Monday, August 09, 2010

The Wealthy Freelancer Book Review


I was sent a copy of the book The Wealthy Freelancer and asked to review it. The premise of the book is a guide to help individuals that wish to become a freelance copywriter, web designer, consultant, etc. where you own a solo business and don't have employees. 

The 3 authors of the book are freelance copywriters and you can see a little of that come through in the advice, but overall the book is generic and the strategies and tips easily apply to just about any type of freelance business you may want to start. 

It is set up in 12 chapters with each chapter being a self contained topic or "secret" as the authors call it and also has a decent misc. question section at the end. The target for the book are people just starting out or planning on starting out in a freelance business, but even more experienced freelancers will learn tips and strategies and should read it.

High Points

The book is excellent in terms of its ability to effectively deal with a variety of subjects and also focus on the one key weakness of freelancers.
  1. Marketing Focused: The number one issue with freelance businesses is getting clients. This typically provides the biggest challenge to new freelancers and is probably the number one reason freelancers either don't start a business or fail after they do. This book does an excellent job at detailing how to get clients, nurture leads, build lists, and provides many tactics for marketing and selling your skills. Because the book is generic in terms of its focus any type of freelancer will benefit from this key focus on developing business.
  2. Lead Nurturing Covered in Detail: If marketing is a key point of success than lead nurturing is definitely a close second. The authors dedicate a whole chapter to this, plus add other helpful advice to other chapters like developing a "buzz piece", which was fantastic! In addition, they discuss several techniques for nurturing someone who is interested but not quite ready to buy. This is a critical skill for freelancers and one that could mean the difference between success and failure. They cover this topic very well.
  3. Inspirational: As you read the book you get the perspective of 3 different authors and get a sense of their journey into the freelance world. They share mistakes they have made as well as things they did right and the lessons learned. For the beginning freelancer you really get a feel that you can do this successfully by reading the book, which is very important to the first time freelancer.
  4. Comprehensive: In addition to being marketing focused the book discusses other key topics that are extremely useful to the beginning and even experienced freelancer including:
  • Pricing your services
  • Boosting productivity
  • Developing alternative streams of income
  • Creating a work/life balance

Improvable Points

Overall the book is extremely well written with a lot of great information, but I found a couple of areas I think could have been stronger.
  1. Freelance Money Management: The book does touch on this topic, but doesn't really delve into it in any kind of depth, but unfortunately this is a key area where many freelancers fail at. A little more depth on the managing up and down cash flows, money management, and taxes would have made the book better and more comprehensive. I realize this can be a huge a complex topic worthy of its own book, but a little more detail would have been really helpful.
  2. Strategic Partnerships: One thing many freelancers will quickly discover is that they can't do everything themselves. They need employees, which wouldn't make them freelancers any longer or they need strategic partners. For example, copywriters can benefit by having partnerships with graphic designers and possibly printers. Web designers can benefit from having partnerships with graphic designers, database developers (assuming they don't do this themselves), copywriters, and others who can expand their capabilities and give clients the same turn key solutions that larger companies can give them, but without the cost and overhead. This would have been a wonderful chapter to include in the book because it is very important to long term prosperity as a freelancer. To be fair the authors do touch on the topic in a couple of pages of chapter 11, but such a great topic really deserves its own chapter.
Overall the book is excellent and a great read for both the first time freelancer as well as offering a lot of great advice to freelancers that have been around a little while. There is definitely a surge in this country of individuals deciding to give up the old 9-5 corporate job and work in a way that becomes part of your life as opposed to something you do for income.

You really see that point come out in the book, which is very inspirational and useful for the first time freelancer. The area of freelancing isn't one where a lot of material has been published and most of the material that has been published is focused a particular industry or profession. This book keeps a broad and open view so it really doesn't matter what area your business will be in, you can apply what you read.

I will sum this up simply by saying...

