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How to Get Freelance Writers to Work for Free

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Many freelance writers work for free. They literally spend hours proudly branding large freelance writing sites and make practically nothing in return. What do I mean? Read on.

Earlier this week, I received the following comment/question from a subscriber to my articles on AssociatedContent.com.

She wrote:

“WOW! If Associated Content is the Wild West of the Internet, I’ve just struck gold in finding you. What a wealth of information. THANK YOU! I’m curious though why, on your InkwellEditorial.com website, you don’t just create links to associatedcontent.com [emphasis added] instead of writing your whole articles there so you can increase your views.”

In response, I replied:

Theresa:

Thanks for writing in — I’m glad you find the site helpful. That’s the whole reason I write it.

As for why I don’t just create links to AssociatedContent.com instead of writing my articles on my site. The reason is, InkwellEditorial.com is my business and I write to brand it, NOT AC. While some articles are reproductions of what you will find on AC, for the last 6-8 months, I’ve only been posting original content to my site.

To get noticed online, you have to have good search engine ranking. To get good search engine ranking, you need original content. So, while I may post similar content to AC, the articles you’ll find on InkwellEditorial.com are usually different AND more in depth than the ones I post on AC.

Keep this in mind if you have a site that you’re looking to rank well for. Thanks for asking, and good luck to you in your freelance writing endeavors.
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I want to expand on my answer a bit here because I think a lot of freelance writers make the mistake of branding large sites like AssociatedContent.com (AC), HubPages.com and eHow.com. They’re like little free marketing mavens for these sites.

It’s completely understandable, but it underscores a fundamental mistake many freelance writers make – not thinking of themselves as a business, which leads to them shortchanging themselves.

The end of this article explains how to make large freelance writing sites work as hard for you as you do for them.

The #1 Reason You Should Forget Large Sites and Concentrate on Your Site

The main reason you should forget large sites and concentrate on your site is you are promoting their brand – not yours. And, you’re doing it for mere pennies!

Large sites like AC et al offer a lot of advantages for freelance writers – especially newbies. Heck, I’ve been a contributor to AC since April 2006 and have over 600 articles there. Some of the advantages of a large site like AC are: (i) you get a little upfront money; (ii) you get exposure; (iii) you get to network with others; and (iv) you get good search engine juice.

These are all valid reasons for using sites like this. But – and this is only my opinion – you need to brand your main site separate and apart from major sites like these. This is why you won’t find AC, eHow or Helium buttons on my main site, InkwellEditorial.com.

This is MY baby – it is not used to promote other brands – no matter how large they may be or how many more page views it may bring me. The bottom line is, these larger sites don’t begin to pay you what you’re worth as a freelance writer.

Now, I’m not knocking what they pay, but when you look at it in context – it’s mere pennies for the time that you spend branding them by placing their buttons and links all over your main site.

If you spent as much time promoting your own brand as you did an article on AC, for example, to get additional page views, you could write and promote a $10 ebook and make more money.

These sites know this. They need us, the community of freelance writers, as much as we need them. But, what freelance writers forget is that they are a business and the more time you spend promoting someone else’s brand, the less time you’re building your own.

How to Use Large Freelance Writing Sites to Your Benefit

I use large freelance writing sites like AC and others to benefit me, not them. For example, for the last few months – when I post articles to AC, you’ll find a tag line that ends every article that goes something like, “For more freelance writing advice, visit InkwellEditorial.com or access my complete library of AssociatedContent articles on freelance writing.”

This benefits me – and readers of my content – in two ways:

(i) it links back to my main site (benefit: when readers click through to my main site, they find original content they won’t find anyplace else and are exposed to my ebooks); and

(ii) it links to all of my articles on AC (benefit: every time someone clicks on one of my articles, I earn page view points which leads to passive income).

AC gets a lot of traffic. I have almost 160 subscribers there. So, it’s an excellent venue to get the word out about my products and services. But, I’m not about to promote their brand all over my main site.

It’s an excellent symbiotic relationship because they get the benefit of my expertise on freelance writing for their readers and I get the benefit of their largesse, if you will, to spread the word about my brand. And, this is how it should be.

Remember, what you spend you time and energy on as a freelance writer is what will make you the most money. So make it something totally and completely yours – not someone else’s.

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A Guide to Lead Generation through Automated E-Mail Marketing

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I must build an email list

No matter what the nature of your business, or how long you have been in operation, lead generation is one of the most sophisticated challenges you face. Even if you are successful, with a range of happy and satisfied clients, your future growth depends on your ability to generate new leads and gain new customers along the way. It does not matter if your company is a new start-up or a seasoned Fortune 500 company; without leads, your business will be unable to grow and compete in the modern world.

