generally follows a genre or more. The most likely (based on demands) are the following:

  1. Business writing – This involves any kind of writing done for a business. Examples: letters, brochures, presentations, newsletters, plans, etc.
  2. Copywriting – This is writing done for the purpose of promoting or marketing a business, product or service. Examples: ads, information brochures, white papers and so on.
  3. Technical writing – This refers to any writing that is done to instruct or inform people of a technical product or service. The most common examples here are writing manuals or white papers.
  4. Ghostwriting – This is any writing done on behalf of someone else, using his/her name and allowing credit to be given to him/her. This may be in any genre.
  5. Grant or Proposal writing – This involves writing proposals, which also includes research, budget, accounting and so on.
  6. Speechwriting – This is writing words that are to be spoken in front of a live audience.
  7. Critical writing – This is done to review, analyze, or interpret something – which may be a book, a product, a movie, or music.
  8. Non-fiction writing – This may be an essay or article for educational or journalistic purposes.
  9. Web or content writing – This writing is done specifically for the internet. It includes articles, product or service descriptions, online columns, and e-zines.
  10. Blogging – This differs from web writing in the sense that it is done specifically for the purpose of community building, or directly promoting a product or a service. It is done on a regular basis and allows readers to add comments. Blogging may either be for businesses or for individuals.

A freelance writer may follow any of these genres depending on his/her interest or expertise.

Are you a freelance writer doing any other kind of writing? Which genre are you following?

 

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