Buy This Book! You Won't Regret It.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Internet Marketing is a Journey not a Destination

This is a blog post I have been meaning to write for sometime now.  As an Internet marketing consultant I work with a variety of businesses of all sizes and industries.  Far too often I get businesses that simply don't understand that Internet marketing and honestly all marketing is often a process or journey as opposed to fixed finite projects that can be forgotten about as soon as they are "finished".

The core of most Internet marketing revolves around a web site.  Most businesses undertake the development of a web site akin to the process of building a pyramid!  They hire someone to design, develop, write and complete a web site and once done, like God in Genesis, they declare it is good and forget about it for a few million years!  They never add content or do search engine optimization activities.  They don't test their copy or test their pages.  They simply walk away from the project.  I find small and even some medium sized businesses to be the primary offenders here and unfortunately those are the companies that shouldn't be doing it.

SEO (Search Engine Optimaztion) 

Take search engine optimization (SEO) for example.  There are a variety of activities that you can do, but for simplicity sake I am going to break it down into two general categories.  Building content and building inbound links.  Doing both will help boost your search engine strategy.  Contrary to myths being promoted by some in the market there is no "adjustments" "buttons" "quick fixes" or "tweaks" that suddenly shoot you up to the top of the search engines and keep you there.  Simply doesn't exist any longer.  Those strategies worked years ago in some cases but now days the search engines are smarter and better built.  They aren't fooled so easily no matter what any snake oil salesman says.  Therefore you are left with doing it the hard way which means creating quality content and building incoming links.  You need to be working on this process all the time to insure that you are constantly improving.  If you aren't going to do it then you need to hire somebody to do it.  Simply ignorning it or doing a few things every once in a while is simply not going to cut it.

eCommerce Marketing

eCommerce is another area that requires constant work.  If you just sank a chunk of your retirement savings into a new retail store I am reasonably sure you wouldn't show up on the first day and open the door and then leave for 6 months and occasionally stop by the clean out the cash register.  As ridicoulous as this sounds this is exactly how many people who get started in eCommerce act.  They pay to create a nice store somewhere and then walk away and think people will simply find them and buy from them.  Simply not true.  A good eCommerce site is like a good store requiring constant marketing, testing products, testing copy and pages, building an email marketing list, social media presence etc.  As you do this over and over eventually you tap into those strategies that are working and those that are not and your success builds.

Internet Marketing is Direct Marketing

Most marketing on the Internet falls into the category of what we call direct marketing, which means you are trying to get people to take some type of action right now as opposed to waiting until later.  That being said direct marketing requires that you are always tweaking and changing your marketing startegy until it pulls better than anything else and once that is done you start the process over again to improve it even further.  You need to be trying new copy, pages, offers, technology, graphics, etc.  In direct marketing we say test, test, test.  That is how successful Internet marketing is done.

It is a journey which never ends.  It is a process that requires constant and never ending improvement like the Japanese term of Kaizen.  If you aren't willing to do this then you shouldn't expect your marketing to produce good results, but to those businesses that are willing to take the time and effort to do it right they will find the rewards far exceed the work.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Inbound Marketing Disorder

Today the new marketing rage is social media and inbound marketing. It started a few years ago when people started developing the opinion regarding email that nobody had any right to contact you via email unless they received your express permission written out on approved forms in triplicate that had to be approved by 13 committees, 24 czars, 5 departments and signed off by God himself. If you didn't follow that route you were not allowed to send even a single email to someone. Obviously I am being a bit factious, but hopefully you get the point.

Then along came social media and inbound marketing. The concept that started with email has moved into this area. Marketers are not to communicate with customers at all. Instead customers must come to the marketer and get the information they want. If you go to them it has become an unforgivable sin for which you must beg the marketing gods for forgiveness. Everyone is apparently SO busy these days that even the smallest interruption, no matter how it is done or how often is not to be tolerated. Marketers who break this sacred *new* rule will be shot on sight and survivors will be shot again!

