This post first appeared on Business Insider on 25th March 2017. Grammar rules can seem like a nuisance. Honestly, do you really need to check every single document for appropriate hyphenation? According to CUNY Journalism Press editor and writing coach Timothy Harper, the answer is a resounding “YES.” “The whole point of grammar and punctuation is… Continue reading 21 Common Grammar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Semicolons help clarify construction of sentences. Using the punctuation mark, employed as either a comma on steroids or a strategically flexible period, is usually just one of two or more possible solutions, but though it has a stuffy reputation and many writers are confused about its applications, it often is the best choice.
1. This issue is not cut and dried, it’s actually fairly complicated.
This sentence demonstrates the simplest and perhaps most common error related to the role of the semicolon: the failure to use it when needed in the weak period function. This pair of independent clauses must be separated by a semicolon: “This issue is not cut and dried; it’s actually fairly complicated.”
Replacing the comma with a dash or beginning a new sentence with it’s are alternative strategies, though the
statement does not include a sharp break in thought (which a dash is intended to signal) and does not constitute two distinct ideas meriting separate sentences, so the semicolon is the most suitable solution.
2. For breakfast, he had eggs the way he liked them, over easy, bacon, locally raised, of course, toast, and coffee, which he always stirred exactly 10 times to blend in the milk.
This sentence requires semicolons to clearly organize a rambling list of words and phrases that constitute a menu: “For breakfast, he had eggs the way he liked them, over easy; bacon, locally raised, of course; toast; and coffee, which he always stirred exactly 10 times to blend in the milk.”
However, the preparation details can also be presented enclosed in parentheses, which renders semicolons unnecessary: “For breakfast, he had eggs the way he liked them (over easy), bacon (locally raised, of course), toast, and coffee (which he always stirred exactly 10 times to blend in the milk).” For consistency and to enhance sentence balance and rhythm, better yet, a corresponding detail about the toast should be inserted.
3. The act offers protection from lawsuits arising from monitoring information systems, including employee email, cyberthreat-related disclosures, and sharing of that information with other companies.
This sentence requires semicolons because even though “including employee email” seems obviously related to the preceding phrase, the sentence can also be read as if employee email, cyberthreats-related disclosures, and sharing of that information with other companies are being offered as examples of information systems. Use the stronger punctuation mark in such sentences so that the sentence organization is unambiguous: “The act offers protection from lawsuits arising from monitoring information systems, including employee email; cyberthreat-related disclosures; and sharing of that information with other companies.”
Cases of Semicolon Overkill
Semicolons serve a useful function in helping distinguish between elements of complex sentences, but lengthy sentences with long phrases do not necessarily require the support semicolons provide. These three sentences demonstrate an unnecessary application of the semicolon as a comma on steroids.
1. Electrical shock may cause serious burns; injuries to internal organs, such as your heart; and even death.
Semicolons should generally be employed as strong commas when elements of a list themselves include lists or otherwise include commas of their own. Here, however, the sentence construction is clear and simple; “such as your heart” is obviously part of the list element pertaining to injuries to internal organs (and doesn’t necessarily need to be set off from the rest of the phrase anyway): “Electrical shock may cause serious burns, injuries to internal organs, such as your heart, and even death.”
2. Examples of enhancements might include reporting on the status of critical enterprise risks; changes in key external variables impacting the validity of the organization’s strategic assumptions; significant emerging risks; the capabilities for managing other important business risks; and the status of initiatives to improve capabilities.
The elements of this list are wordy but not complex, so “super coma” semicolons are an excessive measure: “Examples of enhancements might include reporting on the status of critical enterprise risks, changes in key external variables impacting the validity of the organization’s strategic assumptions, significant emerging risks, the capabilities for managing other important business risks, and the status of initiatives to improve capabilities.”
3. The basketball star’s legendary moves—aerial assaults; triple-clutch reverse layups; facials on seven-footers; one-handed rebounds or ball fakes; opposing shots stolen from the sky; big-game buzzer beaters at any time—couldn’t be replicated.
As in the previous example, the use of semicolons in this sentence is overkill: “The basketball star’s legendary moves—aerial assaults, triple-clutch reverse layups, facials on seven-footers, one-handed rebounds or ball fakes, opposing shots stolen from the sky, big-game buzzer beaters at any time—couldn’t be replicated.”
*This post first appeared on Daily Writing Tips by By Mark Nichol
If you think there are no great-paying freelance writing gigs out there anymore and it’s all $5 blog posts, I’m here to spread some sunshine.
I have the advantage of chatting with hundreds of freelance writers on a regular basis in Freelance Writers Den. That’s allowed me to get a strong sense of what the trends are, and where writers are finding opportunities.
I’m hearing more and more reports of rising rates in some specific writing niches, and of growing demand for some emerging assignments.
