SEO Copywriters: 3 Ways to Proceed When Faced with Clients Who Know Nothing About Internet Marketing / Content Writing

Today, I continue to answer the slew of questions that have come in over the last week or so. Today’s question is a doozy – and could really be an ebook within itself (hmmmm, my wheels are turning). In the interest of time though (one of my best friends is visiting from New York, and my work days are shortened for the next week or so), I’m going to give an abridged answer.

The following is a problem a lot of freelance writers (especially SEO writers) have, and in my opinion it’s because many prospective clients still don’t understand the role of SEO copywriters. Following is the exact question (it’s a long one). My response follows. This new SEO article writer wrote:

Hi Yuwanda,

I’m a new SEO writer following your “Make $250/day and $50-75K/year Writing SEO Articles” e-book. Well, it works! I’ve got my site up, I’ve been diligent about my article marketing, I got my first order within a week of marketing and queries, the client paid me (cha-ching!) and left me a nice testimony (emphasis added).

Right after that I got awarded a feature writer position for an online news outlet. Now a potential client is asking for a big project and possibly a long-term commitment. I do not know how to approach this project. I would appreciate your thoughts.

It’s a church. They have a bookstore and want a website with an e-store. I told my contact that I am not a web developer, but I know how to write SEO content for pages and sales copy. If they want a blog or fresh content, I could write that for them. I gave him my website address with my rates page, bio, etc.

He emailed me back, wanting to know my professional background, magazines and companies I have written for, and “did he miss this information on my website?”

He did, but I sent him links to sample articles on my bigger client’s websites, and told him where my print articles have been published. I explained that I was self-employed, and a bit about what “freelance” means. This is a person who started out his initial inquiry with a “I know nothing about the Internet and you do” kind of thing.

He emailed me again with this: “For the executives on the bookstore board, can you make a more powerful presentation that they can easily see and say, “Wow! She’s really the right person.”

I know where the guy is coming from, having been in churches all my life. This guy basically got suckered into the “talent scout” position in the search committee for someone to get their new website up. Most likely, the “executives” are retired businessmen and older professionals who are email literate at best. They do not know what they want, other than “a website,” and they do not know who to trust.

I am assuming what the board wants to see is site analytics. Traffic increases, conversion rates, customer satisfaction statements, etc. I don’t have that. I can tell them how SEO and backlinks work, but I am not a web developer.

I would love to have this client project, but I am not sure what to say or do at this point. In you e-book, it sounds like it’s supposed to go like my first client did: “I need X articles, here’s the keywords, when can you have them ready?” Done and done. I did not read anything about putting together a big project proposal with charts and graphs in a board room.

What do you suggest I do from here?

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My Answer

Before I answer this freelancer’s question, ie, “where do you suggest I go from here,” let’s back up a bit.

As I mentioned above, many clients who aren’t used to working with freelance writers, especially SEO writers, may be confused about exactly what it is we do.

I touched on this in last week’s post which dealt with how to determine which services to offer as an SEO writer, writing:

You see, many clients don’t understand the difference between a full-fledged IM firm and an SEO content writing company.

Internet marketing firms charge thousands of dollars for the services they offer – especially stuff like web analysis and devising an SEO content strategy. And the reason is, they have to analyze the “big picture,” then figure out which parts need to be tweaked, revised, added, deleted to get a website’s rank to improve. This includes delving deeply into a site – analyzing everything from its navigational structure, to its content offerings, to its products and services.

My firm can fulfill the SEO content needs of this “big picture” analysis. And, that’s the reason that when IM firms come to us, they already know what keywords they want us to write on, how many articles a site needs, how often, etc.

This is what it sounds like this freelancer’s potential client needs – an internet marketing firm that provides a wide range of services.

SEO Copywriters: 3 Ways to Proceed When Faced with a Client Who Wants You to “Do Everything”

As an SEO copywriter, this freelancer can proceed in three ways. She can . . .

I. Clarify service offerings: Do this by explaining the difference between an internet marketing firm and an SEO writing company, as I spoke about in last week’s post. Then, tell the client the exact services her SEO WRITING company provides.