The famous permission based marketer Seth Godin is a proponent of this school of thought. His blog routinely bashes the marketers of the world who dare communicate with their customers instead of waiting until they communicate with them. That strategy works well when you are an internationally acclaimed best selling author and have a household name among the marketing world and can probably pay people to help you generate content or do all the things necessary to run your business so you can sit around and develop content all day that will attract customers to you like bees to honey. However what is small to medium sized business that needs customers today to do? What if he or she doesn't have time, budget, or skill to become a best selling author and thought leader?

The point is that sometimes businesses just need to sell a product and people that are so busy that even the slightest interruption at any time is intolerable are also too busy to go read ALL the content that every marketer and business owner is now expected to generate so the customer comes to them instead of being notified about a new product or promotion. As marketers change tactics and evolve I believe it is possible to go too far in one direction or another. I don't disagree that that the traditional way of marketing is probably too much of the marketer telling people things and not enough of an interaction or conversation. However it is also possible to go too far the other way and assume all marketing must be this social media and/or inbound marketing approach and their is no room for direct or traditional marketing any longer under any circumstances. I believe the truth probably is somewhere in the middle.

Seth Godin makes a good living out of telling you all marketing is now social, web 2.0, permission based, inbound, etc., but then that works for him and he has made himself a household name telling us all that.

Let's look at another example...

There is a carpet store in anywhere USA. This store is a small family owned business and sells various flooring products such as carpet, tile, and hardwood flooring. They sell and install carpeting within a 50 mile radius of their store and up until today they have used display ads, direct mail, a simple 10 page web site, TV and radio to sell their services. The new media gods have decreed this company change or be destroyed. So using the books and tactics out there let's see how their new marketing program looks...

  1. They set up a huge web site with tons of great content on everything from every style of flooring ever made, but also gripping attention content like "flooring through the ages" and "the history of carpet from the Renaissance to today" and of course more mundane articles like how carpet is made and the process the fibers are treated with to be stain resistant. They have installed a live chat feature on their web site to be interactive. You can now contact them 24/7 through a live chat on their web site to chat about carpet. Their web site has tons of user reviews on carpet and they create a web site that rivals Amazon.com, but it is focused on selling flooring.

  2. They create hundreds of webinars on how to select flooring and decorate your house.

  3. They write white papers explaining the intricacies of making various styles of flooring and how to select just the right kind of flooring for your totally unique situation which is unlike anything anyone else has ever experienced in the history of the world.

  4. They start a world class blog to discuss carpeting and flooring to give decorating and style tips. They bring in the top designers from around the world to write on their blog.

  5. They post tons of podcasts on their site about how to pick carpeting out and the most intimate details of the construction and manufacturing of hardwood flooring. Today's topic is especially noteworthy, "hardwood flooring the real story"

  6. They shoot tons of videos on all the styles of flooring and give detailed video seminars on exactly how to pick out the perfect flooring for your situation.

  7. They start a Twitter feed and update their feed 30 times per day and get 12,000 followers who hang on their every post about flooring. It becomes a situation of running into a person dying of thirst in the desert and suddenly they get water! They keep drinking, but just can't get enough. They want MORE!

  8. They start a forum on the web about flooring and use all kinds of SEO strategies and links built into their signatures to cleverly get all their content indexed and entice people back to their enormous web site of content. Remember you can't tell them about it, they must discover it and be "invited" to visit.

  9. They also open up a Facebook account and set up a Facebook Fan page showing off their world class knowledge of the flooring industry. They post 900 pictures of various styles of flooring and houses it has been installed in.

  10. The owner of the shop writes some best selling books on flooring that take the carpeting world by storm and establish the owner as the undisputed world leader of flooring. He is put on the President's Council of Advisors for his flooring expertise and flown into sensitive flooring meetings and conferences around the world.
They have built a flooring information empire! The information is soooo compelling it goes viral! They have people from all over the world flooding their web site because of all the information they have. Now unfortunately for them the 5 competitors they have in town are not going to be outdone. They also spend piles and piles of cash to create rival strategies.

