Many professionals, freelancers, mom-and-pop operations, and large-scale businesses are seeing the global landscape of work change right before their eyes. With just over two weeks remaining in the contest, we’re continuing to hear inspiring stories of everyone who’s knows, feels, believes, and lives by The New Way To Work.
On January 3, 2007, my husband was very unexpectedly laid off along with many others in his office. He was given one week's pay and told to clean out his desk. He lost his job, his salary, and our family's health benefits. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.
After one fitful night of sleep full of worry, I woke up in the wee hours and began searching for projects on Elance. I responded to one in particular for a company that was looking for someone to write a white paper. I had a background in marketing and technical writing, so I decided to bid. I was awarded the project, and the pay was good! It was a mid-sized software company based in Hong Kong.
The need for killer content for businesses and entrepreneurs continues to grow at an amazing pace. Whether it’s a blog post, product description, marketing collateral, or newsletter, the growth in demand for strong, high-quality content is clearly apparent as writing-related skills on the Elance Work Index continue to rise. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, think about all of the other benefits that online content brings to your site, like search engine optimization, online community building, and more. (Check out a more in-depth look at why you need content here.)
However, there’s one thing that you must know before running off to slap a few words together – in order to reap the full benefits, you’re going to need a steady feed of high-caliber content. Are you suffering from a combination of dull content and Writer’s Block? Here are a few quick tips to add a little zip to your website’s content. Don't have the time? Hire a content creator right here.
1. Keep it fresh: Like food, freshness is key. Keeping your website’s blog (you’ve got a blog for your business, right?), product descriptions, and other pages fresh with new content will give your customers or readers a reason to come back for more.
Additionally, publishing fresh content to your website grabs the attention of search engines like Google and Yahoo!, giving you a little bit of a boost in Search Engine Optimization and search ranking. While you’re at it, don’t write about the same thing over and over – search engines will knock you a few points for duplicate and repeated content. Write high-quality content rich articles with a lot of relevant keywords for the most success.
2. Let your voice shine through: Remember, there are millions and millions of other websites out there on the web. Try to bring something unique to the table that your readers will enjoy. Try writing a bit more conversationally – your readers are people just like you.
Also important: Be sure to evaluate and understand your product and your target demographic and then cater your content and writing style to them. Although you might be noticing that more and more sites on the web today are taking a fun, more casual approach to writing with great success, don’t expect the same results if you write loose, sarcastic content for certain products or industries (for example, computer security.)
3. Get to the point: Your visitors have places to go and people to see online, so don’t bore them with overly-wordy paragraphs and descriptions. Internet surfers have the attention span of a 5-year old, so hitting them quickly with what’s important is key. If they aren’t able to answer the question, “Why is this important to me?” within the first few sentences, you can kiss those visitors goodbye.
Also, write shorter, quicker paragraphs. Succinct segments are far more digestible for the average person to read and retain.
4. Play by the rules: You could have a Pulitzer-prize worthy blog post published on your site, but if it’s riddled with typos, grammar errors, punctuation mistakes, and other blunders, its value to your site is close to zero. This is especially important for those with online businesses, as the legitimacy of your website can depend on the cleanliness of your copy.
We’ve been hard at work making improvements to our blog both in the features and content department, but for some reason, we here at Elance have a feeling in our gut that we’re still missing something.
Starting now and happening once a month, we’ll be publishing a blog article written by you, the true experts of getting online work done. Not only do you get a little time in the limelight (and some promotion in the monthly Elancer and links back to your profile page), but we’ll also be paying you for your hard work by giving you $200 per article in cold hard cash.
Now before you fire up your trusty word processor and start crafting words together, there are a few things you should know before you get started.
Writing, whether it be copywriting, web content, blogging, or anything inbetween, is one of the most popular, most demanded, and most sought after skill sets in the world of online work. Don't believe me? Just look at a few of the past Elance Online Work Indexes and you'll turn into a believer.
And as a writer, don’t think for one second that all online tools and resources are just for coders, graphic designers, and web developers – there's a grip of writing-related tools out there on the web for you word-smiths to take full advantage of. Here are some of my personal favorites:
OneLook: Founded in April, 1996, OneLook describes itself as “a search engine for words and phrases.” The site offers definitions and translations from over 5 million words in over 900 online dictionaries and has a robust set of search query tools so you can properly narrow down your search results. If you can’t find your word on here, it’s likely because that word doesn’t exist… yet.
GoogleDocs: As an integral part of Google Apps, Google Docs is an cloud-based text editor that boasts a healthy feature set. One of Google Docs’ strongest features is its collaboration tools – meaning while on Google Docs, you can have up to 10 people edit a document at the same time, and you can also share a document with up to 200 people. If you’re looking for other options, SynchroEdit is another browser-based editor that allows for online simultaneous collaboration.
Write Rhymes: This one goes out to all my poets, and they all know it. Okay, obviously not the best rhyming skills out there, but if you’re just as bad as I am, then go ahead and bookmark Write Rhymes. All you simply need to do is begin typing, highlight your words, press the ALT key, and a window of 2-or-3 syllable words with rhyming elements pops up. There’s even an option to save, copy, and print your new limerick, song, poem, rap, or whatever else your zany mind conjures up.
One of the larger overarching trends we’ve noticed since the inception of the Elance Online Work Index several months ago was the steadily rising increase in the need for written content in a number of forms.