This would be my advice for this freelancer because by her own admission, she’s new. When you’re new to SEO writing, there’s a lot to learn. And, it’s not because learning the ins and outs of SEO writing is difficult; it’s all the other stuff that comes with it, eg, running a business, setting service offerings, invoicing clients, setting and meeting deadlines, etc.

FYI, a lot of this is discussed in How to Build a Six-Figure Freelance Business by Outsourcing (The Freelance Writer’s Outsource Package).

I always advise that freelancers get some time under their belt just learning “how to freelance” before doing anything like bringing on other freelancers, teaming up with others, etc. – which brings me to my next suggestion.

II. Team Up: Team up with an internet marketing (IM) firm to provide everything the client wants. She can handle the content needs; the IM firm can handle everything else.

III. Expand Service Offerings: Provide everything the client wants. I strongly advise against this if you don’t know search engine optimization inside and out. One of the reasons SEO consultants and full-fledged internet marketing firms charge so much is because there’s a lot to know – eg, keyword density, page rank, black hat tactics, white hat tactics, organic search, pay per click, site navigation, web development – the field is vast.

See this post to gain further insight on what to do when you’re confronted with clients who don’t know what they want – from a consultative standpoint.

More related reading: SEO Copywriters: How to Make an Extra $61,880 This Year.

UPDATE: I logged on later in the evening to find the following email from this freelancer. She wrote:

Excellent! Thank you!

I did exactly that- tutored him, using the analogy of a home builder, and me as a sub-contracting plumber. I told him what to look for when shopping for a SEO copy writer- all things I provide: originality, native English speaker, meets/guarantees deadlines, voice, etc.

While I was waiting for a reply, I contacted a fellow copywritng buddy and asked if we could team up if this project turned out big- of course she said yes. I also contacted a small web design firm I know so I could be ready to offer more than I could do.

He did reply with a “WOW!” He was complementary, had passed my “tutorial” on to the committee, and said he had received encouraging comments so far.

I love the idea of offering something like an article marketing package for them. This way I could capture at least some of that project. Thank you so much for that idea and all of your suggestions.

Although this SEO writer took the route I least advised, she obviously had been giving it some thought and had some contacts she could reach out to, which is great. I emailed back thatt I hoped it worked out for her, and asked her to keep me updated so I could share her progress.

If she does, I’ll post it right here, of course. So, stay tuned!

Best,
Yuwanda
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Starting an SEO Writing Company? A Newbie Asks, “How Do You Decide Which Services to Offer and/or Not Offer?”

I love it when I receive questions like the one below, for it proves to me a couple of things: (i) newbies are putting a lot of thought into the type of SEO writing company they want to start; and (ii) SEO writing is a rapidly growing niche in freelance writing.

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Questions from a New SEO Copywriter

A few days ago, a newbie sent me the following email. She wrote:

Dear Yuwanda,

Having read several of your exhaustive and incredibly helpful e-books on SEO writing, most of my questions have been answered, for which I am very thankful. However, I am left with one question that I was hoping you could answer for me. I’ve noticed that, though your company offers many SEO services, there are a few that it does not offer, the most significant of which is link building. My question is this;

What are your reasons for not offering certain SEO services and what do you tell your clients when they ask you if your company can provide them with these services? Do you refer them to someone else? Also, has your company lost any potential clients due to the fact that you don’t offer certain services? 

The reason I am asking you this is because, like your company, there are a few important SEO services that I do not offer and do not plan on offering in the future (unless I can effectively outsource them) and I am not sure if it would be wiser to stick with offering a limited amount of specialized services or to start offering a complete SEO solution. It’s a typical niche versus total services dilemma. Have you noticed any trends that favor either side of the coin?

I would greatly appreciate any input you might have on this matter.

Thank you in advance and kind regards,

JK

My Answer

Let me take her questions one by one:

RE “What are your reasons for not offering certain SEO services and what do you tell your clients when they ask you if your company can provide them with these services?”

When I first started out as an SEO writer, I only offered one service – SEO article writing. I didn’t do blog posts, press releases, article submission, etc. I just offered this one service because it was all I knew how to do; it was all I saw job ads posted for; and it was all I saw others offering.

Now, when I first started back in 2007, SEO content writing wasn’t as popular as it is now. And believe me, even though the niche has grown, still only a tiny fraction of freelance writers even know what it is. And, companies are just starting to invest heavily in search engine optimized content.

