Freelance

The 6 Things You Need To Improve Your Freelance Writing Flow

Lesson 2 discovering your freelance writing flow

When I think of pacing, I think of a sinuous graph.

It peaks, it troughs, it ebbs and it flows. 

Sometimes the peaks are high, adorned with colourful vernacular and serpent like prose.

Other times, they’re short.

Abrupt.

Intense.

Your flow, (your pacing), is unique to YOU. It should map against your creativity and tone as well as it’s intended purpose.

Are you selling your latest E-book? Or are you teaching your viewers how to maximize Pinterest? The art of persuasion begins with the clarity of your speech, or in this case, the clarity and flow of your copy.

And that right there my friends……

Is what YOUR writing is missing.

Your muddled and hesitant copy is driving AWAY engagement.

Your viewers don’t believe in you.

YOU don’t believe in you.

You have a message to relay and valuable knowledge to impart. Do it the right way.

Do it with confidence, do it with clarity and do it with the perfect freelance writing flow.

This is lesson 2 of the weekly beginner lesson series.

Come on in.

(For ya’ll skimmers)

CONTENTS:

  1. Back to basics (conjunctions)……………………………………………

  2. Your habits matter (writing procedures)……………………………..

  3. Short and sweet or long and hard (sentence variation)……………

  4. Quick question…..how was your day? (question use and engagement)

  5. Chop it up (convention breaking)………………………………………

  6. Just have some weed (writing frames)………………………………...

 
6 things you need to improve your freelance writing flow image
 

1. Back to basics

Ok…. So for our first section in this lesson, we’ve really gone back to school on this one, but hear me out.

This is something I’ve found many copywriters to use poorly and/or incorrectly, so it’s something I just had to address…….

Ready?

Conjunctions

 
Discovering your freelance writing flow meme
 

Examples of these are

·         however

·         additionally

·         moreover

Fairly regularly, I see articles/blog posts that state a great premise or opening sentence; it’s funny, it’s catchy, it grabs my attention.

Unfortunately, the follow through to the bulk of their post is choppy; they try to hide it with humour and colloquialisms, jokes and then more jokes, and the worse culprit of all, unnecessary curse words.

These techniques just paper over the cracks, turning an entertaining blog post into a diary style entry.

 It’s an amateur-ish approach that I often see excused with, ‘It’s a blog post not a book!’.

…….

No

Just no.

There’s never an excuse to cut corners, to cheapen your work by not valuing the details.

Link your ideas, let your sentences and thoughts flow, and STOP jumping from point to point.

The beauty of great copywriting lies in its simplicity.

However, simple doesn’t mean amateur.

Take your time to master the basics, to use conjunctions to manipulate your ebb and flow.

They help to connect your ideas, list your points effectively, and remove that broken and choppy feel from your posts.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER: A lack of fundamentals is the prime reason writing appears choppy and hesitant. Don't be too proud to go back to basics.

2. Your habits matter

Writing procedure: a set of actions you like to take before and as you write that assist in reaching your flow

Whether you create a detailed plan or write your introduction last, writing procedures help you to grease the groove-- to sink into the flow of your patterns.

Of course, plans aren’t always for everyone….

 
Discovering your freelance writing flow meme
 

But procedures, the things you habitually do, those are conducive to your freelance writing flow.

Writing procedures can vary greatly from person to person, some create detailed structured plans, others draw flow charts, and some enjoy the simplicity of a morning jog before work.

For Haruki Murakami (author of international bestseller birthday girl), his procedure was as arduous and as disciplined as it gets.

‘When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.’ — Haruki Murakmi

For Stephen king, (a style much more to my liking), a more relaxed routine was his preferred approach.

‘There are certain things I do if I sit down to write... I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning. I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon. It’s not any different than a bedtime routine.’ — Stephen King

All successful writers, copywriters and bloggers have a procedure, the things they do to take them to the places they go when they write.

They surround themselves with familiarity, encase themselves in rituals and memorised patterns, and repeatedly associate their flow with a given set of procedures.

Whether it’s done consciously or unconsciously, it’s through this repetition that they force the link to become natural and ingrained, (enabling them to initiate their flow at will).

If you find yourself stuck for hours before writing, if you find it hard to replicate a prior post, it’s likely you need to find YOUR freelance writing procedure.

So, get yourself started by identifying your habits, by embracing those habits and using them as a vehicle to reach your freelance writing flow.

Did you know: You’re not limited to one writing procedure. If you assign different procedures to different styles, its likely to trigger that corresponding flow.

3. Short and sweet or long and hard?

The easiest way to optimise your pacing is by using SENTENCE STRUCTURE.

LONG SENTENCES are prone for descriptive or informative pieces i.e. how-to’s, travel blog entries, thesis, tutorials.

SHORT SENTENCES are designed for impact i.e. Sales, persuasive texts, powerful blog posts, motivational articles.

With longer sentences, I can set a scene or answer a question. I can manipulate the ebb and flow of the information I provide, making it manageable for you to ingest.

OR.

I can be brief. Sharp. Impactful. 

I can make you read slower……

Slower….

And slower….

Or faster, faster and faster.

Varying my sentence structures allows me to control the emotive outcome, to manipulate the cadence of my post.

This precise control of the tempo, (the abrupt stops and starts manipulating the rhythmic beat), has an influence on the reader that is much more than is initially perceived.

A fascinating study by Psychologist Annet Schirmer revealed that rhythmic sound ‘not only coordinates the behaviour of people in a group. It also coordinates their thinking – the mental processes of individuals become synchronised.’

Wow….

That kinda makes sense, right?

We see evidence of this during a haka, where at its recital, a primal calling resonates through our bones.

We see evidence of this at concerts, where a song from 20 years prior, ignites the fiery embers of a forgotten youth.

And we see evidence of this in a great piece of writing, when a character who doesn’t exist, in a world that doesn’t exist, moves us to joyous tears, thunderous rage, and a soul-destroying grief.

……….

Words aren’t just words.

And sentences aren’t just sentences.

Use sentence structure to control the tempo of your writing, to let its melody ring true, or…. if it calls for it, to let the silence shout.

Bitesize breakdown: Writing an impactful article is a bit like composing a song, you need to know when to pick up the beat and when to let the vocals play on their own.

4. Quick question…. How was your day?

When you’ve got a lot to say….

And you’re not too sure that people will care.

Do you say it anyway, hoping that someone relates?

Or …

Do you take proper precautions, ensuring that; if the information you provide isn’t edge-of-the-seat-thriller, then the journey you take them on is?

Questions act as leads.

Devices of engagement.

They involve the reader in your writing, ensuring that they’re still engaged, whilst making them feel a part of a larger conversation (a part of your tribe).

Always remember this—your job is to take your reader on a journey—a journey to somewhere unknown where they have lots to discover.

So, when you consistently speak as though you’re alone, as though your trekking this journey solo, that’s exactly how the reader begins to feel.

Alone.

They watch from the outside in as YOU go on a discovery, as YOU go on that trip, as YOU cook that meal.

When you change your approach, when you INVOLVE the reader, when you ask them questions instead, it quickly becomes a conversation, a dialogue, a relationship.

Freelance writers, copywriters and bloggers never speak at their readers.

No, no, no

They speak to them.

They speak with them.

Find out what they think, how they are, what they want.

Learn everything you want and need to know about your audience, so your posts aren’t a sad depressing monologues, but a back and forth dialogue instead.

Key points to remember: Interaction is vital.

The most important flow is the one between you and your reader.

5. Chop it up (When writing blog posts)

When freelance writing, you’ll find that Copywriting posts, specifically blog posts, are unique in the fact that they break every paragraphing convention.

The only rule is that…… THERE ARE NO RULES.

You HAVE to wing it.

Writing is evolving in the age of social media, what was once a literary sin, is now a blogging must-do.

Chop it up.

Butcher your work.

Although it pains me to say it… it actually works.

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
—Elmore Leonard

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER: When writing blog posts, remember that the paragraphs should be short, don’t be scared to break away from the paragraphing norms to optimise your freelance writing flow

6. Just have some weed (When writing blog posts)

When freelance writing, the posts we are tasked to create can often be overloaded with information. Hence, when we begin to write this information up for our clients, it can be easy for our work to turn into convoluted messes that are difficult to follow.

Rather than a mess of tangled wires, you should always be striving for your posts to be an intricate design of logically placed threads, a literary spider’s web that aims to please and not frustrate.

Tug on one thread, and there needs to be a clear reverberation to another, a follow through from one point to the next.

To link ideas in a format that flows, that contains logical links to your reader, there is a writing structure called W.E.E.D, (coined by J.Godwin(2009)), which sets out how you should start.

I’ve detailed the frame below in a pinnable infographic:

 
freelance writing infographic
 

Before you start your work, a little bit of w.e.e.d can you help you relax. It helps frame your work in a logical way, keeps your points flowing from section to section, and leaves your readers hungry for more (munchies anyone?).

Feel free to use this frame to help with your flow, or…… you can steal it, change it, and make it your own.

Whichever you decide, ensure that w.e.e.d or an iteration of w.e.e.d, is rolled up tightly in your copywriting toolbox

Key points to remember: Sometimes, it’s best to find your flow when you’re a little bit high.

The takeaway

discovering your freelance writing flow takeaways

Goodbye my minions

Wam bam and done! 6 EASY tips to improve the pacing of your writing and establish a unique copywriting flow.

Were you familiar with any of them? Better yet, do you have techniques I didn’t mention. Be sure to let me know in the comments blow, and make sure you stay tuned by subscribing so you never miss a post in this new weekly series.

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The 3 Things I learnt From Freelance Writing Failure

Why you suck at freelance writing lesson 1 image

To have a facility for traditional writing — but not freelance writing— is a royal pain in the a***.

Our words are technically more proficient, technically more cohesive, technically ‘more right’, and yet they don’t delight audiences, drive sales, and build engaged tribes.

* What gives!*

At first, I thought, rather condescendingly, that this was because freelancing, (specifically for blog posts), is barely writing. I assumed it was a bottom feeder system that helped bad writers sell their services to even less able ones—robbing clients of 100 bucks for a blog post.

*Wrong*

Then I thought, rather idiotically, all it would take was a semi-competent writer to enter the scene, and these chatty, paragraph murdering posts would be thrown out the window.

*Still wrong*

Finally, as my thousandth attempt to enter what I thought was a piss-easy industry failed….I questioned the quality of the audiences, their intelligence, their reason to be reading such drivel.

*Damn I’m an ass*

But then I stopped….

breathed…

began to swallow my pride as a writer…..

*almost choked on it first*

……and finally decided to make a change.

It was time to turn that critical eye on myself

Questioning everything from the books I read to my definition of writing, I audited from the ground up my technical approach. I tore out the outdated flooring, I ventilated for the growing damp, and I redefined what I knew to be writing; so that slowly….. ever so slowly, I could discover what was holding me back.

There were tons of adjustments, improvements, and even necessary unlearning to be done, but before I could overcome this frustrating transition, I had to get past critically observing the successful, and start critically observing the 3 reasons that writers like myself, the failures, struggle to make the change

These were my findingsand the adjustments needed to succeed.

(For ya’ll skimmers)

CONTENTS:

Reason 1: Underestimating marketing……………………………………………………..

ii) Discovering my buyers process…………………………………………………………..

iii) Application of buyers process……………………………………………………………

Reason 2: Neglecting the numbers………………………………………………………….

ii) Access to explanations of 6 stress testing numbers…………………………………...

Reason 3: Thinking competence is the only authority…………………………………..

 
3 things I learnt from freelance writing failure
 

Reason 1#. Underestimating marketing

As I took stock of my mistakes, tallying the tendencies of failed freelance writers against my own, I started to identify two repeating themes that lead most beginners astray. I found that they (1) overestimated the importance of actual writing in our profession, and (2) massively underestimated the importance of perhaps the most critical part, business and marketing.

I saw signs of it everywhere, with people clamouring for posts like,

screenshot 1 for the 3 things I learnt from freelance writing failure
screenshot 2 for the 3 things I learnt from freelance writing failure

and going crazy for articles like…

image (6).png

but never for posts like this…

screenshot 5 for the 3 things I learnt from freelance writing failure
 
screenshot 6 for the 3 things I learnt from freelance writing


There was a clear pattern.

Everyone was learning how to write for copywriting, blogs and eBooks, that information was everywhere and seen by everyone, they just didn’t know what to write and when — they lacked their marketing 101's.

Now, to rectify that, it doesn’t require you to get yourself a masters in marketing, far from it in fact.

 
squirrel meme
 

It simply means you need to focus on creating marketed copy (copy shaped to the consumer)—and to do that— gain an understanding of precisely what your consumers journey is from casual interest, to purchasing and reviewing your clients product.

That journey and that key marketing tool, is called your buyers process.


What Your Buyers Process Does

As a beginner and (most likely) someone with experience writing , you probably don’t have much trouble writing punchy intros, engaging transitions, and ribbon tied conclusions…..

But when it comes to executing for a client, most of us, regardless of our writing experience, have struggled with things like headline making, the voice you should use, and a host of other prewriting decisions.

As I said before, these prewriting decisions and difficulties can typically be grouped under one category—marketing—and if you’re struggling to make strategic and intentional prewriting decisions, this is usually a strong indication that you’ve not been utilising a consumer/buyers process.

What your buyers process does, is provide the data for those prewriting decisions by mapping the journey of the consumer from recognition to reaction—allowing you to map your work alongside that process—providing you with potentially viable paths forward.

For example…..

If you want to know if you should produce a top 10 post to inspire more leads, then you need to know precisely when the consumer will be encountering your post on their journey (and if they’ve reached stage 3 in their process—the comparison stage).

Or…

If you’re tasked to produce a blog post to inspire conversions, you want to pick a problem issue to agitate that comes early in their consumer journey, i.e at stage 1 or 2, which is the problem recognition and information search stage.

With your buyers process, what were once frustrating and freelance ruining questions before, are all questions you’ll be able to easily answer once you identify and familiarise yourself with your client’s consumer journey.

* But….What exactly is this hidden gem? *

In 1978, Engel Blackwell and Kollat designed a 5 stage buyers process model that made it pretty easy to understand:

 
buyers process image
 

Buyers process Defined

  1. Problem recognition: This is where the consumer identifies a problem for themselves — or have been agitated to realise a problem by you — and are now aware of a product or service to remedy that want or need.

  2. Information search: Consumers will seek more information on the product they need, using search engines, social media and content creation platforms to explore the options before them.

  3. Evaluation of options: This is where they begin to balance the pros and cons. They’ve gathered information on the possibilities, now they decide which one is the best fit for them. Should they go with Apple for high quality and reliability, or is windows a better bet due to lower entry prices with equal specs — their wants and needs provide the criteria for them to evaluate against.

  4. Purchase: The consumer has chosen their number one choice and is almost ready to purchase the product. One of two things can happen at this stage: they can (1) proceed to purchase the product with no hiccups, or (2) back out of purchasing the product due to bad customer feedback, taxes, availability, or externalities such as delivery costs.

  5. Post-purchase decisions: Think Amazon reviews, Yelp, word of mouth, complaints, testimonials. It’s the actions your consumer takes post-purchase that impacts a business in a positive or negative light.

Ok Clarke, I’ve got it, so how do these stages help my Freelance writing?

At every stage of the ‘buyers process’, the unique steps of every customer present an opportunity to create specifically crafted content.

Insert your prospective reader into the process, whether there’s a product at the end of the stages or not, and you should gain a systematic incite into when and how you should be producing your content, driving most if not all of your prewriting decisions.

Lets examine a few ways it can influence your decisions:

If a customer — lets say Grace — is looking for the best web hosting provider for her site; then at stage 2 of the buyer’s process, she would be looking for a way to compare her options.

 
buyers process image 2
 

For freelance writers, that ‘need’ screams opportunity for an abundance of content ideas. We could produce a top 5 post, a pros and cons post, or a why option C is the best post, and all of which would fit nicely into the funnel at that specific point, helping capture a high-quality lead.

Also, at stage one, is a further opportunity to agitate Grace into realising she has a need. She likely knows she wants a website beforehand, but has no idea what hosting is; that is an opportunity to create content that informs her on the process of creating a site, and how web hosting is integral to that process and a ‘need’ she knew nothing about.

Starting to see the aim?

At every part of the process, their specific needs at each stage of the model will cause them to pursue and desire information specific to your clients product or funnel. Grace wanted to make a website but didn’t know what her budget should be— that’s an opportunity to inform her of the variety of costs. Grace has gone through stage four and purchased your product, but she doesn’t know about website security software — that’s an opporunity to inform her on the details and then try to upsell her.

Specificity and knowledge of the micro details on their journey, helps you craft content that talks directly to your reader, precisely when your reader will want it.

We’ll go into detail on how to use this in later posts, but for now, insert your ideal client into this consumer model, and you’ll find a plethora of opportunities to create content your clients and consumers will love.

Reason 2# Neglecting the numbers

Within the financial banking system, there’s a term called ‘stress test’ that you might have heard of.

 
blank face meme
 

No? Ok, ok….. well, it’s where the banks use hypothetical situations to identify whether the financial system would survive a series of unfavourable economic conditions.

Sounds pretty complicated…..

Sounds difficult…

It’s not.

If you cut the corporate jargon and stop trying to be a wise a** like me, it basically means this.

Does this mess of a system even work!?

In freelancing writing, high conversion writers test their work in much the same way as bankers, we use the abundance of metrics at our disposal to find out what consumers want, what the numbers are telling us, and whether the marketed copy we created in the last step is generating results for our clients.

Essentially, it’s a stress test on the efficacy of our writing.

  • Views tell you virality

  • Read percentages tell you engagement.

  • Sign-ups tell you successful leads.

Every stat has its story, and every number tell its truth
— clarkescopy.com

The mistake that beginner writers tend to make, and one I made myself, is undervaluing the importance of numbers in freelancing; people aren’t seeing the linkage between the data and it’s meaning, how every stat has it’s story, and how every number tell it’s truth.

Top converting writers, specifically copywriters like Neil Patel, never make this mistake. They understand their stats and their stories on an intimate level, frequently using them to evaluate the effectiveness of their decisions, and as tool to decide whether they should be sticking or pivoting at a juncture.

He’s one of the many successful copywriters who is constantly advocating for the increased use of metrical analysis— specifically A-b testing (which wouldn’t be available to us )— and through one of his posts, has brought to my attention a great example that shows it’s effectiveness.

A company called Crazy egg, a website optimisation site, wanted to increase their own conversion rates on their already successful site by hiring a conversion rate expert.

It seemed like a difficult task at best….

They had already ‘made it’ by most standards, had good numbers to parade and a high revenue stream to treasure.

If it was even possible to increase their conversion, I sceptically expected a slight increase that was a negligible 2–3 percent increase at best.

Boy was I wrong.

It turns out, the conversion rate experts managed to increase Crazy egg’s conversion rate by a whopping 363 percent in total, 30 percent of which directly came from increasing, not decreasing, the quantity of the copy on a previous page 20 times smaller— something completely counter intuitive to the popular short and sweet copy narrative.

 
koalla meme
 

*mind blown*

That 30 percent chunk alone was discovered through one form of testing, (a-b split testing), and goes to show you the importance of unearthing common misconceptions with the analysis of the cold hard data, as what is true for Tom, Dick and Harry, may not be true for your client.

NOTE: A-b testing and many other forms aren’t available to freelancers to assist in improving their copy. However, many other surface level data sources are. Not to mention, if you own your own site, it also provides an excellent opporunity to do more complex forms of testing on your own blog, allowing you to self evaluate what types of copy work for when you undertake a client.

Every time you release a piece of copy, your clients readers are constantly conversing back their opinion in the form of numbers. But just because it’s in number form, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be reading into it the same way you would a review.

Freelance writing isn’t a hit and miss process, there’s a science behind the strategy, complexity to its simplistic facade. It’s a methodical process that constantly has you adjusting and calibrating your work to meet your clients and readers ever-changing needs.

Your stress test is your main re-calibration tool to adjust to those needs, so whatever numbers you can get your hands on, views, heat maps, google analytics, a-b testing — whatever useful data you can find, you should be adding into your freelancing stress test kit.

Don’t have the data? Request it from your client.

Don’t know what the numbers mean, learn the relevant marketing terms.

Yes, words and words alone are your tools.

But numbers are your friend too.

Use them.

Did you know: Speaking of stress test kits, this week, the mailing list got access to 6 of the metrics I personally use, the latest lessons straight to their email, and a weekly update on all things freelance writing. But you didn’t miss out ofc….. because you’re already signed up…. right? (download is located in the ‘p.s’ in the welcome email).

6 metrics for freelance writers image

Reason 3# Thinking competence is Authority

As a freelance writer, conversion can’t be achieved without a level of actual or perceived authority. Do you have the credentials and portfolio to support your claims, or does your work speak for itself, the proof being overwhelmingly in the pudding?

Either way, you’re constantly on a pursuit to substantiate your writing, to have a reputation that encourages conversion, and an authority that builds an inspired tribe.

To achieve that, us beginner freelancers tend to come from one angle.

From a place of knowing.

We understand that trust can be built by knowing our craft and by highlighting our expertise; so we teach, speak and preach about all the things we do know and seldom acknowledge the things we don’t.

We write from a place of being above.

That has its benefits of course, instructional’s, guides, tutorials, webinars, all need to be delivered with a level of assurance.

But the mistake we make as we just start out, is that writing from below in other instances, can be, (and usually is), just as effective.

People who write from below understand that:

  • Humility connects

  • Cock-ups and failures are all stories of relatability

  • and the small act of humbling yourself, endears you to readers in a way preaching can never do.

A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.
— Roy H. Williams

No fluff lessons are great, they’re time savers, lifesavers, and efficient at doing what they aim to do.

Teach.

But lessons without contextualisation, are only doing half of the job that a freelance writer should be doing.

Converting.

Let’s give you a little example of what I mean by ‘contextualisation’.

Out of these two premises for a post, which do you think is likely to convert more, have a higher engagement rate, and increase relatability with its readers?

  1. An expository narration of the processes involved in A-b testing, no example used, written only for those with industry knowledge, no questions, no misconceptions, no personal mistakes, pure numbered factual steps.

  2. A story based article that recounts how they discovered a-b testing through 6 months of zero growth, and how its implementation had them on their way to a monthly 20–30% increase in subscribers. Plenty of questions to gauge reader opinions, mistakes they made along the way, simple easy to follow explanations of otherwise complex terms, concluding with the things that are lacking in that type of analysis, and how it’s caused them a few misreads in their understanding of their consumer.

Pretty easy to tell right?

Context matters, but put more specifically, context stemming from your truth. I’m not the best freelance writer on the internet, but I angle my posts as a process, coming from a place of learning and constant and honest progression. You can feel my authenticity because I’m not afraid to admit my fudge-ups. I embrace them, and let you use them as a pedestal to avoid those same mistakes.

Remember this….

Authenticity doesn’t necessarily mean writing about how you love knitting. And it doesn’t mean your selling out to the man if you write about topics you don’t love. Authenticity is about finding the angle that resonates with your core, and enveloping the copy, (no matter the topic or your passion for it), with a wrapping of raw, real and relatable storytelling.

Mistakes matter to people just as much as your success.

Never forget that

Be truthful to you.

The Takeaway

Copy of SEMINAR 1 (20).png

Before you go.

There it is folks, the 3 biggest mistakes that were holding me back as a beginner freelance writer. See any that you’re encountering too? Better yet, are there any that I left out? Let me know in the comments below what the biggest challenges you are/were facing as you start on your own freelance writing journey.

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CIAO