Before long the average flooring customer in anywhere USA can spend 5 decades reading and watching a staggering 327,000 pages of web and blog content on flooring! They can quit their job and watch 4 months of video and attend a whooping 357 webinars and in the spare time they have left they can read the 6,712 white papers they have downloaded on carpet. If they are still unsure of where to go they can start following these guys on Twitter and click all the "like" buttons on the Facebook Fan Pages or read 1.7 million user generated posts and reviews that have now accumulated on these web sites.

Or everyone can agree to tolerate a little interruption from time to time in their mailbox, email account or on TV to learn about a sale or new product at the local carpet store. Those people that are interested in buying new carpet or flooring will go check out the basic information they need on the little old 10 page brochure web site get the store hours, directions and some basic information about what the store carries and what they might be looking for. Then they will take an hour and half out of their busy life and go see some choices in person, feel them, see the pros and cons of each style and brand, get a price, buy it and have it installed the next day.

What will the rest of the people that aren't interested in buying new carpet, which will include our example customer in the paragraph above the day after tomorrow, they IGNORE IT! And that is OK!

The ridicoulous example above is written to demonstrate that I think we have gone a bit too far with this whole social media/inbound marketing concept. The concept works great for some busineses, but it is not right for everyone. The fact is the ideal marketing mix is somewhere in the middle as are most things. For some businesses the social media and inbound marketing approach works wonderfully and should be used, but for other small businesses the simple web site and direct marketing model are just fine.

This latest FAD with social media is just that, a FAD. I saw it during the dot com era when every single consultant and expert was absolutely certain the rules of business have changed forever and nothing would again be the same. I am hearing many of those same voices this time saying EVERYONE must follow this strategy or go out of business. There is NO middle ground. The traditional approach to marketing is totally dead and so will you be if you keep following it.

I want everyone to first take a deep breath and then take one thing away from this article. The rules of business are still functioning and it is OK to use traditional approaches to marketing in the right circumstances and in other circumstances a new approach should be considered, but it truly is a case by case basis and a middle approach is still acceptable.

Now assuming you want more than one thing to take away, consider that social media will still be here tomorrow morning. For some businesses it is a great strategy. Also understand that while I did call it a FAD and I believe that to be true, I also believe it will morph and change and find it's rightful place in the stars and all the marketing planets will continue to revolve and universe will not end today if you don't immediately implement this strategy. During the dot com era I heard that people like Warren Buffet simply didn't "get it" any longer. He was the old school of investing and the new economy and style of investing was to buy stock in companies that didn't have a single customer and could burn through 30 million dollars of cash in 6 months because they were the next big thing.

Fast forward to today and Warren Buffet is still one of the richest people on planet earth worth tens of billions of dollars. He continues to make more money every single year. Most of the people that owned the gravity defying dot com companies of the late 90s are still not billionaires. What is true today is that there is a more vibrant Internet as a result of the dot com era. There are great technologies out there and wonderful companies. People have found what works and what doesn't some things stayed and some things got left by the side of the road. I promise the same thing will happen in a few years with social media. Some of it will stay, some will go, and we will have a better Internet and marketing world in the future.

"What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain

This quote starts off the first chapter of the book Inbound Marketing. I would suggest you keep that quote handy as you read the book.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Removing Writer's Block

As a copywriter there is nothing worse than having a paid assignment with tight deadline and sitting down to write and finding your mind a blank slate! Anyone that does any copywriting for a living can sympathize with this. Fortunately, removing writer's block doesn't have to involve going to a voodoo priest or praying to the writing gods. It can be broken with a systematic approach.