So the field will be growing for years. I can’t underscore to you how important this is when deciding which services to offer, because it’ll help you decide when to offer a service, how much to charge for it, whether or not to outsource it, etc.  

So, to sum up my answer to the above question, the reason I only offered one service when I first started out as an SEO writer is because: (i) I was new; (ii) it was the service I saw others offering; and (iii) I reasoned that I could start landing jobs right away by offering this one popular service.

RE: “Do you refer them to someone else? (when they want a service you don’t offer).

This depends on the service offering. For example, when I first started I worked with a lot of full-service internet marketing (IM) firms. Many of them offered everything from website analysis, to pay per click, to link building, to SEO content writing.

So when clients asked for a service I didn’t provide, if I knew of a reputable firm that offered these services, I’d refer them. Ironically, the more I worked with IM companies, the more my list of referees grew, so I was able to heartily recommend a few companies.

As an aside, I only recommended firms that I’d work with and knew they were highly reputable (usually because they outsourced their SEO content needs to me).

FYI, this is how I started to grow my SEO writing company. Clients started asking for things I didn’t provide – but knew that I could – eg, blog posts, press releases, article distribution, etc.

So, if it was in my power to provide the service – I simply added it. If not, then I wouldn’t.

Become a Full-Fledged SEO Company, or Remain a Solo Freelance Article Writer?

This is where you as a business owner will have to make a lot of decisions. I could have just stuck with SEO article writing, but decided to turn my company into a full-fledged SEO writing firm by expanding its service offerings, not just remain a solo freelance SEO article writer.

I started using outsourcers on a regular basis then, not just to help out when I got overwhelmed. The more services you offer, the busier you can get – quickly.

That’s why I advise to only offer what you can handle in the beginning. You can always add on later. By growing slowly like this, you get to learn your business; iron out the kinks (there will always be kinks); and find solutions that work so that when things do get hairy/tough/busy, you will have some idea of how to proceed.

RE “Also, has your company lost any potential clients due to the fact that you don’t offer certain services?”

I’m sure it has. But that’s not a bad thing because you don’t want to offer what you can’t afford to do well. You’re going to lose clients for all types of reasons. That’s just business, so don’t let this bother you.

How to Land Jobs as an SEO Writing Company – Even When You Don’t Offer Lots of Services

One way my SEO writing company manages to snag clients – even if my firm doesn’t seem to be a good fit at first – is by focusing them on what we do offer, and explaining the difference between a “writing company” and a “full-fledged internet marketing firm.”

You see, many clients don’t understand the difference between a full-fledged IM firm and an SEO content writing company.

Internet marketing firms charge thousands of dollars for the services they offer – especially stuff like web analysis and devising an SEO content strategy. And the reason is, they have to analyze the “big picture,” then figure out which parts need to be tweaked, revised, added, deleted to get a website’s rank to improve. This includes delving deeply into a site – analyzing everything from its navigational structure, to its content offerings, to its products and services.

My firm can fulfill the SEO content needs of this “big picture” analysis. And, that’s the reason that when IM firms come to us, they already know what keywords they want us to write on, how many articles a site needs, how often, etc.

Once I explain this to prospects who contact my firm directly, many of them are like, “Oh, I see.”

Many small businesses who contact my firm can’t afford the services of a full-fledged IM firm, but they can afford to beef up their content.” And, that’s when they usually say something like, “Well, we’d like to order some ongoing blog posts, or some web articles, etc.”

RE “Have you noticed any trends that favor either side of the coin?” Your customers will guide you in this area, then it’s up to you if you want to provide that service.

For example, once I noticed that my customers and prospects I contacted were requesting SEO’d blog posts, I started offering that because after all, a blog post is just shorter article.

However, I continued to hold off on offering social media until I understood it more. I wasn’t comfortable in many of the mediums (eg, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). Once I got comfortable on Twitter though, I added that to my firm’s list of services (I outsource it)).

See what I mean?

Conclusion

The bottom line is — only offer services you’re comfortable with in the beginning of your SEO writing career. Then, add on (and hire help (ie, outsource)) when you feel more comfortable.

Share Your Thoughts? Any additional insight you can share with this new SEO writer? Or, if you’re new, have questions? Share in the comments section below please, and enjoy the rest of the week (it’s “hump day” — yes!).

