Category Archives: Writing

9 Reasons You Need To Keep On Writing

This is the 1,649th post on this blog since the middle of December 2007. There are 14 articles here written by other people, which means I’ve written a ton. On my business blog I’ve written around 1,230 articles to this point in 10 1/2 years. I’ve written tons of articles on my other blogs, and for other people’s blogs.

Canon AE-1 (Silver) - Lisa

TempusVolat via Compfight

Why am I telling you this? I run into people all the time who tell me they don’t know what to say or what to blog about? I run into tons more blogs where people either write articles infrequently or have decided to bail, leaving their blogs in the vapid miasma of blogging perfidy; go ahead, look that up. lol
Continue reading 9 Reasons You Need To Keep On Writing

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Writing Styles For Others – Subtitles, H Tags, Etc…

A couple of weeks ago I thought about trying to write for one of those sites that accumulates posts on a lot of different topics; nope, I’m not even going to tell you the name of the site because I don’t want to even give them the hint of new writers they can take advantage of. Anyway, that’s not quite how they had advertised themselves. What I saw was them looking for someone who could write on specific topics that I know pretty well. Once I went to look I saw that’s not what it was at all. Still, I thought I might be interested in giving it a shot to make a little extra chunk of change.

Smoking as Fiction
Frederic Guillory via Compfight

That is, until I looked at the requirements for the site. In essence, it was formulaic, not unlike years ago when I was trying to write for Demand Studios. In essence, they wanted all this stuff instead of just an article, and they wanted at least 1,500 words for the honor; ouch!

What kinds of things did they want? Well, in general, for some folks it might not seem like all that much of a big deal. However, for me it was, and I decided that they didn’t just want articles, they wanted a lot of extra stuff that, for what they were going to pay, it just wasn’t worth the effort.

Is it worth the effort on your blog posts? For me, rarely. For you… let’s look at some of these things to see.

1. Subtitles.

They wanted multiple subtitles in the article, at least 3. Here’s the thing, at least from my perspective. Unless one is writing a list post of some type, like this one, or a monster post, you’re not always going to come up with at least 3 subtitles. Goodness, some of my articles don’t have a subtitle at all. Sure, I know newspapers do it all the time but how many of us want to write like we’re reporters?

2. H tags. For those who aren’t familiar with this, H tags are code you use before specific sentences that tell search engines what you’re supposed to be writing about. In essence, they look at what’s in the H tags and then match it up with your content; that’s the easy version of it all.

You can have H1, H2, H3 and, if you’re feeling really happy about things, H4 tags. You can even have multiples of each of these tags in your article. Frankly, that gets a bit goofy and, in my opinion, it can look like you’re trying to game Google.

Here’s the thing. Most articles use H1 tags for the title. That’s because that particular tag changes the size of your font. You can use other code to reduce it but if you’re using it for your title then you’re good. On WordPress blogs, the software automatically adds H1 tags so you don’t have to bother with it, although some people like doing it twice; ugh.

In any case it’s not really natural to writing, and if you don’t know coding all that well you could royally mess things up. You’d probably use H2 – H4 tags for your subtitles. Still, it’s another element that’s not really part of writing, which makes the process bothersome.

Immagine 120
en- ri gioca sott’acqua via Compfight

3. Images.

This one is interesting. We all know (lots of folks, including me, have written about this) that images can help enhance a page. For these people, because they wanted the articles long enough, they wanted you to find at least 3 images for each post, and you had to make sure they were allowed to be used. No problem in doing that except that it’s always hard finding the proper images to use when you’re doing something for someone else.

For instance, on my blogs, if I use my own images people just have to deal with figuring out how, or if, the image fits what I’m writing about. For these folks, they want it spelled out in a way that shows the image is related; that’s time consuming and, once again, not really part of anyone’s writing style. If you know how to create images and such maybe you’re ahead of the game; I’m not close to being that creative.

4. Authority links.

These folks requested at least 3 links that could support what you’ve written about. There’s two problems with doing something like this.

One, they want links from sites ranked pretty well. How many people know how to find links that are ranked well? Actually, it’s not overly difficult to determine link strength because when you do a search on Google they put things in order based on your search terms, thus they’ve determined the high links for you. The problem is that just because a link ranked high doesn’t mean what’s behind the link contains what you need. Thus, you might have to look through a bunch of links to find what you need to confirm what you wrote.

Two, what happens if you happen to be an authority on the topic you’re writing about? In that case you probably never considered looking for links because you knew what you were talking about. Now you’re in unfamiliar territory, looking for something that validates your knowledge.

What if it doesn’t exist? That’s what I ran into years ago with Demand Studios; I was writing on health care finance stuff, one of my specialties, and none of the confirming information was online because insurance companies like Medicare didn’t put that stuff online. The only way you’d know it is if you were in the industry. Ugh!

