Category Archives: Content Writing Tips

The Lead Leader Led the Leed: Humor and Writing

Yesterday I was talking with a colleague about the difference between my language, American English, and his language, Egyptian Arabic.

And the discussion came down to a simple fact of writing and language: humor is the highest sign of fluency in a culture.

The joke that is the title of this piece hinges on your understanding of the fact that English has many words from many languages and sometimes the spelling and pronunciation of the words don’t make much sense.

Humor and Writing

He followed up my witticism with one of his own: we have noses that run and feet that smell.

When you are going to communicate with people in writing, humor is a great way to make connections. But, you need to know who you are writing to in order to get that humor across.

Something one group of people will think is funny another group will not get at all.

In the modern global economy, you also have to realize that some humor is lost in translation.

But, everyone can enjoy the humor as long as you keep the following tips in mind:

  • Don’t hurt people with your humor
  • Don’t expect everyone to get it – After all, some come by slow freight.
  • Be an equal opportunity joker
  • Listen to your audience to improve your writing style

That’s it for now. And I’ll leave you with one of my favorite lost in translation jokes (Hint, the person who told me this was not a native English speaker, and I still don’t get it. But, my kids’ thought it was funny)

Why did the airplane crash?

Because the pilot was a loaf of bread.

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SBR – Game of Thrones: You Lose or You Die

After reading a marketing email about how one of the characters in the series by George R. R. Martin is the Mother of Branding as well as the Mother of Dragons, I decided I would give the books a try. The first book in the series A Song of Ice and Fire is Game of Thrones. While it has been a bestselling novel and one of the most watched shows on HBO for many years, I have never done HBO so this is my first experience of the book.

“In the game of thrones, you win or you die”

This is the major theme of the first book, mentioned multiple times by different characters. I was reading and I realized that the people who win the throne are not true winners. As a matter of fact, the only people who work their way to some point of rest are those who have died.

So, my theme for the book review is to twist Martin’s words back against him: in the game of thrones, you lose.

Or you die.

There are no winners.

Now, if you are a major fan of the book or television series, you may start arguing with me, but realize that this is a review of one book from a new fan. I will not have your point of view on the characters that somehow manage to survive the next few books and make a life for themselves. But, even so, I am going to hypothesize that this theme will continue through the books.

To borrow from Longfellow,

The vanquished in A Song of Ice and Fire is the victor of the field.

Medieval Realism?

I saw several other reviews that praised Martin for creating a fantasy world that was more realistic than Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings epic, set in a medieval plot-line loosely based on the English War of Roses, where the houses of Lancaster and York fought each other (and everyone else) for the throne of England.

I don’t know that the amount of violence portrayed in the book is true to medieval life.

But, this book fits in well with pre-Christian epics like the Illiad, the Odyssey, or the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Yes, it uses military techniques and technology from around 800-1200 AD Europe, including the massed hordes of horse archers used by Moslem, Mongol, and Hunnish armies and the knights and longbowmen of England and France.

But, as a fantasy, it also pulls together a unique blend of the brutal intricacies of Greco-Roman family politics with the magic of Norse and Celtic mythologies and the capriciousness of Homeric deities.

In other words, the good, the bad and the ugly in this work is more of a reflection of the author and our modern culture than it is of any other human culture in history.

The Theme of Death in Game of Thrones

[Spoiler Alert]

The book starts in the 15th year of the reign of Robert, a minor foil in the series. His inability to mourn and move on from his young love has lead to a power vacuum in the kingdom. Through the book we discover how little he has actually done in his kingdom; he has not even sired any children to carry on his line. All his wife’s children were in fact made in an incestuous affair she carried on for the entirety of her marriage.

Before the opening of the series, we read about the war with the descendants of the dragon kings whose own incestuous habits had lead to a high degree of instability in the family. The last dragon king was known as a mad man. His surviving son is also crazy.

So, we learn that the main characters have ALL lost family members in the last war, including fathers, brothers, sisters, children.

In the course of the book, the king dies and the main male character, Ned Stark also dies.