Yuwanda
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SEO Writing: A Problem I Struggle with When Writing SEO Content; Do You?

For the most part, writing SEO content comes pretty easily to me. But, there is one area I’ve constantly struggled with over the years. It’s writing attention-getting headlines.

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Why Headlines are Important in SEO Writing

Of course, headlines are one of the most important part – some internet marketing experts say THE most important part — of writing SEO articles, blog posts, web content, etc. I agree because usually, if the headline doesn’t grab the attention of the reader, then it’s highly unlikely that they’re going to click on the post/article.

For my own blog posts and web content, usually I can craft a decent headline, because I know my audience. Hence, I have a pretty good idea of what they want to know about and how to write a headline that will get them to open a newsletter or click on a blog post.

Following are some of the types of headlines I’ve had success with.

Headline Writing Techniques That I’ve Found to be Effective

Some of my most opened newsletters and most frequented web pages center around:

Marketing: As in, how to land more SEO writing jobs. Most freelancers struggle with marketing, so this is no surprise.

Example Post: Get High-Paying Freelance Writing Jobs: 4 Keys to Marketing for — and Landing — High-Paying Clients

Success Stories: Who doesn’t love a good success story. I know I do! It gives you a “if they can do it, so can I” feeling.

Example Post: An SEO Writer Has Her First $1,000 Day with $10,000 More in Work Already Lined Up – Here’s How She Did It

Failure Stories:  I think these stories are as popular because they show the “human” side of being an online entrepreneur. Everything you try is not going be a success. And as an aside, I think this is where  a lot of online marketers go wrong because they only share their successes.

Failures humanize you – and instills trust. Readers think, “Well, if it happened to her, then I’m not an idiot or a failure. Even SHE had problems.” The difference between successful freelancers/online entrepreneurs and those who give up though is what you do with “failure.”

Example Post: An Ebook Publishing Failure Story: My Quest to Publish 50 Ebooks on Amazon This Year 

Case Studies:  Case studies clearly illustrate how a product/service solved a person’s problem. It’s not a direct sales pitch (although it is designed to sell something, obviously, as all marketing is). But, case studies personalize the product/service — they bring them down to a “one person / one instance” scenario.

Readers/prospects think, “If this product/service can do that for him/her, then maybe it can for me too.”

Example Post: SEO Writing: The Case Study of SEO Mary Continued (Note: Read all posts in the SEO Mary series and forgive the design of the site where some of the posts appear. Some are in InkwellEditorial.com’s old web design, which haven’t been migrated over yet).

Stats/Numbers/Dollar Amounts: I think mentioning numbers in posts peaks curiosity more than anything. It’s like, “Really, 7 out of 10 believe that; or 2 out of three charge that; or he’s charging $100/article and I’m still slaving away for $5 per article). Numbers tell a story – immediately – and that’s why I think they’re so effective.

Example post:  SEO Copywriting Rates: One Writer Reveals How He Got to the $100/Article Mark and I Give You 6 Tips on How You Can Too!

As I mentioned above, I know my audience – because they tend to be a vocal bunch who tell me what they want to know about. Then, I come up with a headline that is benefits-oriented in order to get them to read a post/newsletter/web article. 

SEO Writers: A Key Element to Keep in Mind when Writing Headlines for Client Copy

The above is the same process that should be applied when writing client copy. If you know you’re your client’s website is, visit it to see the BENEFITS their product/service offers.

THEN, write headline copy based on one of those, incorporating the keywords/keyword phrases of course. 

Note: As an SEO writer, you won’t always know who the end client is because sometimes you’ll be working with an internet marketing firm, for example, who hires you to write copy for THEIR client.  This means that usually you’ll be working with just a set of keywords.

When this happens, just always remember to craft benefits-oriented headlines, and incorporate some of the following words in the section below. Note: The following was taken from the February 2, 2012 edition of Bob Bly’s Direct Response Letter.

In case you don’t know, Bob is one of the most successful direct response copywriters in the business, commanding thousands of dollars to write simple 1-2 page sales letters, for example. 

How to Write Effective Headlines: Words that Work!