Now… you decide to try to do all that and you’re successful and submit the article. Now you have to go through a waiting process while someone goes through to see if you’ve done everything right, and of course checks your article out for typos and language and all that other stuff. If they turn you down you have to fix whatever they don’t like… with the caveat that since that happened you can still submit your articles but you have to wait at least six months before you can apply to get paid for it.

If they approve you… you’ve just earned $20. Yup, that’s right, $20.

Before twitter and facebook...
Beatriz Gil via Compfight

Let’s look at this more thoroughly. Luckily, I tend to write pretty quickly if I know what I want to write about. So, let’s say that it takes me even 10 minutes to write an article, which this one is probably taking me. To find 3 images their way might take me 15 minutes. To find links might take me 30 minutes. I know the coding part of subtitles but I’d have to figure out where to put subtitles, which means I’d have to be prepared to rewrite some of my copy to match up with them.

This would mean that, if I got paid, I was earning, if I’m lucky, about $12 or $13 an hour. Since this type of writing isn’t the kind where you could possibly pound out 5 articles a day, and since those articles would take time to put together, you end up basically having to work at least 12 or 13 hours a day.

How do you get there? Because writing isn’t just “writing”. You have to come up with an idea, maybe do some research (after all, even if we know our topics we don’t know it all…), rest, eat… rinse and repeat. All that and you could be turned down; ouch!

So, that’s writing for others. What if you’re writing for yourself? I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately by people saying we all should be trying to write these mega posts. Many of those articles are recommending some of the same stuff I mentioned above, only they’re looking for articles of at least 3,000 words; ooooo, I’m dyin’! lol

How many of you feel like you have that kind of time all the time? I mean, writing can be hard enough for some of you; are you willing to go through all that other stuff? Well, maybe if you’re writing only one article a week and don’t have anything else to do, and you’re actually making a living off your blogging it’s possible.

But in general… oy!

Maybe I’m crazy so I’ll ask you your thoughts on all of this. Meanwhile, I’d like to share this little video I did where, believe it or not, I compare Kool Aid to long posts. I know you’re gonna want to see this. 🙂
 


https://youtu.be/Z7OlnUz_T5A

 

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The Process Of Writing Leadership Is/Isn’t Easy

Let’s get this out of the way first: I’ve just released my newest book on leadership, Leadership Is/Isn’t Easy, as part of a big package deal of goodies and such, and for the next two weeks that’s the only way it’s going to be sold. If you’re into leadership, or even if you’re only interested in marketing, go see the types of things I’m offering. This is one of the ways of internet marketers these days; instead of just selling one thing, package a bunch of things in there, set a big discount price off its value, and see where it goes. I just launched yesterday, so I have no news to share with you as far as sales and such. 🙂

BookCover03

This is my second book on leadership. I finished writing my first one in 2002, Embrace The Lead, which is over there to the left, and in the first link I talked a little bit about the process of writing it. At this link I gave the outline points of the book (it’s on my business blog) in case you’re interested in seeing what it’s all about.

Back to this book. I first thought about putting it together in 2012, after I’d been sitting at home for a long time, making my living as a writer for hire and just feeling kind of bored. At that time I had two newsletters I was writing, one on leadership and one on health care. I gave up the health care newsletter around the time I started thinking about putting the leadership book together and hadn’t thought about giving up the leadership newsletter then, which I eventually did in 2013 before I started traveling again.

My idea… take some of my earliest newsletters and some of my earliest blog posts from my business blog, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this past December, and create a book out of them. I ran the idea by a few people they all liked it, and off I went.

I had a lot of articles to go through on both fronts. Luckily, not every newsletter was specifically on leadership, but I still had to look at all of them, and all of them were in HTML format so I had to keep pulling up files online instead of just keeping articles on my computer; I still haven’t learned that lesson with blog posts. At least the blog posts were fairly easy to go through.

I worked a list of 65 posts down to 31, based on the topics I wanted to show. At that point I actually thought I was 90% done; oh, I was so wrong!

What I discovered, at least on the newsletter, is that my writing style had drastically changed, luckily for the better. My early newsletters were all over the place. I found myself with a nice idea and then spent a lot of time trying to make it a long newsletter instead of getting to a point and then leaving it. These days I call it the “Mozart Principle”; write until you’ve said all you wanted to say.

Now I knew this was going to be a daunting project; or was it? I thought about putting it out the way it was, telling my hoped-for audience that I wanted them to see the progression of my writing from the early days until 2008, which is where I stopped; I figured 5 years worth of articles was enough. I shared it with my buddy Mitchell Allen and he told me what I’d already figured out: if I couldn’t stand to read them what made me think anyone else could stand reading them? Ugh!