Ned is the most consistent character in the series. Besides one somewhat mysterious affair when he was on the war path, no one knows who the mother of his son is, he has lived committed to his wife, Catelyn. He honors his friends and his enemies alike through plain spoken candor. But, as he attempts to fill the power vacuum left by his friends’ poor life and untimely death, he gets outsmarted by the Queen, betrayed by many, and executed after he issues a false confession in an attempt to save his daughter’s life.

Ned’s death removes him from the survival equation, mostly unscathed. He dies as a moral and virtuous man, just like those who died before him.

The Survivors

The survivors in the Game of Thrones have not won, but they have all lost much.

They lost the love of a joyful home. They lost the love of a healthy marriage bed, if they ever had it. They lost the peace of a truly just government. They lost sanity. They lost loved ones on the battle field, on the sickbed, and in the intrigues of various court battles.

The survivors are attempting to hold on, to survive for another day.

And the book ends the way it begins: with hurt people playing a game for a transitional power structure and a sense of identity where death is the only victor.

Yes, Game of Thrones is an interesting read, but I have to follow it up with something more full of hope. So I leave you with the entirety of Longfellow’s poem as my response to the first book in A Song of Fire and Ice.

As one who long hath fled with panting breath
  Before his foe, bleeding and near to fall,
  I turn and set my back against the wall,
  And look thee in the face, triumphant Death,
I call for aid, and no one answereth;
  I am alone with thee, who conquerest all;
  Yet me thy threatening form doth not appall,
  For thou art but a phantom and a wraith.
Wounded and weak, sword broken at the hilt,
  With armor shattered, and without a shield,
  I stand unmoved; do with me what thou wilt;
I can resist no more, but will not yield.
  This is no tournament where cowards tilt;
  The vanquished here is victor of the field. 

Longfellow

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Work as a Creative? Make Sure to Use Your Timer

We creatives really don’t like clocks. They often cause stress and make us feel like we are not accomplishing anything when we have actually done bucketloads of work.

So, why is this creative writer and marketer telling other creatives to use a timer at their work?

Why You Should Use Your Timer

This is specifically for people who work as creatives. If you are taking an evening to paint for yourself, ditch any semblance of a time-tracker before heading to the studio. But, when we work, we always need to mix up the fun stuff, the creativity and the engagement of our emotions with the mundane.

If I never send invoices, I don’t get paid.

That emotion is worse than any clock.

Seriously. Because we would rather be writing, creating a world in our favorite digital sandbox, or modeling real clay on a wheel, we need to use timers to ensure that we have full creative license for a period of time.

For this article, I am writing it in 15 minutes.

Why?

Partly because of the challenge the clock gives me. But, the bigger reason is I am tutoring a student on SAT prep in one hour. I have to finish discussions with a potential client, and attempt to do several other creative things in the meantime.

Do Everything, So You Can Stop Everything But

If we do not give ourselves breaks and PAT time (look it up if you want a study in classroom management), then we either never create (tolling the death knell for a creative) or never get clients to pay us (a death knell for anyone).

So, whether you write for yourself or for someone else, get comfortable with creating the time for you to create. And if that really stresses you out, make certain you take time during the day to stop everything but ….

If you love reading, get your work done for the day and then stop everything but reading.

If you are a game designer or tester, get your work done for the day, take some time to engage with physical people, and then… stop everything but the game you have been wanting to play.

During your required work, give yourself time for creative tasks by using a timer. Look up the urgent/important quadrant for a good idea of what is required if you work for yourself.

I had 15 minutes to write this blog, and did it in 12. Now I will edit, publish, and have a 3 minute celebration that I beat the clock!

Now, go write, paint, draw, create something.

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Why You Should Avoid Pay-Up-Front Job Listing Sites

You decide to start a business or work for yourself. Immediately thereafter, you realize that you have no idea how you are going to get enough clients to pay your bills every day.

Welcome to the world of working for yourself. It is scary, but millions of people wake up every day and face the same questions; and, face them, they do. You can approach the need for clients as well, and you will often have to pay to get your business in front of them.

I have paid up front for leads from multiple sites and venues. I have also elucidated leads from thin air around me via the hot-sweat inducing practice of cold-calling.

So, why do I tell people to avoid pay-up-front job listing sites?