Pat Friesen, wrote an article for Inside Direct Mail that I found had several helpful tips. Check out her article here. The next time you run into writer's block simply break down the steps and follow them. I believe you will find in short order that you will have plenty of ideas.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Interview with Internet Marketing Expert Dave Conklin

I recently had an opportunity to do an interview with Internet marketing expert Dave Conklin. I wanted to offer my readers a different perspective on this topic for your consideration. Please read and enjoy and take a moment to visit Dave's web site.

What first got you into Internet Marketing?

I've always loved playing around on computers and staying on top of internet trends, but I first realized how beneficial internet marketing could be as a real estate agent. Tons of people go online to do research before picking a real estate agent, and I realized that I could generate leads online by offering them exactly what they wanted - info on their home's value, or the value of a home they were considering buying. That just got my mind turning with all the possibilities and opportunities marketing on the web could open up.

How long have you been at it?

Since the early 2000s. I really got in deep once my partners and I created GetMyHomesValue.com, a lead generation and internet marketing company for real estate agents.

GetMyHomesValue was built strictly through internet marketing - no traditional advertising was really used - and it's made the Inc 500 list two years in a row - so that showed me just how important internet marketing is to the success of business. And I've been in love with it ever since!

So many things have changed in the SEO world, since you began. What, in your opinion, is the most interesting/integral part that you've seen?

The most exciting part of SEO and the internet marketing world is that it's always changing. The internet is constantly evolving, and SEO has to evolve with it...so things that got you rankings 2 years ago, may not work as well today. As an Internet marketing speaker and consultant, I make sure to constantly research and adapt to the new and up and coming methods of SEO and web marketing to keep my clients at the top of their game.

I think one of the most interesting things I've seen is the development of social media and what it can mean for businesses - it opens up a whole new world of connecting with consumers and prospective consumers. Google and the other search engines have also been putting more weight on social media - you see a lot of Twitter and Facebook accounts showing up for search terms - Google has even incorporated real time tweets into some searches - it's just crazy, and there's so many ways it can be utilized to help businesses grow.

What aspect of your job keeps you coming in to work everyday?

I think you can probably use that above answer as well! The ever-changing nature keeps it exciting - you never know what's going to happen next. I also work with an awesome team of some of the most creative, intelligent, dedicated people I've ever worked with.

Sitting in a room, brainstorming creative marketing ideas for clients, everyone getting excited and jumping in with ideas...it's a rush!

Just for fun: Do you have a favorite quote you live by?

If you don't risk anything, you risk even more.

What's one big secret to SEO you wouldn't mind sharing with us?

Getting 10 links from people that rank in the top 50 for the term that you're looking to rank for is better than 1500 links on low quality directories and such. Take the time to get to know those people and come up with ways that are mutually beneficial for you to exchange links on your site.

About Dave:

Dave Conklin is a nationally known internet marketing speaker,consultant, trainer and entrepreneur. Dave is also the co-founder of two very successful companies: GetMyHomesValue.com and ProspectMX.com. He is passionate about the internet marketing world and makes it his goal to aim high and get results. Find out more about Dave at http://www.DaveConklin.org.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Money is made in recessions

I have heard the saying and advice that "money is made during a recession" a few different times during my life, but wasn't really sure what it meant. Now going through one of the worst economic recessions in recent memory and having my own business I get to see first hand what that advice means and how it works.

During a recession unemployment rises and incomes fall. Simple economics. Normally this isn't an issue if the average person or business isn't over extended or have too much debt. A family that lives within their means for example can usually survive a short time with one spouse out of work. Businesses are the same way. However what is making this economy particularly bad for both is that as a nation we are way over extended on debt and that goes for both businesses and individuals. With home and stock values falling and unemployment running very high people have to sell things to make ends meet. Bargains are out there.

I know it seems somehow dirty to "take advantage" of people who are desperate, but you need to look at the other side of the coin. This person or business that is selling something needs cash now - not stuff - and while they can't sell whatever it is they are selling for as much cash as they may want, getting no money for it is probably worse. Their economic circumstances actually get better by being able to sell something for cash and you get a good deal. This is happening with houses, stocks, and other things.