Here are some words and phrases that, according to advertising great Ted Nicholas, work especially well in headlines:

Announcing … Secrets of … Facts you … Advice to … Protect … Do you … Yes … Love … Hate … How much … How would you … Only … Free … You … How to … New … Now … Amazing … Breakthroughs … At last … Life … Discover … Bargains … Sale … Free.

Source: “Success in the Sun,” Ted Nicholas seminar, Tampa, FL.

I realize that writing effective headlines is an ongoing education. It’s why I read content from folks like Bob’s, as well as the copywriting experts at Copyblogger, et al. After all, if you want to be good at something, study the greats.

How about you? What “weaknesses” do you experience as an SEO writer? And, what have you done/are doing to overcome them? Please share in the comments section below.

Have a great rest of the week.
Start your SEO writing career today!

Yuwanda
P.S.: In One Week, Train for a Career That Allows You to Earn Enough to REALLY Quit Your Day Job: 
Get SEO Copywriting Training Today.

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An SEO Writer Has Her First $1,000 Day with $10,000 More in Work Already Lined Up – Here’s How She Did It

This morning I logged on super early (for me), because I have a day trip planned and am rushing to get ready; I opened up my email and had an update from an SEO writer I dubbed “Cold Calling Carol.” If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that she’s the freelance writer who emailed me last June wanting to try something different to drum up SEO writing jobs.

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She took my advice and has been able to grow her business to the point where she now employs three people. Following is her latest email – the best one yet.

FYI, here are all the links in this SEO writing series. Here’s Cold Calling Carol’s latest update (all bold emphasis are mine).

Hey Yuwanda!

Happy NEW YEAR! I hope all is well in your world. I figured I would give you a cold calling carol update. It’s only 1/20 and I already made $3,000 in revenue for my business!

In fact, I had my 1st 1,000 day!

The [client] I cold called in the summer is keeping me very busy, he has been hit hard by Google Panda, and he is paying me well to clean it up. He just gave me a $2,000 project, and after this is complete, he has an $8,000 project for me to complete with some smaller ones in between. He even told me he had another writer to help, but he prefers me. He really likes my work!

I know I can’t rely on him for all of my income, but he has given me confidence to approach other [professionals in his niche]. The rest of my income is coming from social media management, and I just signed a contract with an up and coming yelp like directory to write 20 blogs for them at $500 bucks a month for 6 months!

I have 2 writers I outsource to, and [my mate] helps me with social media management. I hope this post inspires your readers. Mind you this is marketing I did in August that is now paying off today! I am on my phone so it is hard to type. I will keep you updated.

Thanks

My Response

Following are a few things I want to point out about this update from this SEO writer.

1. There is a lot of work in SEO writing: This underscores that there is tons – tons – of SEO writing work out there if you’re willing to be proactive in going after it.

2. Do something different: While SEO writing (freelance writing in general really) is a cyclical profession, when the going gets tough (or slow), you may have to try different marketing methods to bring in the business. Or, up your marketing efforts. For example, if you’re used to sending out 50 emails and landing at least a couple of jobs, you may have to send out 150 to land the same number when times are slow.

This freelancer decided to try something different; she started cold calling — something she really didn’t want to do – in July/August. These are traditionally two of the slowest months in editorial. And, look at how it’s paid off for her, which brings me to my next point . . .

3. Be patient; marketing takes times sometimes to work. As she pointed out in her email, “Mind you this is marketing I did in August that is now paying off today!” So be patient.

Just because you send out 50 emails or call 20 firms, don’t expect to get work now (although most often you will). But if said it until I’m blue in the face, the success in marketing comes from being CONSISTENT with it. You keep doing it and I practically guarantee that you will get work.

4. Hire help, ie – outsource work to other writers — when you get busy. This allows you to grow your business.

5. Don’t rely on one client for all of your business. While it’s nice to have one client to keep you busy, don’t stop marketing for work. Again, hire others. This is where real growth – and making REAL money – comes in. When you don’t have to do every project that comes in, but you STILL make money from it, well . . . that’s business ownership at its best.

Any advice you’d want to add/questions you have? Please feel free to relay them in the comments section below.

Hope this inspires you – and a big thanks to Cold Calling Carol for her update – and success! She’s earned it.

Have a great one!
Start your SEO writing career today!
Yuwanda
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