Avoid Pay-Up-Front Job Listing Sites

First off, let me say what I mean by pay-up-front freelance sites: a pay-up-front site is one that requires you pay them a certain amount of fees before you ever see the leads they will be bringing in. A site that sends you a Black Friday sale saying that they have 8,000 jobs being posted in the next two weeks but you can’t see them unless you pay 6 easy payments of $97 is a pay-up-front site.

Although these sites are often legitimate, anyone who is starting out in this business should never do them.

Why am I so adamant?

Because a newbie is as a newbie does. I think Forrest Gump said something like that…

Free First, Then Pay

There are many great sites that deliver leads to freelancers. These sites have free options to try them out, see potential jobs, and apply. Some, like Bark will require that you pay before you submit the application. Thumbtack used to require that, but now you only pay when someone responds to your application or reaches out to you via your profile.

Other sites I recommend, like Upwork or Freelancer both have a certain number of applications you can do each month for free, but take a certain percentage out of your income when you do land a client. They also have paid subscriptions if you run out of your free applications.

Even though these are often more expensive in the long run, I still recommend that beginning online freelancers start with the free to enter sites.

Why?

Because you pay for practice, not for opportunities.

The first time you apply for work, you have no idea what you are looking for.

So you practice. You apply for this, you read that, and you seriously underbid for that.

You get hired doing work that earns you $2 an hour, and it’s not enough.

But, you didn’t pay hundreds of dollars for the lead that landed you this job. So, you don’t try to make the poor client work for you, you walk away.

This is practice. This is worth paying for.

If you have the resources to spend to look for specific leads for a business you understand and have been building, then go ahead, sign up for that job-site that requires you sign up for their business builder’s university first.

If you are just starting out on this freelance journey, don’t pay for sites that don’t let you see the leads first.

 

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Develop the Habit

Writing well does not happen the first, second, or third try.

Writing is a habit, a practice, a lifestyle.

If you want a career in writing, take time to write every day.

Practice in a physical journal, create a blog that you share with no one or create content for the world. What matters is not who sees your craft, it is that you develop the habit of regular writing.

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3 Grammar Checking Software Tools

3 Grammar Checking Software Tools

When people pay for your writing, they expect a certain standard. Yes, you can get away with significant creative license if you write a novel or other creative work. But, you will still lose fans after one too many mistakes with your and you’re. So, if you want to have a career in writing, I suggest you use these tools to help improve your grammar and systematize your editing.

Grammarly

Grammarly is a tool that can be added to Windows, to Microsoft Office, and to Google Chrome. Grammarly’s editing algorithm checks for more than simple mistakes. Many editors check for misspelling and basic grammar mistakes like fragments. It identifies places where you may be missing an article (I always take that with a grain of salt), where you confused common words like your, you’re, too, two, to, then, than, except, accept, and others. If your friends on social media often correct your typos, you definitely need Grammarly. It will help with your editing if you want a career in writing or a related field.

Microsoft Office

I have been more impressed with Microsoft Office’s grammar algorithm recently. They have some more AI type editing that shows up in your writing as a double blue underline. This can help with tricky grammar structure. But, the most important aspect of Microsoft Office is its autocorrect functions. When you are typing, you need to be able to type without significant time editing. THe fact that Microsoft Office would have automatically changed THe to The saves me time. Except I am leaving that typo in to make a point. 
 
When you write in Microsoft Office, the auto formatting and corrections often save sginifcant amounts of time, especially if you tend to hit two keys at the same time or have slow pinkies on the SHIFT key (Did you see what I did there?).

Hemingway App

The Hemingway App is essential for any writing geared towards the general public. You copy and paste your writing into the Hemingway App, and it will analyze your writing. It looks at the complexity of sentences and phrases, the use of adverbs, and the use of passive voice. It also gives you your grade level score in the Flesch-Kincaid Readability score.
 
If you want to have a career in writing, or editing, you will need to learn how to use these grammar checking software tools to make your writing stand out.

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Can You Make A Career Out Of Non-Profit Writing?

Stick around the freelance writing community for long and you will meet people who need help with writing materials to run their non-profit organization. I always like to think of it that in the for-profit world, you have to pay your taxes, while in the non-profit world, you have to file your paperwork.