Lead generation has always been a tricky process, regardless of the methods used to generate those leads. As a business owner, you want to get as many leads as you can and pass them on to your sales team in a timely manner. At the same time, simply flooding your sales staff with hundreds of unqualified leads will only create dissension in the ranks and reduce the efficiency of your operation.

Simply put, all leads are not the same, and not all leads are equally valuable. If you want to succeed and make the most of your limited time and staffing resources, you need to find a way to qualify leads first.

The first step is to make sure your current email list is actually still valid. You can use an email verification service to check the quality of your list, and ensure that all of your current leads on your email list are still valid and ready to be placed onto your automated email marketing plan.

There’s also lots of email marketing software available to help you make the most of your campaign, but these can be costly, and not all businesses will have the budget to make use of these services.

This is where email automation comes into play. Email automation allows the owners of all kinds of businesses to generate a steady stream of valuable leads – leads they can pass on to their sales team or run down on their own.

Building Trust

No matter how long your business has been in operation, customers will not want to do business with you if they do not trust you or believe you can deliver on the promises you make. Building trust is an essential part of the modern business world, vital for everything from gaining new customers to building your brand identity.

Developing trust among your base of potential customers is also essential as you create and fine tune your email list. The more your potential and existing customers trust you, the more likely they will be to buy the products and services you have to offer. Building trust is not always an easy thing to do, and there are no shortcuts to success.

One of the best ways to begin developing trust among your base of website visitors, email recipients, and advertising targets is through premium giveaways. Everyone loves to get something for free, and offering a premium item of real value serves a number of important purposes.

For one thing, offering a free whitepaper for download allows you to gather contact information and start building your email list. Placing the premium offer on your company website, linking to it in your blog posts, and featuring it prominently in your print advertising is a great way to gather leads while building trust among your customer base. Offering to give away such a valuable item is a sign of trust on your part, and over time that trust will be returned.

Offering a free downloadable whitepaper is also an effective way to build your brand identity. Creating a compelling brand narrative has never been more important than it is today, given the fact that so many consumers now speed through commercials and have learned to tune out marketing messages. A well-written whitepapers gets your company and your brand in front of readers and helps them develop a level of trust going forward.

Offering a downloadable whitepaper also allows you to demonstrate your expertise. Modern consumers are looking for real expertise in the companies they do business with, and a quality whitepaper is one of the best representations of your expertise and experience. Once you have gained the trust of your target audience, you can add other offers and make your future lead-generation efforts even more successful.

Additional Offers

That downloadable whitepaper is an excellent place to start, but it is just the beginning of the trust-building and lead-generation process. Once you have the attention of your readers and customers, you can slowly start to offer other items they will find valuable. This strategy will serve to further build trust and cement your reputation as an expert in your chosen industry.

The additional items can be anything your customer base or prospect list is likely to find valuable. If your product or service is visual in nature, a short video clip is a good way to demonstrate its benefits and encourage casual shoppers to become loyal customers. Whether you are selling a garden implement, a piece of cookware, or sports equipment, a real-world video demonstration is a useful sales tool.

Case studies can be just as valuable in terms of lead generation. Modern consumers are more savvy than ever before, and they rely on much more than the claims of manufacturers and resellers to make their purchase decisions. Giving your prospects real-world case studies and offering reviews by real customers is a vital part of the trust-building process. The more case studies you can provide, the better; embedding one in each email you send is a smart strategy for success.

If you maintain a blog, be sure to update the site regularly and use it to build brand loyalty and engender trust among your list of prospects. Blogging is a great way to convey information, but it is also a valuable sales tool for all kinds of businesses.

The Importance of Follow-Up

No matter how compelling your message or how valuable your premium items, you cannot expect to get a huge response rate with a single message. That is why having a follow-up strategy is so important.

There are lots of different email marketing software that can help you to measure your open/read rate, this information will be crucial in helping you to understand what works and what doesn’t.

If your prospects do not respond to your first message, always be ready with a follow-up email. With email automation you can set up the schedule and forget about it, making the follow-up process that much easier and improving your long-term results.

Offering additional resource in your follow-up communications is important. Those additional resources should be similar, but not identical, to the ones that were offered before. If your previous email message contained a link to an online video, your follow-up message might include a case study or an online review. It is all designed to work together, even though each new message is its own unique entity.

Bringing It All Together – The All-Important Call to Action

Now that you have demonstrated your expertise, provided real value to your prospects and delivered information to your readers, it is time to bring it all together. No matter how great your previous messages may have been, without a solid call to action (CTA), you may never be able to close the sale.

The CTA is a vital part of every lead-generation strategy, whether the communication takes place online or off. If you are prospecting for new leads through email, every previous step o the process has been leading to this moment, the moment when you reach out to each prospect personally in an attempt to close the sale and convert interested readers into eager customers.

The format of the CTA email you send will be critical, and you need to give it the attention it deserves. While you should tailor your call to action to the needs of your specific business, you can use this handy email template to get you started.

