Every Writer Must be a Meticulous Self-Editor

Every writer knows that editing is an essential part of the writing process, whether it’s a novel or a one page article. While some writers have professional editors to do the job, most of us need to rely on our self-editing skills.

photo:freedigitalphotos.net , Stuart Miles

photo: Stuart Miles

As a freelance writer, bulk of my work involves writing content for the internet (e.g. business blogs, ebooks, informative articles).  For me, self-editing is not just about correcting grammar and spotting missing words. As I move from the draft to the final copy, self-editing helps me adhere to the following key aspects –

  • The headline is clear and powerful
  • Article sub-headings are clear
  • Each section flows seamlessly into the next.
  • Each paragraph is coherent.
  • Every information is relevant to the reader.
  • Each thought is expressed with the greatest clarity, in the fewest possible words.
  • That I have fully weighed the possible interpretation / implication of each sentence (this is particularly significant as most of my clients are selling a product, service or, the information itself).

Of course, the cardinal rule of a good edit is to start editing once you have finished writing.  As I write, I do check each paragraph for correctness of grammar and cohesiveness of information presented. But majority of the editing happens at a later stage.

My typical editing process looks something like this: 

imagerymajestic

Are you ready to give your work a good snip?   photo: Imagerymajestic

Write > Minor Corrections > Write > Finish the Article> Step Away from my Desk for a While> Come Back and Read the Completed Article > Begin Editing > Re-read the Article Aloud > Re-edit sections> Read the Article Aloud > Satisfied with Outcome 🙂 > Submit to the client.

Reading the article aloud during the editing stage is a great way to catch missing words, or spot unnecessary words.  When in doubt, I ask someone else to read the final edited version, before sending it to the client.

A typical 1000 word article ( or 2 pages) takes me about 30 minutes for a good edit.  Am I overdoing or under-doing it, I can’t say. But it’s what works for me.

In fact, you don’t have to be a writer to realize the importance of self-editing.  We have all had this recurring experience at work – you send out an office email without reading it carefully, only to realize later on the glaring mistakes in the email.  At the very least a poorly drafted email makes you feel like a fool and you say to yourself, “Hey maybe the other person will also not notice”. But if you are unlucky, a badly worded  email could put you in a spot of bother.

Clearly, all of us need to self-edit to achieve results. Unfortunately, when we do something day in and day out, complacency sets in. I realized I was guilty of slacking up in my editing effort over the last few assignments when I read a post by fellow blogger Amanda Fox- Rouch, titled ‘The editing process: Be unforgiving’. And as was to be the case, I spotted some errors in the last document sent to a client. 😦

Whatever your line of work, ensure that you have re-read what you have typed before you press the ‘send’ button on your computer / smartphone screen. If you are a writer, I would love to hear your editing tips and how long does it take you to self-edit your work.

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3 Rules for Writing Easy to Understand Online Content

It is a commonly accepted fact that the average internet reader scans an article/ blog for a few seconds before deciding to continue reading, or clicking the back-button. Therefore,  minimalist impactful writing is a must-have skill for an online content writer .

Photo: Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net

Photo: Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.ne

When writing for the internet, less is more!

Unless otherwise asked by your client, the thumb rule of writing for the internet is to write content that is simple, concise, and has coherent paragraphing.

When writing a 400-500 word online article, you must pack in maximum information in the cleanest manner possible.

Here are three ground rules for ensuring that your content catches the reader’s attention.

Rule : I Get straight to the point: 

Credit: Michal Marcol, freedigitalphotos.net

photo : Michal Marcol, freedigitalphotos.net

  • Write a headline that clearly indicates information contained in the article.
  • Resist the temptation to write a quirky article headline.
  • Use the first few lines of the article to offer a quick glimpse into the focus of the article.
  • Do not waste time giving a lengthy introduction.
credit: digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net

photo: digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net

 

Rule : II Break it down into blocks of information

  • Use article sub-headings to divide your article into neat blocks of information. However, you must also ensure that the each section of the article seamlessly flows into the next.
  • Use bullet points, numbered lists where possible in sharing information with the reader.
  • Write small paragraphs of 2-3 sentences. No paragraph should be more than 4 lines on your MS Word document
  • Write short sentences. If any sentence goes beyond 2 typed lines, cut it down in the editing stage.
  • Write one thought per sentence. 

Rule : III Use everyday words

  • Write words used by your readers in everyday life. Avoid industry jargons and outdated words (e.g. herein, herewith, wherewithal).
  • Writing in active voice will help you express information in as few words, and as directly as possible.
  • Once you have written the article, spend considerable time editing the  ‘fluff’.

The art of writing and the mediums of expression have evolved considerably over the last few centuries.  However, the art of simplicity in writing has remained an essential hallmark of a successful writer. William Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit”. Sir Winston Churchill remarked, “This report by its very length defends itself against the risk of being read”. 

Do you agree that simplicity in expression is the way to go? Or, do you feel that the internet is diluting the English vocabulary?

Share your comments in the box below.

oDesk and Elance Merger- What Does it Mean for Freelance Writers?

Merger

Just before the start of the holiday season last year Elance and oDesk, two of the largest online marketplaces for freelancers, announced they were merging.

oDesk has 5 million registered freelancers  and Elance has 3.5 million plus freelancers.

What the two CEO’s are saying

According to Fabio Rosati and Gary Swart, the Elance and oDesk CEO’s respectively, despite the amalgamation, the companies will continue to operate as two different websites ‘for now’.  As per the two gentlemen, the merger will create synergies and improve the general user experience. For instance, daily job recommendations for your freelance profile will become more precise.

While Rosati becomes the CEO of the amalgamated company, Swart takes over the role of strategic financial advisor.

Skepticism from freelancers on both platforms

This does not mean that freelancers have bought into the story.  There are obvious differences in functioning of Elance and oDesk and so the amalgamation has been a matter of great debate in various freelance jobs forums.  A blog post on Elance announcing the change, received comments that did little to hide the displeasure of freelancers on the merging of the two online marketplaces. No one has probably captured the real essence of the merger better than Carol Tice at Make a Living Writing.

Overall, Elance is considered to be a more mature freelancing platform. Majority of the freelancers who use Elance think the merger marks the end of professionalism and higher-paying projects that is associated with the portal. Many veteran freelancers view oDesk as a ‘sweatshop’ of freelance work, owing to the relatively low-paying projects posted on the website. The main concerns from oDesk users include the intensifying of competition and that the website will start charging monthly membership fees like Elance presently does.

So, what does the merger mean for you as a freelancer?

The merger will take four months  to complete. At this particular moment, there is really no telling how the merger will affect our freelancing careers. As long as Elance and oDesk continue to function as different platforms there should not be much to worry about. When the two companies fully merge their resources and technologies, it could significantly improve the experience of looking for well-paying freelancing writing jobs. For now all we can do is speculate and hope that the end result will be better clients, lower project fees and fatter wallets!

What do you think? Will it be business as usual? Do share your comments in the box below.

7 Things Freelance Writers Can Do to Keep Clients Happy and Coming Back for More

Getting new clients is an uphill task. On the other hand getting existing ones to hire you for another project, is as easy as ensuring they are happy and satisfied with the work you are anyways doing.

I love repeat clients, and I am sure you do too.  But you won’t have those client coming back if you are not working hard to make them happy.You will be surprised how the little things can make all the difference between a happy and a not so happy client.

Happy-Clients1Here are 7 freelance writing tips that will go a long way in splattering satisfied grins on the faces of your new and existing clients.

1.Write Tailored Proposals – This may seem as an obvious point. But I double up as a contractor and  a client on Elance, and I am usually surprised by the amount of copy-paste proposals that I receive when I post a job, or proposals which do not meet the project specifications.

Make it easy for a potential client to select you by tailoring the proposal to the project requirement.

  • Read the requirement carefully and attach the most relevant samples in the project bid.
  • Outline your approach to handle the project, along with the interim milestones and expected timeline
  • Mention professional and personal experiences that showcase your suitability for the job. For instance, I recently worked on an e-book on ‘Life after redundancy’.  While I have not experienced redundancy myself, in my bid to the client I did mention my own struggles of giving up a well-paying banking job to become a freelance writer.

Customizing each proposal may be a time consuming process, but its the only way to get well paying projects that are really worth your time. Making the effort, is a win-win for you and the client.

2.Communicate Effectively and Openly– Employees who communicate effectively stand a higher chance of winning promotions in their workplaces. The same applies to the freelance writing industry.

A few communication DO’s:

  • Ask relevant questions before you commence  a project. For example – who is the target demographic and who is the competitor ? This will help you understand the requirement and also indicate the client’s own preparedness for the project.
  • Send the client regular updates during the project.
  • Follow basic email etiquette, which includes addressing the receiver, signing -off with your name and contact details, and avoiding abbreviations. Acknowledge all emails of the client within a couple of hours.  As freelancers, it is natural to keep irregular hours. But checking your inbox regularly and sending a brief ‘I will get back to you’, is all that is needed to assure the client and buy you time for a more detailed response.

3. Add True Value – There is an imminent danger in stopping at doing exactly what you are hired to do. Sooner or later the client will discover another freelancer who is willing to go a step further, and guess who will the client be predisposed to hire the next time they have a job opening? You guessed it right – the other writer!

If you want to have clients who hire you time and again , you must be willing to go the extra mile. Here are some suggestions –

  • Submit a well formatted document
  • Suggest multiple tag lines which the company can use with various promotional material
  • Include graphics/ images if it adds value to the content
  • Add certificate of authenticity
  • Mention all sources of research at the bottom of the page
  • Offer constructive suggestions in areas that you have expertise

4. Share Your Service Charter – What is the client signing onto when he decides to hire you? If you do not have a service charter, you are missing out on an important aspect that can win you happier clients. A service charter is a promise of –

  • high quality content
  • timely delivery
  • consensual draft revisions and
  • a seamless experience in dealing with you as a writer.

5. Improve Your Skills –  Add value to the arsenal of skills that you possess as a freelance writer.The year is still young and there is still time to craft a few New Year resolutions . Here are some suggestions

  • Which three books are you reading this year that will help you add to your skills?
  • Are you taking a writing course?
  • Are you revamping your website design skills or starting a professional blog?

Set goals to improve your skills and track your progress.

6. Be Courteous at All Times – Each client is different and should be treated as such. Some may require more communication than others, others may not be as forthcoming with information, or may take longer to process invoices. Be courteous and professional in your communication regardless of the differences among your clients. Give them your best both in terms of content as well as in the way you deal with them.

feedback_shutterstock7. Ask for Feedback – Positive feedback is the backbone of your freelance writing career. New clients will depend on feedback and recommendations when deciding whether they want to hire you. Feedback will also help you identify things you need to do differently or handle better with an existing client.

There you have it – the 7 freelance writer’s tips that will make your clients happy and keep them coming back for more. Do you have additional suggestions for the list? Feel free to drop them in the comments box.

What is a Blog and What are the Benefits of Blogging?

It’s been less than one year since I started my  blog. To begin with, I was more than a little confused on what is a blog, how does it differ from a website, what topics do I write on, and the biggest question of them all, will blogging be worth my time?

Today I say this – despite being a verdant blogger who is learning every day, starting my blog is one of the best things I have done since becoming a full-time freelance writer.

Blogging is for everyone – whether you are a writer, an aficionado of good food, a super-mom, an avid sports fan, a lover of God, an educator, a small business owner, a self proclaimed expert or someone who has an opinion about everything and needs to express it.  Here are answers to some basic questions you may have on blogging.

blog 1

Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

What is a blog?

A blog is a website that contains various articles or posts, written in a conversational style. A blog may be defined as all of these –

  • A chronological posting of articles with images, videos and links to other websites or blogs
  • An e-journal, centered on a particular topic ( e.g. a fitness blog), a variety of topics ( e.g. a blog covering politics, environment and education) or completely random ideas ( e.g. an individual posting on the day’s events).
  • An online conversation. A blogger writes a post on a particular topic and the blog followers and visitors can view the blog, as well as submit comments, which the blogger responds to.

A blog may be a personal blog started by an individual or a business blog that is part of the company’s website.

Benefits of Blogging for Everyone

Do you ever wish you could become a better writer, a better thinker, a voice of authority in your specific hobby? Blogging puts all this and much more on the table for you.

  • It is free (or in the very least inexpensive) to start a blog.
  • It will build your knowledge.
  • Blogging will bring in some new friends into your life.
  • You can even make money from your blog.

Blogs are a beautiful platform for sharing ideas, knowledge, and communicating with a wider world. It’s amazing how similar our experiences can be regardless of our ethnicity, sex, age ,education or relationship status.

Developing my blog and indeed this entire website (100% on my own) has been an incredible learning experience. I have also found solace in the candid admissions by fellow bloggers on their own trials and tribulations as freelance artists and writers.

Where Do I Start A Blog?

A lot of bloggers start their blogging careers on free blogging platforms such as WordPress.com and Blogger. There are several advantages of starting your blog on a free hosting platform, such as cost-effectiveness and ease of setting up your blog.

To spruce your blog with a tang of professionalism acquire a domain name. Competition among the web hosting companies has ensured that domain registration costs are extremely affordable ( I pay 18 USD per year for my website’s domain name).

What Do I Blog About?

lady

Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

  • If its a business blog, you will undoubtedly be blogging about your field of work.
  • For personal blogs, the general consensus is that you center your content on what you are passionate about.
  • Of course, there are many bloggers who simply use the platform to share their day and its happenings.

Best of all you don’t have to be a ‘subject matter expert’ to start blogging on a particular theme.  Your blog will compel you to read more  books and research information online about your topic of interest and in the process make you more of an expert. 

The important thing to remember is to write about topics that are related to your blog’s central theme and which will be of interest to your readers.

Since my website is about working as a freelance writer using the internet, my blogs are centered on freelance writing lessons, internet writing tips and freelance websites.

How Often Do I Need To Blog?

You will find a lot of bloggers struggling with the same question.  The answers you get when you try to research about this, are nothing but confusing.  Some ‘blog experts’ advocate daily blogging, others advocate 3-4 posts every month.

So, what is the recommended blogging frequency?

The frequency of your blogging will largely depend on the type of blog you are running. If, for instance, you have started a Gossip News Site, you may be called upon to blog a few times every day. I personally make 3-4 blog posts on a good month. As a freelance writer, you may need to reduce the number of hours you spend writing your blog and instead focus on things that bring you money, like writing for clients.

Hot Content Tip: Focus on quality of blog content more than quantity. 

So, what’s holding you back from starting a blog? Leave your comments below, and let’s thrash the hesitation to start a blog to a pulp.