Thus, I had plans to rewrite… and then I didn’t… and didn’t…

Blind Date/Just Friends with a Book
Pioneer Library System via Compfight

I just couldn’t get myself to start on it. This was around March 2013 and my mind wasn’t into it. However, it turns out I should have started when I had the chance.

Because in April of 2013 I started negotiating what eventually turned out to be a long term gig in Memphis, TN; 18 months in fact. Suddenly, flying back and forth from New York to Tennessee and then working as I was pushed almost all thoughts of the book into the background.

It sat in Dropbox for a year, then additional months. Every once in a while I’d open it up, change a few words, and close it back up. I was a mess! lol

Then I had an ending date for my gig and realized I had to get back to it. Thus, I finally opened it in early September while I was in Memphis and finally went to work. Man, those early posts were depressing, and I just wanted to write every person who’d ever subscribed to that newsletter and apologize for all those horridly written early newsletters.

In essence, it was like how some people take an article off the internet and rewrite it to make it seem like an original. I didn’t quite have to do that… but the new versions looked nothing like the originals. Heck, two of the articles were so unwieldy that I ended up turning them into two articles, and each one was over 1,000 words.

I finally finished the entire book last November, the first week I was home for good. Luckily, since my style had gotten better, the last 10 or 11 articles hardly needed any work at all; whew! Then it was time for the first edit, then the second edit… I’m not saying it’s perfect even now, but I tried.

When I had it set, then I sent out a request for readers. I had 7 people say they’d read it and let me know if they understood the concepts. This is something I’ve written in the past; if you ever ask people to review something you’ve written tell them what you want them to look at. I didn’t want people arguing with me on my concepts of leadership; I wanted to know if they understood the language I was using, if any sentences were confusing… grammar!

Then I waited… and waited… by New Years Day, all of them had said they would be done. Not one of them got back to me. I followed up with all of them via email; nope, nada zip. Sigh…

What to do? Nothing. I did nothing.

Once again, it was sitting on the computer as I worked on getting my next contract. I had lots of nibbles but wasn’t landing anything. It was another cold winter and I just rolled with it.

A few weeks ago I lost out on another contract that would have paid exquisitely; I was irked. And then I remembered I had the book sitting there in Word and decided it was time to put it out. One night, just before I fell asleep, I remembered an article I read back in 2002 by Paul Myers talking about “thud factor”, that being to pack a lot of related things into a package to show how much value was there, then market it at a price higher than the product would go as a standalone because of all the extra stuff, and at a later date you could offer the product on its own for the normal rate.

Thus, the book package idea was born. The steps…?

62:365 - Concentration
phil wood photo
via Compfight

First, I ended up having to reformat the book twice because there was some kind of error in the original file. When I tried a trick that normally works, copying the book into Notepad and then into a new Word document… it taunted me for my stupidity. What finally worked was copying each article individually into Notepad and then copying the entire thing into another Word document.

Then I had to reformat the entire thing, but I’d messed up and forgotten what I’d done the first time around. Suddenly, the book went from 157 pages down to 127 pages, and I couldn’t tell you how. Still, I printed a few pages to see what it looked like in print, because at some point I hope to have it in print also, and it looked… like a book. 🙂

I don’t want to tell you everything that’s in the package because I want you to go check out the product page. However, I put all the files into one folder so I could compress them into a .zip file. That bad boy still came out to 442MB; ouch! But it’s the best I could do; value is big!

Next, I had to write the sales copy. I wrote 3 different versions of it, then ran it by my friend Kelvin because he had some knowledge of how to market via sales copy. He made a few suggestions, I implemented them, then created the sales page, coding the entire thing; yeah, some of us still write code.

Next, I tried to get it to fit under Google’s stupid mobile friendly rules… oy! I spent about 90 minutes on that, going back and forth with numbers. At one point it looked like it was pretty close to Google’s standard on mobile but it looked horrible on a browser. That wasn’t going to work for me so I decided to just format it so it looked good to me. I got that, and when I checked Google gave me 87 out of 100 for user experience and 97 out of 100 for speed; good enough for government work.

Once I set up Paypal, which also meant creating a “thank you” page with a link so people could download the file, I was set. All I had to do was wait until my business blog’s post went live Tuesday; whew!

I’ll save how I’ve worked on marketing it for the next post, which will probably be on Friday. Normally I only have two posts a week but since this is for a special event you’re getting three; how special you must feel! 😀 I hope you’ve stuck around to read this, and I hope you check out the product page. More on Friday!
 

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Do You Consider Yourself A Writer?

I come across many people who tell me they don’t know how to write. I point out to many of them that they got through school, some of them through college, and I know they had to do a lot of writing then because I had to do a lot of writing. Many people don’t see that as the same thing; oh really?

Writing
Pedro Ribeiro Simões
via Compfight

In school, you had to write to get grades good enough to pass. In business, you have to write well enough to try to get more customers. It may not be a blog post. It might be a short ad or a long ad. It might be a radio commercial. It might even be a flyer that you put on the wall of your own establishment. Everyone knows how to write something, and had to write something in the past; it’s inevitable.

What’s happened is that not everyone knows how to write well. Not as many people seem to pay attention to either spelling or grammar. I see errors of omission on a consistent basis and it’s shocking. If this was someone writing a letter to their friend, then there’s no problem. But is this the type of thing you want your customers to see? I think not.

There are basically two things that can be done to help correct writing issues. One is to hire someone else to do your writing for you. The other is to pay more attention to what’s being written.

For instance, with today’s computers and programs, almost everyone gets notified when a word has been misspelled by some kind of squiggly line. All one has to do is right-click on the word and see what choices are being given for correction.

When it comes to grammar, Microsoft Word has a couple of settings to help check for grammar, but the recommendations sometimes seem a bit stiff. Instead, what I find useful here and there is to read what I’ve written out loud; your ears will almost always hear something that doesn’t sound right.

I know I said 2 things but I’m going to add a third thing; giving more unexpected value! 🙂

The third thing is knowing what you’re writing about. For instance, there are tons of “make money blogging” blogs online but few of them actually make much money. To me, those people have no idea what they’re talking about. If they only talked about what they’ve tried and what didn’t work, like I did when I did my 6-part series some years ago about all the affiliate programs I was on, I’d give them more credence.

If you know your topic and can write about it, then you’re probably going to be pretty good, grammar and spelling notwithstanding. If you know how to tell a story you’ll be fabulous.

Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of time to get things right. Everyone doesn’t have to write like a pro; all anyone really asks for is that you write to be understood. If you’re in business, you have to remember that your words represent your competence in someone else’s eyes. If not, then do your best and your readers will feel it.
 

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Writing Articles That Gain Attention On LinkedIn

Back in March I wrote about a personal social media study I did in trying to increase my overall influence online. I mentioned in that post that I’d started writing articles on LinkedIn, and how it had started bringing me some attention.

Ylva Johansson
Socialdemokraterna via Compfight

At this point I have 21 articles there and I’ve started to see a pattern. There are some things that seem to help determine how many eyes are going to see what you’ve written.

I can’t guarantee that every post you write, even if you follow these rules, is going to get seen by more than 1,000 people like this post on getting unstuck did but there seems to be some rules to follow if you want as many people to see your posts as possible.

First, unless you’re a known entity or someone that LinkedIn has determined is a major influencer across the board, list posts seem to get viewed the most. It’s probably for the same reason they work so well on blogs; people like seeing something that they expect is going to have specific points that maybe they can identify with.

Turns out it doesn’t matter if you use an actual number or write it out as a word, but lists work well. Also, it helps if you bold your numbers in the article, whether it’s the word or the actual number (like I’m doing for this post).

Second, although this goes against the grain of how some people think, longer articles seem to get more attention, even if they’re list posts. My longer articles, which also have been list posts, have more numbers than all my other posts, and if you know me you know that I’m not normally about really short posts to begin with. Substance seems to be a big winner, so if you’re writing a long post make sure you have something to say.

Third, short titles don’t work well either. I’ve never really paid much attention to titles on this blog for every post but I’ve noticed that on LinkedIn you’ll get more eyes if your title is long enough to tell people what you’re writing about.

LinkedIn smurfs
Mark Jen via Compfight

Fourth, write articles where you’re offering something to help others. My posts that have helped someone in some fashion have garnered the most attention. Even on a post like this, where I gave 7 ways to tell if you’re a bad leader, got 400 views because there was a perceived value. Actually, there was a major value in this post but if you’re a bad leader you might not have picked up on it. lol

Fifth, it’s smart to have some kind of picture to put at the top of your article. They give you the opportunity to put a picture with the pixel size of 698×400. Just like with blog posts, images seem to help rather than having a big gap without anything there.

I have tons of pictures so I go through them looking for something I think might fit. Since all my pictures are much larger than that I can crop when I need to before resizing.

Sixth, don’t forget to do the spacing like most of us remember to do when we write our blog posts. It helps with readability.

Seventh, when you’ve completed your post LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to add 3 categories to your articles. However, you have to use the categories they give you if you go that route; if it’s not there then you don’t get to do anything.

I’ve found that the articles I’ve written that get the most attention are those that I haven’t categorized. What happens is that if your article is seen by enough people, and that magic number is usually at least 100 people, it’ll decide where to put it so you don’t have to. Truthfully, that works better anyway, and it takes the pressure off you to have to do it.

That’s pretty good stuff to consider if you’re just starting out or have been thinking about doing it. If I get anything more out of it I’ll certainly write about it here.
 

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