Dear [First Name], 

I hope you have found the resources I sent you interesting and useful. I would like to learn more about what you are up to and if there is any way I can support you. Why don’t we schedule a call for next Tuesday at 2pm, or Thursday at 4pm?

Alternatively, your CTA email could suggest a product demonstration, or a face-to-face meeting instead of a call. It is all up to you, but the goal of your email should be to get your lead to take some sort of positive action. Even if it is nothing more than registering on your website or signing up for your newsletter, your goal is a positive response.

The Final Step

In a perfect world, every call to action would result in a new lead your sales staff can follow up on, but we do not live in a perfect world. In the real world, even the most finely tuned CTA will probably not generate a 100% response rate.

That is why you need to incorporate a final step into your email automation and lead-generation process. This final step will follow up on the call to action and give you one last chance to close the deal.

Not everyone who receives your CTA will be comfortable reaching out to you directly or having a face-to-face meeting. That is why you need to provide additional alternatives that will generate new leads and drive new customers through your virtual doors.

Your email automation process will have already sorted out which list members responded positively to your CTA and which ones did not. Once you have segmented your list and identified your target, you will craft a final email that provides that alternative response method.

You, for instance, invite those prospects to sign up for a group you are part of. If you have a LinkedIn profile or a Facebook page, you can simply invite your email recipients to connect with you on LinkedIn or interact with you on Facebook. Interacting with clients and customers is what social media is all about, at least for businesses. Using it to your advantage is a key part of the lead generation process.

If you do not have a ready-made group set up, you can always encourage your prospects to sign up for a free newsletter. Creating a monthly newsletter filled with helpful tips and inside industry information is a great way to generate new leads and encourage prospects to become customers. At the minimum, this strategy will keep your company and your brand at the top of the customer’s mind.

At first glance, the email automation process may seem like an arcane and confusing one, but the reality is much simpler. You can think of the email automation lead-generation process as a kind of funnel. You start by organically building a list of email addresses, using sign-up forms on your website or blog, business cards collected from customers, and so on. All of those email addresses go into the top of the funnel, starting with the first email you send.

That first email will generate a number of positive responses, leads that can be passed on to your sales team for further action. The remaining email addresses drop down through the funnel, and after a period of time, the recipients receive a follow-up offer for a free video presentation, blog post, or tip-filled newsletter.

Again, that second email will generate a number of new leads, which will in turn be fed to your sales team. The remaining email prospects will receive additional offers, and finally a strong call to action. At the end of each step, you will new leads to work with, and that is good news for your sales team – and for you.

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How to Start Building Your New Site Authority Using High-Traffic and Niche Web Directories

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Web directories are definitely not what they once were, however, we have witnessed the evolution of directories and websites that play that role in a modern setting – with significant success.

Think Yelp or TripAdvisor. These websites are directories of sorts, and they’ve grown enormously from their ability to provide intelligent, useful information (or value) to the user. On the other hand, there have been instances where we’ve seen Google pull down or demote dozens (if not hundreds) of directories that have no real value, while others are left to function freely.

Yet, there are not many things a new blogger can do (on a small budget) to gain that required initial visibility to go from there.

Can web directories still be an option for a new site?

Background

When the internet started to expand in the late 1990s, a lot of users found it difficult to locate information about specific subjects. Search functions were a lot less developed then and it was a challenge to obtain results for specific keywords (even Google didn’t have a streamlined system for displaying relevant results back in 2000). So in order to give users broad access to information on a variety of subjects, web directories were set up.

Initially, there wasn’t much competition and the first directories received high rankings and lots of visibility. At the same time advertisers started appreciating the potential of directories for setting up a business model for their operators that financed itself. In addition, web directories offered new opportunities for SEOs who posted their articles with strong backlinks.

Getting a website listed in a directory used to be a sure path to web traffic and success. However, all this changed as search engines developed, and since 2012 when Google released Penguin, the value of article directories dropped significantly – particularly in relation to link building.

How to still get value from directories?

Think traffic and reputation management, not link juice, DA, and all sorts of terms I cannot stand. Check those directories on social media (are they active? Are they up-to-date? Are there other people talking about them?) and get an idea of their web traffic through tools like Alexa, SimilarWeb or a more web analyzers

Traffic

Any web directory that is created for the sole purpose of helping you boost your ranking should be avoided. If they have a list that is genuinely designed to help people, then search engines will treat them well as well.

Here are trusted directories with solid traffic that are able to direct leads to your blog:

  • BOTW – They offer the same service but for a fee. Once a link is submitted and payment is made, they manually review it and only include it in their directory when they’re satisfied it meets their level of quality.
  • Curlie (former DMOZ) – is an open-content free directory that is managed by editors in a community called Open Directory Project. These volunteers are impartial and take time to review each submitted link before they only put it in their directory if it meets or exceeds their criteria.
  • DirJournal – A web directory that has been in the industry for years featuring business listings as well as several topic based blogs. Several payment plans are available. Bear in mind that payment is not a guarantee of acceptance.
  • Jasmine Directory – Another great web directory with great metrics. You won”t find as many listings as in other directories but linking to NYTimes or various universities it”s a clear sign that they add resources manually as well, as they state they do.
  • Alive Directory – one of the oldest web directories out there, it has a rigid editorial discretion and an intuitive layout. As a webmaster or business owner, you can submit your website to general or topic based industry categories.
  • Aviva Directory – most webmasters must of heard about this directory. A few years ago, in the “Alive and Aviva” era, the blogosphere featured these two directories heavily. Many webmasters reported positive SERP signals by having their websites included in Aviva Directory.

Find niche directories

In general, the more specific a directory is, the more valuable it is. This isn’t always the case, however you’re more likely to find what you’re looking for if you go through a niche directory. For instance, if you search through a directory dedicated to chemical engineering, or other specific field, any listings you find will most likely be of high value.

Niche directories can be huge, especially there’s some non-profit organization or an active community behind one. A few great examples of niche directories which are worth every effort include:

  • Biolinks: All about biology, this is a great directory founded by BIOZONE, an international publishing house based in New Zealand, with offices in the US, United Kingdom and Australia.
  • Startup Inspire: a great directory offering exposure to new businesses and websites
  • Game Top Sites: a solid directory listing lots of gaming blogs and apps. If you are launching soon, here is a solid list of directories to get listed.
  • Alternative To: This one specializes in technology, SaaS and apps. Get your site listed if you want to be found when someone is searching for your competitor

Conclusion

You need to start somewhere and getting listed in solid directories is your first step to leaving footprint on the web and start building visibility.

When you think about it, the criteria we’ve used to determine whether a directory is effort-worthy is basically the same criteria that makes any website valuable to the user (and this value easily translates into high rankings). Even if you don’t see the immediate value of directories, there’s no harm in using them as one more tool in your campaign to gain exposure.

Spend enough time crafting each submission. Take time on your website description, title, and any other information that you think may be of value or that your link requires.

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How to Promote a Courier Business Online with Blogging

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It is said that if your marketing tool is effective, it can help your business to a great extent. In fact, the tools that you use for promoting your brand or products and services determine how your business will take shape in the future and a couple of years down the line.

In this article, let us find out how you can make your courier business a flourishing one with the help of the most prominent of all virtual marketing tools, blogging, which is one of the most crucial ones. So, read on for better insight.

The online shopping window

The fact that the several online vendors are all striving hard to draw your attention and offer the best products and services in the industry, make it even more difficult for you to prosper unless you know the tricks of the trade.

Since you are not being able to interact with your clients and prospective leads in person, it becomes even more challenging to encourage them to take the appropriate action. As such, the online marketing tool should be such that it conveys all that you want your clients to know even if it is in a restricted way.

Blogging to promote your courier business

According to reports, it has been found that the businesses that promote their services through blogging get 126% more growth in leads. Not only that businesses earned maximum number of customers through blogging, and 81% of the prospective leads and customers depend on blogs for reviews and recommendations.

As such, it can be safely said that blogging is perhaps one of the most powerful online marketing tools available virtually. But how will you go about it? Let us find out.

Working out a marketing strategy for your courier business blog

Prior to taking the plunge, there are few aspects that you must take into account. These are as follows-

  • Courier business is a responsible business/service where you have to deliver consignments within the stipulated time period.
  • First of all, decide the vastness of the area that you will address, the various zip codes and so on
  • Decide upon the type of consignments you would like to take on, for instance, whether or not you would like to take on responsibility only for corporate and business organizations (commercial) or all (individual and commercial).
  • Work out a plan to decide upon aspects like timely delivery, quality of service, and customer value, data bank of existing clients and the ones that you have just acquired.
  • Identify the competitors in the market and find out the services, plans and packages that they offer and how you can compete with them.

Once you have done the due diligence, you can set up a blog using the most sought after Content Management System, WordPress and get started.

You can start off your first blog write up with the history of courier, how it originated, where did the concept come from, how the industry has evolved over the years, names of few well known courier service providers like shiply, and so on.

Blogs must be fresh and regular

An important thing that you must remember is that the content that you put up in your blog must be updated on a regular basis. Make sure you keep your target audience in mind.

Another way you can make your blog attractive is by offering a FAQ or Frequently Asked Section, where you can write about the terms and conditions, privacy policy, terms and conditions of the courier consignment, and everything you want your clients to know about shipping and its charges. Make your blog meaningful and one that should add value to the knowledge of your prospective leads, clients, and visitors.

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