But why the sudden gold rush for high-quality written content? As someone who obviously spends a lot of time stringing a few words together in an online fashion, I can break down the sudden thirst for internet content in three main points:
1. Community Building: Having a noticeable presence online is almost as important as having a noticeable presence in the real world. Publishing online content in the form of blogs, newsletters, and more gives your customers, patrons, and readers a humanizing perspective of your business and also provides a channel for you to build a relationship with current and prospective customers. Online content also offers something for your client base to discuss with each other, creating a buzz that can reach even farthest corners of the web.
If you somehow haven’t heard of it by now, then you’re probably living in a cave or something that's equally dark and dingy. The buzz surrounding the Kindle has set the world on fire with a newly-found interest in eBooks, especially here around the Elance offices. I'm personally suffering from "Kindle Fever". Not surprisingly, the effects of the eBook craze are surfacing on Elance — we’ve noticed a growing spark of interest in eBook creation with new job postings.
Now hang on there, partner. Before you post a job to convert your unofficial “Twilight” sequel into a Kindle-compatible format, consider these three important factors.
Choosing a File Format
Let me get a little technical for a second. When choosing a file format, you're first going to have to decide between two main eBook concepts: “reflowable” vs “fixed layout”. A reflowable file (AZW, MOBI, PRC, TXT, and HTML file formats) will essentially “word-wrap” your text to fit your screen, regardless of if it’s a cell phone, PDA, or full-on eReader. A fixed-layout file will be presented exactly the way you set each word or picture, meaning that users will have to manually scan horizontally and vertically to progress through the page (PDF and PostScript). If layout is not a huge issue to you, a reflowable file is probably a better choice, but if you have tables, charts, or other location-sensitive content or need to give readers access to 1:1 printing, then a fixed format will probably suit you better. The Mobipocket Developer Center has a great page that explains this in further detail. Remember to also check your eReader's file compatibility as well as other popular devices' compatibility. For example, the Kindle can read AZW (Amazon's proprietary format), MOBI, PRC, and TXT and also has limited HTML, Word doc, and PDF support through an extra software conversion tool.
Whether your business is a small mom-and-pops operation or a giant mega-corporation, a simple blog can add an engaging experience that reels in users, fans, and most importantly, customers. But constructing a blog is something that is easier said than done, especially for those lacking in Internet-savvy. I've lined up six popular blogging options — conduct a little research here and you'll find one that's a perfect fit for you.
Before we start, keep this in mind. There are two basic blogging platforms: blog services and self-hosted blog software. Blog services do it all — host your blog and provide content managment software; blog software packages require you to host and install on your own but are almost always more flexible. For SEO purposes, experts like Chris Bennett recommend using blog software and hosting your blog on your own site. (Check out his article "13 Ways to Make Your Blog Go Viral" for more details.)
Here are some of the most popular platforms used around the web today:
WordPress — WordPress is like the Tiger Woods of the blogosphere — it's currently being used by over 25 percent of Technorati’s top 100 blogs. (Technorati is a search engine that indexes blog popularity and compiles a Top 100 list.) It’s free, easy to install and maintain, and includes a huge list of features. Templates and themes, comments, trackbacks and pingbacks, spam protection, user registration, password protected posts, multiple authors, and tons of additional plug-ins are available for you to add functionality and further customize your blog. If you're feeling lost at sea, hundreds of Elance providers have extensive WordPress skills and can customize your blog to the exact spec and style you are looking for. You can currently get WordPress in two flavors — a complete blog service, located at WordPress.com, and the open-source blog software package, located at WordPress.org.
According to Technorati, a leading authority on the so-called blogosphere, there are more than 100,000,000 blogs that have launched since 2002. Yes, you read that right. One hundred million. But let me be honest. It is my (admittedly) unscientific opinion that 95 percent of blogs on the Web today range from generally mediocre to digital train wrecks.
Great blogs stand out because they have great content. It’s why you bookmark, subscribe to RSS feeds, and generally come back for more. If you want to take your material to the next level, you’re going to have to pay attention. Get ready to take notes — we have a lot to cover.
Let’s look at some of the basics of creating a winning content strategy:
Determine your publishing frequency. Different blogs have success with different publishing schedules, but the key to this equation is to remain as consistent as possible. Elance user Tim Ferriss crafts no more than two-to-three posts a week on his blog, while sites like the uber-popular TechCrunch publish five-to-ten new posts everyday. While there is no definitive answer for how many times a week you should post, just remember that as unpredictable and fickle as blog readers may be, when it comes to frequency, they appreciate consistency.
Kristyn Lenc, an Elance provider, is what you might call a ‘resume whisperer’. Since joining Elance, she has coached hundreds of elancers on how to punch up their resume for maximum impact. Kristyn has over 300 resume projects under her belt, and has truly become a resume expert, offering in-depth knowledge on the essential elements needed to create an effective resume.
Ready to spruce up your resume? Browse Kristyn’s list of resume musts and don’ts:
Effectively communicating the benefits of your products, services, and points of differentiation with prospective customers is critical to generating new business. Effectively communicating with current customers so you build a long-term business relationship is just as important – after all, it’s widely assumed that it costs 6-7 times more to find a new customer than to keep an old one.
Here’s a list of 20 projects you can hire Elance writing professionals to ensure you get your message across in a professional and engaging way. For ease in reading, we’ve organized the list of jobs into functional areas, but be sure to browse the entire list: