I was living part-time with my parents a few years ago and doing a lot for freelance writing. I am not sure when it started but my once in a while my dad would come into my room and ask me what I was writing about that day. Back in those days, I was doing a lot of work for an agency that handled copy for real estate agents. I wrote community descriptions of places I’ve never been from Florida to Oregon. One day my answer was chickens because I was writing two profiles for a poultry magazine. I also wrote for a magazine about floor coverings–not too surprising since I live just half an hour from the Carpet Capital of the World. These stories were not as exciting as the hundred of crime and legal stories I wrote as a reporter and those are usually the ones I get asked about most often.
Until I started freelancing a dozen years ago I had no idea about the number of trade magazines. Even before the Internet made content king you could find magazines focusing on pizza restaurants, carpet, Christmas tree farms and tree trimming to name a few. Every once in a while one of these magazines contacts me to do an article. I also hear from businesses who want me to write up their announcements or press releases to submit to their trade publications.
This is what I love about my career. I can be writing about anything and interviewing anyone on any given day. And no day is ever the same. This week is a good example as I will be interviewing two attorneys, a chiropractor and a city councilman. You may think your business is too mundane. But trust me, somewhere there is a place for your story.
I was in elementary school when Paul Simon came out with “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” I haven’t counted the number of ways in the song but I don’t think it was 50.
Today, business owners have almost as many ways to tell their story than Paul Simon had to leave his lover (not sure if he left her since they were sleeping on it in the last verse). Let’s just talk about 10.
- Your website. This is often the first impression you make on a customer. You can include many story-telling techniques on your site but make sure to include these pages–about, contact, homepage, landing page, etc… and make sure the pages are error free and well written.
- Blog. A blog is an easy way to share your uncensored thoughts about your company and industry (hint, you are reading one right now). The blog can help your search engine rankings. If you don’t have one, you can create one right here in WordPress and link it to your website. And if you don’t have a website, you can create one of those right here in WordPress, too.
- Press release. Newspapers are not dead and not everything is “fake news.” Your local media is a great partner in telling your story. Some newspapers, like the Kansas City Star, have a separate website for posting press releases. You can also use online distribution sites to reach a wider audience. Some of these do require a fee but some of them are free.
- Business announcement. I consider these different from press releases because you are targeting just the business section of a newspaper or magazine. These are sections that are like “Who’s Who in Business.” Do you have a new employee? Have you promoted an employee? Send in an announcement to a magazine or newspaper’s business section. It’s good for employee morale and for public relations.
- Case study. How has your company helped one of your customers? Case studies tell the story of how you met a challenge with a winning solution. A case study more than a testimonial–it’s a complete story. Companies post these on their websites and add them to their media kits.
- White papers. While case studies focus on a customer/client experience, white papers focus on the benefits of a product for customers. These are longer and are usually just used business to business. White papers require extensive research.
- Photographs. You don’t just have to tell your story with words. Instagram, Pinterest and other social media sites allow you to tell your story with pictures and captions.
- Videos. Once very expensive to make, prices have decreased for professional videos. If the video is going to be used for a recruitment or sales too, hire someone to produce it.
- Infographics. Sites like Canva have made it easy for marketers to produce graphics that are eye-catching. Make sure the infographic tells a story about your business.
- Podcasts allow you to listen anywhere–in your car, while working out, etc… If you don’t like your own voice, hire a voice-over professional.
You know you want to tell your story using one or more of these methods but you have no idea where to begin or what may work for you. That’s where I can help. If you have read this far, I will offer a 25 percent discount on my services if you sign before June 15. Click here to set up a free consultation.
This started out as a fun conversation with a client then I posted it on Facebook.
As you can see one of my friends has the gift for writing humor.
I am not sure if I would have used a funny headline while the search for the man continued. But I certainly would have used the play on words in follow-stories. This stuff just writes itself.
While I no longer make my living in local news, I believe in it. My husband and I travel several times a year and everywhere we go, I check out the local media. I usually lug an armful of newspapers and notes about local television and radio stations. Then I spend a few hours relishing in learning about some of the places we were or passed through like Madisonville, Tennessee. I enjoyed reading about their community and seeing the ad for “Sloans.”