Because of the amount of paperwork non-profits are required to file, the opportunities for a writer are endless. Non-profits use paperwork for licensing, IRS approval, grant-writing, policy making, etc.

So, if you are going to build a business or a career writing for non-profits, what are some things you have to understand?

You Have to Talk About Money

This is the most important thing to consider about a non-profit writing career. Non-profits are often so focused on their vision and mission that budgets and emergency funds take a very low priority in day-to-day operations. Because they won’t think about their finances as much, you have to think about yours and be clear in setting boundaries.

Because of how easy it is to volunteer time at a non-profit, you could easily find yourself earning less than minimum wage, or nothing at all, while working full time.

Look at your budget needs, and don’t do a writing project that violates your budgetary boundaries. If you need to earn $10 an hour to make ends meet, don’t take a writing gig for less. You can still provide high quality writing at cheap, cheap prices like $10/hr. Then it is a win-win for you and the non-profit.

Occasionally, when a non-profit is in an area I want to learn more about or has impacted me in some way that I want to give back more, I will volunteer writing services fully. Volunteering is a choice, but realize that it hurts your ability to sell your writing services later, because you have developed a habit of not getting paid.

Understand The Non-Profit’s Mission

You love hunting, raising and butchering your own meat, and training sled dogs. It is difficult for you to write for the SPCA or the Humane Society. Even if it’s just legal paperwork, passion shows.

Since non-profits rarely pay the same amount as for-profit businesses, your passion needs to match with theirs or you will be miserable. There are plenty of charities that match the passions of you as an individual. Find them, join them.

Love Learning as Much as You Want a Career

Writing for a career is about learning as much as you can, and teaching others what you learn. If you are going to write for non-profits, this is especially true. Constantly learn and apply what you learn to the world around you. Then, use what you have learned and practiced in your writing. Whether you write marketing copy, grant applications, newsletters, tax documents or policies, this attitude will pave the way toward your success as a non-profit writer.

What have you learned about working as a non-profit writer? Leave me a comment below.

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3 Types of Paid Online Writing Jobs Without the Hassle of Sales

Paid Writing Jobs Online

Are you looking to find that elusive paid online writing job that does not require you to do any selling to customers? That’s probably because you understand that doing sales sucks. Ask any sales person, and they will tell you that sales work is hard, thankless, and often terror inspiring. The only thing that is worse than doing sales is not doing sales, in other words being flat out broke with no hope of an income in the foreseeable future.

So, you are reading on a site geared for online freelance writers and a post specifically about how to do this without the hassle of sales. Why did I start with that paragraph? Because you can write all you want, if no one is buying it, you will be like a sales person who does not do sales: flat out broke.

There are ways to get people to buy your work without doing traditional sales: approaching and prospecting, presenting and bidding, and closing accounts. Here are 3 different types of paid online writing jobs without the full hassle of sales.

3 Paid Online Writing Job Resources

Gig Sites

I include what I call gig sites (Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, Thumbtack, etc.) first because they are the most similar to what you might call sales. You do not have to find customers to approach, but you do have to write proposals (a type of presentation) and close the customer over the other writers bidding on the gig.

Gig sites often require that you pay money in order to apply for the work. This means that you will quite possibly become even more broke trying to get your foot in the door. With that in mind, and the fact that it still requires essential elements of sales, you can carefully use a gig site to get your foot in the door of freelance writing online.

Content Mills

Some people may think these are the same as gig sites, but I recommend content mills for online writers more than gig sites. Content mills are websites that are specifically geared towards producing content for business’s web sites, marketing materials, and other written items.  Content mills include sites like IWriter, Blogmutt, Constant Content, and others.

These sites usually have some sort of competitive process, but it is not usually based on a proposal or bid process. You write on the site, you will eventually sell your writing. You also have opportunities to advance within the site and get access to better paying writing jobs.

Traditional Employment

For some people who want to work online doing writing, the desire for income without sales and personal freedom of a laptop lifestyle might work as a remote writer. In order to do this, you will need a resume of experience (see the sites above for ways to get that resume) and usually a related degree.