If you’re hoping to up your game and find great-paying freelance writing gigs this year, check out my list of a dozen top niches.
All of these niches have two things in common, so let me call out those two key items first:
Look for complex topics
This one cuts across all the categories below. If you want to earn well, stop writing about parenting/travel/yourself/pets/books and all the other things everyone on earth can easily write about, and tackle difficult topics few writers can manage.
That continues to be where all the money is. If you can write about surety bonds, advanced washing machine technology, trends in shower-curtain materials, new energy efficiency technology, that sort of thing? You can name your price.
Bigger is better
Most starving writers I know write for solopreneurs, local publications, small nonprofits, or local small businesses in their town.
Want to earn more? You need to start pitching bigger clients who have bigger budgets. Yes, I know you’re scared. But writing for bigger clients is actually easier and more fun. Successful enterprises tend to be less dysfunctional, better planners, and more focused — and they’ve got experience working with freelancers that can make your job easier.
Start going after bigger fish to bring home bigger paychecks.
Now that I’ve got you thinking niche topics and bigger prospects, what types of writing are set to earn well this year? Here are my predictions (in no particular order), and a break-in tip for how to get going in each market:
1. Case studies
Wherever companies sell a complex product or service, they need customer success stories to help describe why their solution is the best one in the marketplace.
I’ve seen writers get $1,000 for their first paid case study, after writing a single sample.
Break-in Tip: Nonprofits and small businesses would always love to have case studies, but can’t afford to hire a writer — volunteer to do one to get a sample.
2. White papers
Anywhere you find a business with a complex product or service they sell to other businesses, there are white papers. A study conducted by The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs reported 68 percent of B2B marketers used white papers last year.
If you’re not familiar with this format, which often runs 5-10 pages or more, it’s worth learning how white papers give buyers useful info while positioning the sponsoring business as the go-to source for a particular solution. Rates range from $.50 a word to $500 a page and up. (Steve Slaunwhite taught a nifty bootcamp we’ve got stashed in Freelance Writers Den on this topic.)
Break-In Tip: Look for tech startups that couldn’t afford a pro, and propose a brief white paper to help them gain visibility. Then, you’re set with a white paper sample.
3. Longform blogging
Have you noticed blog posts are getting longer and more detailed? Yes, marketers have learned Google hates short posts, and rewards sites that have more in-depth information.
Fortunately, that means a great opportunity for writers to earn more in blogging, as blog posts increasingly become more like articles.
Google hastes short posts and rewards sites that have more in-depth information.
The secret of good longform blogging is not to simply take longer to say the same thing (which I’m seeing a lot of). Great long posts are packed with useful information, and often use screenshots, infographics, fresh interviews, and unique research. I’m seeing $200-$400 and more for these, and I believe we’ll see many more markets up their game in the coming year.
My biggest blogging prediction for 2016 is that it’s the year that recycling stuff you found on other sites will simply no longer cut it. To win these clients, start digging for the new angle that will get their blog noticed.
Break-In Tip: You can write a longform blog post on your own blog or as a guest post to show what you’ve got.
4. Brand journalism
What smells like a sophisticated, online magazine but is run by a company — and pays like copywriting? Brand journalism projects. These articles are usually overseen by an experienced editor, and you report the story like you would for any magazine or newspaper. The catch is the ezine content is there to get the brand name in front of consumers.
I’ve earned $2,000 an article writing these, and was able to pitch my own topics and write some fun stories.
Break-In Tip: Watch for brands that feature article-quality content. Many blue-chip brands are into this — I’ve worked on projects for SunTrust Bank, Dun & Bradstreet, American Express, and was recently approached by Intuit.
You may need to sleuth a little, because many outsource the editorial management to an agency. Try searching on LinkedIn or Twitter to see who’s connected to their content project, and reach out.
5. Annual reports
Along with their cousin the corporate social responsibility report, annual reports continue to be fat projects that can pay $5,000-$10,000. I’ve seen annual reports that easily top 100 pages — and if they like your work, this can be a nice repeat gig, every year.
More and more companies are feeling the need to do social responsibility reports to document their sustainability, human rights record, and more, particularly at public companies, so this is a growing niche.
Break-In Tip: Small nonprofits need annual reports, too — volunteer and claim a sample.
6. Big national consumer magazines
Reports of the demise of print have been widely exaggerated. Yes, there’s a lot of change going on, but some magazines are still going great guns and paying over $1 a word. I did a 1,200-word feature assignment this summer that paid $2,800 plus every dime of my travel expenses, for instance.
New magazines also continue to be born, though fewer than in the past — there were nearly 100 launches last year, and closures slowed — and new pubs are often more open to new writers than established rags. Crack that Writer’s Market online, dial their search tool up to five dollar signs (signifying highest paying markets), and see who you could pitch!