When I read about layoffs in the newsroom at Gannett, I am dismayed. Who is going to tell people about the county commission’s debate on a tax increase? Who is going to run the picture of the winner of the flower show? How will you learn about road and school closings when the weather is bad? Yes, online platforms like Facebook and Twitter are used but who puts out that information? Many times, it’s local journalists.
Anyone can create a website and post anything these days. My husband and I were getting very upset I while watching Law and Order SVU the other night. A person with no journalistic training was running a website accusing a Congressman of sexual misconduct. He didn’t care about the truth nor did he vet his sources. While it did lead to a real crime, the alleged crimes were never proven and this guy showed he didn’t care about the truth. I won’t print a spoiler but things did not end well in that episode.
You can find a lot of websites like that one across the country. Call me old school, but I believe in getting both sides of the story and fact checking. Even some so-called legitimate media organizations have given into just getting the story out there so they can be first without checking the facts and the validity of their sources. The media used to be respected as the watchdog for the little guy and it has become more about getting clicks and being first. And we wonder why people don’t trust the media and are quick to label all of it “fake news.”
This doesn’t mean I ignore local media and work only on social media and other online platforms. I work with clients from all over the world and I love it. But when I start working with a business or organization, I always ask about their local and state media. I compile a list of the names of editors, news directors, and producers. I still send out traditional press releases, book broadcast interviews, and market online using social media and other tools. I make a lot of phone calls pitching my clients to local media sources, too.
About 80 percent of my work is online. But I still believe that the other 20 percent of my time spent working with local publications and broadcasters is just as important. My hope is that in the future, we will begin to see the value of not only telling our story to a worldwide audience but to our neighbors down the street.
Obviously, the headline is full of mistakes. And I will be honest with you—mistakes happen. I have made some doozies. Thankfully, my biggest this week was replying to a client’s note and signing his name at the end instead of mine. Here are some I have made and some I have prayed I wouldn’t make!
- I once sent off a pitch offering to spank someone’s interest. Sorry, I don’t want to spank anyone. But I am sure I may have sparked their interest.
- A client was looking for someone with a lot of sass in their writing. I sent him a reply saying I had lot of….well just remove the “s.”
- I can’t tell you how many times I have changed the “o” in shot to and “i.” A shooting is bad enough but the other?
- I once had a group of cyclists training 8 days a week. Thank you, Beatles.
- A college in my town had Angus beef sales on occasion. I had to be careful to not leave out the “g.”
- Also, be careful how you spell “public” area.
Side note, I once attracted a lot of porn followers on my website and social media accounts because I had two articles where I mentioned the work cock a few times. Get your minds out of the gutter. I wrote articles for a magazine in the chicken industry a few years ago.
I am sure some of my colleagues can remember some more of my blunders. But they happen and you have to pick yourself up and move on from them.
What mistakes have you made or seen? Leave them in the comments for a future post!
Have a great day!
I purposely positioned my desk in front of the window so I can raise it most mornings and listen to the birds sing. A woodpecker joined the tunes today. The sound of the train through my little town provided some background music every hour or so.
Among the robins, sparrows and blue jays, two cardinals were playing in the trees. The cardinals are my favorite birds because they represent so many things—faith, vitality and creativity. Some say they represent loved ones who have passed away. This thought gives me comfort that my parents are free and playful as the birds.
I am not writing about very exciting subjects today. But the inspiration outside my window is priceless.
I have been writing professionally for more years than I am going to admit. I want to keep up the ruse that I am 35. But I have a big birthday this month and let’s just say I am not 35.
Like some women, I have been through many hairstyles and colors. So when I referred a possible client to some samples, I noticed my hair looks totally different than it does today. I am a natural dirty blond. Through the years my hair has been dark brown, light blond and even red. So how did I describe the different look? “A few years and several hair colors ago I was a contributor to a legal blogging site.”
I haven’t heard back from my proposal. I hope the client was impressed by my cleverness!
Have a happy day!
P.S. This picture is 8 years old from my “long, brown hair” phase.
I am someone who HATES Daylight Saving Time. I get up at 4 a.m. and even if it wasn’t a requirement for work, I would still get up pretty early. I love the sunrise and delaying it an hour doesn’t make me happy.
Losing that hour also dismays me. I have struggled with getting back in my groove since my parents died last year and I just found a system that works for me. I block off time where I shut off social media, my phone (gasp) and any distractions so I can just focus on work for that hour or 45 minutes. I then take a break for 10 t0 20 minutes or a meal break if needed.
This system has increased my productivity but I am still working on perfecting it. Losing an hour that could have been a work block or sleep is distressing.
How are you making up for that lost hour?
I am a child of the 70s and 80s and I remember when I dreamed about working in a city, wearing cute clothes and eating at trendy restaurants.
Flash forward to 2017 and my dreams are about working at home, wearing my pajamas and eating mac and cheese for breakfast. Add in some trips to interesting small towns, the Smoky Mountains and maybe a big city or two and you have described my ideal life.
In today’s society, working from home has become a career goal not only for moms with young children but for people who hate fighting traffic or who just don’t like having to deal with office politics or boring meetings. I work at home only part-time. I have a full-time broadcasting gig that I get up very early to do so most days I am home by 2 p.m. For 18 months in the late 2000s, working at home was my only source of income. I have found that I have a routine I follow no matter how many hours I work.
- I wear pajamas or something equally comfortable. Even on non-freelance days, I put on my pajamas as soon as I come home. The only exception is if we have plans for a short time later.
- I always put my computer in front of a window or facing outdoors. Years ago I had a desk on my back porch. Those were the days. My current view may not be the most scenic but I like it.
- I tend to work in blocks of time. I have a difficult time sitting for long periods of time. The longest I will sit is about two hours. A four-hour work day usually consists of an hour and 15 to 20 minutes at a time with 10 to 30-minute breaks. While it turns four hours of work into a six-hour stretch, I am more productive this way.
- I keep the door shut when I don’t want to be disturbed. If I am researching an article or pitching clients, the door is open. When I am writing, it’s almost always closed. My family has learned to only contact me in dire emergencies. Problems with Netflix, opening a package or taking clothes out of the dryer are not dire emergencies!
Finally, get the image of home workers basking in their filth out of your head. One thing I do every day is shower. When I was working at home full-time there may have been several days when I didn’t put on shoes but my feet were clean. For me, taking a shower officially started my day.
If you work at home, what are your routines?
I have been doing this freelance writing thing since 2003–almost 14 years! For a couple of years, it was all I did. And it’s hard. But I have met some wonderful people and written some pieces that give me pride.
The last 10, yes, 10 months of 2016 were some of the hardest I have experienced personally and professionally. As I approach a “big” birthday this spring, I knew I wanted to really do more freelance writing for financial and professional reasons–a dream of mine for more than 20 years. I stopped bidding on those low-paying job sites and signed up for the Carol Tice’s Freelance Writers Den. I snagged a great magazine gig and several other assignments.
But remember, I said those were hard. I lost my mother-in-law, then my mother and then my father. I kept up okay until my father became very sick in the fall and then passed away. Losing daddy took the wind out of my sails.
Thankfully, I had clients who were patient and understood. I still have a full-time broadcasting gig I go to very early day. My writing career suffered.
Now I am getting back on track–a track I couldn’t even see a couple of months ago. I am dreaming again and I have snagged a few more assignments.
I have also had a mortifying moment. I sent a draft, not my finished product, to a client. Not just any client but one I really wanted to impress. I didn’t realize it until she sent back some edits. Sadly, I struggled for a couple of hours before I realized what I had done. She was cool with it and said she had done that once herself.
I think my defining moment came on my other blog, kimjinspired.com. I shared more on my grief and my life since my parent’s death. I cried while writing it and I cry when I read it again. But I hear my mother’s voice telling me in her own way just to do it. So here I am, getting it done and hopefully making my parents proud.