To find a job that allows for remote writing, you can search “remote writing jobs” or pay attention to companies you want to work for and see if they have remote options available. Businesses like Automaticc (the company that owns WordPress software), Meet Edgar (a social media tool) and many others work exclusively with remote teams.

If you want to have freedom to work from a laptop wherever the coffee is cheap and the wifi is free, these are some ideas. What ideas do you have for writing without sales? Give us your tips for paid online writing jobs without the hassle of sales (or with the hassle, if you must).

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Here’s How to Get Freedom From Writing Without Selling Your Services

Do you want to get financial freedom from writing? Are you interested in the “laptop lifestyle”? Do you want to write as a form of income because your introverted heart wants to work from the comfort of your own home without worrying about convincing people to pay you to write?

Many people want to learn how to write from home without the hassle of the hustle. And although each of the following 3 tips require some hustle, an aspiring writer can earn good income using these three ideas.

Find a Silent Salesman

What’s a silent salesman you ask? Simply put, a silent salesman is a term for a display that is designed to sell a product to people. This is a display that is placed in a store, has information about the product it is selling and ways to answer the questions people may have. It can include pamphlets and brochures to help a buyer make a decision.

What is a silent salesperson for a writer? For starters, a website usually functions as a silent salesperson. I have had coaching clients who are blogging regularly because they love it, and end up using that website to get a job in an entirely new field or use it as a sales tool when looking for freelance writing gigs.

Another silent salesperson for writers is often the location you write. For myself, one of my best places to get new business is when I write from a coworking place. Rather than looking for customers, I wait until someone says they need help with a blog and ask if I can help. Not really selling in my book, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time to help someone out.

Use a Content Mill

A content mill is a site where businesses can go and look for writers to help them with projects. Each content mill is unique, and some things that you can treat as a content mill are actually freelance sites. For a writer who does not want to sell their services all the time, the key thing to look for in a content mill or freelance website is that they have regular work opportunities at an entry level position. One thing to watch out for is whether the content mill accepts writers from multiple countries, and which ones.

My first writing gig was for a Pakistani content mill, and I was netting $2 an hour writing for them. if you live in a place where you can survive on that, then go for it, otherwise you should stick to sites that only hire US writers or plan on sifting through a lot of cheap job offers.

Find a Remote Writing Job

Finally, the laptop lifestyle does not require that you work as a freelancer or start your own business. You can find jobs with many employers that will allow you to work from home, from the hotel, or wherever your heart desires. If you have experience in a technical field look at companies that are in your area of expertise and see if they have jobs available for telecommuting. Or, you can start working at their location and then move to the laptop lifestyle later.

While many people, myself included, love the hustle of starting our own digital business, you don’t have to take on all that stress and business building energy if you do not desire. There are many options to have a life of freedom from writing online.

Let me know if these tips helped you out, or if you have any quesitons about starting a business, writing for a living, or what my favorite color is…

 

 

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It’s Only Day 5, It’s Not too Late for NaNoWriMo!

What is NaNoWriMo?

Short for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo is an organization that encourages people to write through some really great and fun challenges throughout the year.

Their biggest challenge is of course the challenge to write a novel in the month of November. Since they are not associated with any publishing organization and are funded mostly by donations, NaNoWriMo participants are encouraged to do more than just write novels.

You can set a challenge to write 50,000 words of any type of genre, including a content-marketing challenge to write that many words in one month.

For myself, this year, I intend to attempt a journalistic styled expose of my legacy, titled White Man from a Slave? But, since I am a content marketer and I have neither time nor creative energy to do all my normal writing and an additional 50,000 words on a novel, I am including blogging and other job-type writing in my word count, just because.

So, it is only November 5. You can still get a really good start at writing that novel you always wanted to, getting a really meaty blog going in one month, or writing your autobiography, because everyone needs at least one.

What Do You Want to Write This Month?

So, I am writing a autobiographical expose, and thousands of words in blogs. What are you going to write this month?

Head on over to nanowrimo.org/  to get started in the community and experience a great month writing this month!

Also, leave your comment below on what you are going to be writing this month.

 

ps. I just happened to move last week and was not able to get started quite yet. What’s your excuse?

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