Break-In Tip: Start with those newer magazines, or your local ones, but don’t get stuck there. Keep pitching up to the next rung — and if you’re not getting responses, learn more about how to write queries and perfect your pitch.
7. Trade publications
These low-glamour industry-news pubs don’t get pitched a lot, and are usually desperate to find someone who can help pharmacists, restaurant operators, or convenience store owners wring another dollar of profit from their business.
As a result, pay tends to be good — $.30-$.50 a word at the low end, up to $1 a word or so. Trade pubs have survived the magazine fallout fairly well, as each has a niche audience advertisers who sell into that industry are dying to reach.
Go to tradepub.com and browse for topics you know or are interested in, scan some issues, and write a strong introduction letter that plays up your knowledge of the sector.
Break-In Tip: Play on your life experience here. Used to be a lawyer? Try one of the state lawyer magazines put out by the state Bar Association. This is a real use-what-you-know situation.
8. Video scripts
You’ve probably noticed that video is booming, from internal company announcements to welcome videos on blogs to video sales letters. It’s a great opportunity for you former TV and radio journalists, playwrights, screenwriters, and anyone else who writes for aural media to cash in.
Break in tip: Make a video for your website that shows your writing skill, or perhaps find a nonprofit that needs to promote one of their programs, write a script, and collaborate with a videographer.
9. Web content
If you can write an online sales page that gets your clients more revenue, you will earn well. I know writers who charge $2,000 for a long sales page.
But if salesy stuff isn’t for you, no worries — there’s plenty of earning opportunity in other static Web content.
Some of the best projects out there are revamps of big websites with 35-100 informational Web pages or more. I once worked on one of these projects for well over two years, billing $2,000 a month and up, every month.
As online presence becomes ever more important for companies, and changes like mobile require rethinking, I expect to see steady demand for Web content writing and rewriting. Remember my caveat about complex information — things like writing up hotel descriptions continue to pay poorly, but if you need to explain something like insurance consulting services or environmental engineering projects, pay should be at professional rates (at least $100 a page for under 300 words of copy, $300 and more for longer pages).
Break-In Tip: Finding starter clients for your Web content writing services is like shooting fish in a barrel. Get a list of prospects together in a particular industry, and then take a look at their websites. Contact the ones that look dated or lack basic info like a strong About page, team bios, or testimonials.
10. Marketing emails
All those people who predicted email would die are looking dumb about now, because email marketing continues to be one of the top ways blogs and brands reach customers and sell products and services.
Maybe at some point they’ll project these messages straight into our brains, but for now, building an email list and sending marketing emails continues to be a key marketing strategy. As with writing online sales pages, if your writing is connected directly to sales, you are golden.
I know writers getting $250 per email and more for autoresponder sequences or marketing campaigns.
Break-In Tip: Subscribe to a bunch of email newsletters in niches that interest you. Watch for brands where news turns up only sporadically, or sales angles seem weak — then reach out and offer to help.
11. Book ghosting for CEOs
Forget the regular folks who’re hoping you’ll write their life story, or the people advertising on Craigslist that they want an e-book written for $200. There’s real money in ghostwriting for busy, successful CEOs, coaches, motivational speakers, and other thought leaders.
I auditioned in the past year for several projects in the $15,000-$35,000 range, and $50,000 is not uncommon. If anything, the drumbeat of marketers telling thought leaders they need to build their authority by putting out a book under their byline is only growing — which means the audience that might pay well for a book is, too.
Break-in tip: Write an e-book yourself, so you’ve got a sample! Then start networking and connecting with the kind of coaches/CEOs who might do a major book.
12. Online Courses / E-Learning
This niche is huge — $107 billion globally, plus another $50 billion in self-paced e-learning courses, according to an elearningIndustry.com report. And talk about a global opportunity in every language — the three fastest-growing country markets for online education are India, China, and Malaysia. Much of this work is done by agencies or freelanced directly to writers and designers.
We’re not just talking online, universities, either — most clients are major corporations with the budgets to pay handsomely. From how to fill out your time sheet on up, companies are saving money and (wo)man-hours by turning trainings into online modules.
There’s a bottom line that putting training online instead of teaching it in person saves travel expenses for companies, standardizes learning, and creates convenience for learners. Interactivity is making online ed ever more efficient and valuable. Online ed is going to keep growing, as more companies discover the benefits — estimated growth is over 9 percent annually.
The opportunity for freelance writers in this niche, as Donald Trump would say, is huuuge.
Break-In Tip: There are a few moving parts to getting into this niche — but it’s easier to get started than you might think. If you’re interested, it’s worth taking the time to find out more about writing for e-learning.
To sum up, don’t believe the negativity out there, that all freelance rates are through the floor. There are still great-paying freelance writing gigs — if you know the types of writing that are in demand, and the clients that want you.
What writing niches do you think will pay well this year? Leave a comment and add it to my list.
Do you ever wonder how the best content marketers get so much done in such little time?
Sure, they have a team of people helping out, but that’s not all.
They use tools that help them plan content, manage content, and improve the performance of their websites.
These tools save content marketers hours of time and provide valuable information that you just can’t find with a Google search.
The following are 30 of the best content marketing tools available, including the tools we use for our business and our clients.
Content Planning Tools
What it does: SEMRush tracks over 95,000,000 keywords and over 56,000,000 domains to provide a complete competitive analysis of websites in your industry. You can find out how they rank for keywords and get an estimate of their traffic.
What it costs: Starts at $69.95 per month.
What it does: A simple tool that helps you find the most shared content for any topic.
What it costs: Free with limited searches; plans start at $79 per month.
What it does: Helps you find trends based on topics, location, and other variables. You can see historical trends and trends happening in real-time.
What it costs: Free
What it does: This tool consolidates trending news from across the internet to provide inspiration for content topics.
What it costs: Free
What it does: BuzzSumo lets you find what content performs best for any topic or competitor website.
What it costs: Free with limited data; plans start at $99 per month
What it does: Type in your topic, hit enter, and then this tool spits out hundreds of share-worthy blog titles for you to choose from.
What it costs: Free
What it does: This tool is slightly different than the previous one. It randomly shows you a blog title idea where you can fill in your topic. You keep clicking to see more ideas, until you find the one that grabs your attention.
What it costs: Free
Content Management Tools
What it does: HubSpot is the best end-to-end Inbound Marketing platform that allows you to manage your blog, social media, email marketing, list segmentation, lead generation and scoring, landing pages, and more.
What it costs: 30-day free trial; plans start at $200 per month
What it does: DivvyHQ is an entire platform that helps you plan, schedule, and publish content, as well as manage the entire workflow.
What it costs: 14-day free trial; plans start at $1,000 per month
What it does: Kapost is a content management framework that allows you to create content, distribute it on social media, and view analytics.
What it costs: Plans start at $1,000 per month
What it does: This is a helpful checklist to make sure you’ve done everything you can to create the best piece of content.
What it costs: Free
What it does: Allows you to easily manage your blog posts with a drag-and-drop interface and schedule publishing.
What it costs: Free
What it does: Trello is a visual-based organization tool that allows you to manage separate projects or “boards” at once.
What it costs: Free
15. Google Drive
What it does: Google drive is a cloud storage software that allows you to create and collaborate on word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, and drawings.
What it costs: Free
What it does: Evernote is like Trello and Google Drive combined.
What it costs: Free with limited features; plans start at $24.99 per year
Tools to Improve Your Content Marketing
What it does: Provides insights about websites to help you identify influencers for outreach and PR.
What it costs: 14-day free trial; plans start at $79 per month
What it does: Research influencers, manage your relationships, and conduct outreach that’s personalized and efficient.
What it costs: 14-day free trial; plans start at $29 per month
What it does: Allows you to schedule social media posts, track keywords, manage multiple accounts, and more.
What it costs: 7-day free trial; plans start at $6.97 every two weeks
What it does: A service that lists your blog posts under “relevant articles” or “promoted stories” on major websites such as CNN, TechCrunch, and ESPN.
What it costs: Minimum daily budget of $10
What it does: It’s a more advanced version of Aweber or MailChimp for email marketing.
What it costs: 30-day free trial; plans start at $12.75 per month
Measuring Progress and Tracking Metrics
21. Google Analytics
What it does: Measures your web traffic and provides insights into traffic sources, demographics, user behavior, and more.
What it costs: Free with premium options for big websites
What it does: Provides SEO audits, tracks rankings, keyword research, content optimization, and more.
What it costs: Licenses start at $199
What it does: Moz is a comprehensive tool that provides analytics, competitor research, and tracking for a variety of metrics.
What it costs: 30-day free trial; plans start at $99 per month
24. Share Tally
What it does: You type in a URL and this tool shows you where it’s been shared and how many times.
What it costs: Free
What it does: A Chrome extension that compiles link data and organic search visibility from several popular marketing tools.
What it costs: Free on Google Chrome
Tools to Increase Conversions
What it does: Allows you to easily build landing pages to drive sales of your product or service.
What it costs: Packages start at $97
What it does: Run split tests, track user behavior, and optimize pages with minimal technical knowledge.
What it costs: 30-day free trial; plans start at $49 per month
What it does: A simple tool for running A/B tests and tracking user behavior without using code.
What it costs: Free with limited features; plans start at $17 per month
29. Crazy Egg
What it does: Creates heat maps of your website that let you visually analyze user behavior.
What it costs: 30-day free trial; plans start at $9 per month
What it does: A free tool from HubSpot that lets you track user behaviors, convert visitors into email subscribers or leads, and provides detailed contact information.
What it costs: Free