So where I am going with this. Well, one thing that also happens during a downturn is that businesses pull back on spending for advertising and marketing. They view it as an expense not an investment; first mistake. During this period
all business do the same thing. Those companies that continue to invest in marketing actually get noticed more because so few businesses are continuing to spend that there is less competition against your marketing efforts. In addition, companies that continue to market during a recession can often buy services and ad space cheaper and get a bigger bang for their dollar because they get a larger voice as it is called in the industry. With less competition from other ads the chances their ads are noticed increases.

Those businesses that continue to invest in their growth will not only get a better deal, but also increase their market share. There are still customers with money out there, your job is to find them. Marketing during a downturn helps you do that. Hiding in the hills and hoping for the best is exactly what all of your competitors are also doing. Do you want to be like them or would you rather be prospering? If you chose the later than copying their strategy logically isn't the best idea.

I will repeat how I started this post money is made in recessions. If you invest now you will gain market share, get more for your money, find good deals on both services and ad space and when the economy does turn around you will be flush with cash and new business. Poke your head in the sand and hope for a brighter day tomorrow and you will come out of this with less cash, less market share and weaker business.


Some of the best investments you can make right now is Internet marketing. Also a well written direct response marketing package or online promotion written by an experienced direct response copywriter can have a wonderful return on your investment. If I can help anyone do that please give me a call.

If you happen to be in the Toledo Area there is a fantastic advertising and marketing conference coming up on October 9th, 2009. We have a fantastic speaker, Mark LeBlanc, as the keynote speaker as well as various break out sessions where yours truly will be speaking and presenting on Internet marketing. If you would like to learn more check out the web site for the event.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Matt Cutts Discusses Google Use of Meta Tags

Here is a new video by Matt Cutts on how Google uses meta tags in search results...



I have had my doubts for a while now that meta keywords tag was used much, if at all, by Google. I know many SEO consultants shared the same opinion. Here is Matt confirming that Google doesn't use this particular meta tag in their search criteria. Over the years I have heard a lot of uninformed SEO "gurus" talk about the all powerful keyword meta tag. I hope this video finally puts to rest this tired myth.

However what I find most interesting about this video is not Matt's confirmation about the meta keyword tag usage, but how Google DOES use the meta description tag. If you put a meta description tag in there Google may use part or all of that to display a description of your web site. I have also known this for a few years and advocate that people write persuasive, direct response, type descriptions. Please note, I didn't say keyword filled-barely readable-pile of crap description. I have read in other places how you should "keyword stuff" your meta description tag. However please notice HOW Matt mentioned Google uses this tag. He didn't say it was used in search criteria, but he did say it might be used entirely or partly as your site description. I think this is an important point so I don't want to lose anyone here. Now to be fair he also didn't say that is wasn't used either, but either way I think there is a better way to use the meta description tag.

Why do I care so much about this tag being used as part of the description for the site? Direct response advertising. The goal of any pay to click ad and search result is to get a real live person to click on your ad or search result. Your only chance to do that well is with a description that entices people that THIS is the web site they are really searching for. I read the descriptions all the time before clicking on the search results and it amazes me how many of them aren't included in a site or terribly written. Remember based on what Matt is saying a user will read this because of where Google displays it and then determine if that description is really enticing enough or persuasive enough to get them to click on the link and actually visit the site. This is where a good direct response copywriter can be his or her weight in gold.

Remember it won't do you a bit of good to have a top ten listing if nobody ever clicks on your search link or very few people do. However if you have a very well written description that utilizes good copywriting and persuasive and direct response oriented language and strategy you might boost the number of people that do click on it. More clicks equals for conversions. The bottom line is improved sales. Don't blow the description meta tag by listening to a half brained, uninformed "SEO consultant" that doesn't know how it is used and tells you to dump a bunch of keywords in there that don't make a lot of sense to a user actually reading the description.