Wednesday, April 30, 2008

When You Don't Know What to Charge

Every so often, especially in your first year, you'll get someone asking for a quote on a type of project you've never handled before. If you've never written a video script or a landing page before, it might be difficult to figure out how to quote one--but there are still some concrete steps you can follow to get to the right price.

Know what you're writing. What is a case study or a white paper supposed to look like? Your first step should be to do some research on the type of project you'll be doing. The Internet can help you out here; I've found some great resources on how to write good press releases, white papers, and other projects that were new to me at the time. There are also plenty of offline resources that will help; I recommend Bob Bly's The Copywriter's Handbook.

Just to get you started on your research, here are some sites on various kinds of writing that have helped me in the past:

Press releases
Case studies
White papers
Email marketing
Radio commercials

Break it down. Okay, maybe you've never written a case study before. But now that you've done your research, you have a general idea of the steps you need to take. Break the project down into a series of tasks. You'll find that even though you've never handled a project of this type before, you've probably done a lot of things on the task list plenty of times--things like research, outlining, and interviewing. You should probably have a good idea of how long each task will take. Estimate the timeline, add on a few days or weeks (depending on the size of the project) to account for your learning curve, and base your price quote on that.

Estimate based on similar projects. So maybe you've never done an e-book before--but you've easily written over a hundred content articles for a certain client; enough to fill an e-book. How long would it take you to write those hundred? If you can, base your estimate on a similar project you've done.

Consider technicalities, length, and people involved. Certain things make projects more time consuming and worth more money. Remember that the technical level of the copy will add to the time and difficulty involved in the project. Whether the project is commercial or educational can also make a difference; I find commercial copy is a bit more involved and requires more back-and-forth with the client. Some writers might find informational copy more difficult because of the research involved. Interviews will always add time and effort to anything you're writing; the price should go up depending on the number of interviews involved. Length can also affect the price you'll want to charge, although I usually consider other factors first.

There are many different types of writing projects. But in the end, it's all writing. If you can handle the tone they're looking for, chances are you can handle the format--whether it's a brochure, website, sales letter, or white paper. Do your research, and you should be able to come up with a spot-on estimate even if it's your first time with this type of project.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Peter Bowerman's Blogging!

I know, I know...I'm off schedule, but I just had to let you all know that I just found out PETER BOWERMAN IS BLOGGING! Peter Bowerman is the author of The Well Fed Writer, one of the best books out there for beginning freelance writers. I got started with his book and most of the other freelancers I know did as well. If you don't already have it, you won't be sorry you bought it.

I totally just left a comment on one of his posts. I feel giddy. Ohmygosh! I just "talked" to Peter Bowerman! (Note to self: stay cool.) This is equally as awesome as the time I left a comment on Bob Bly's blog.

Okay, since it's not Monday, Wednesday or Friday, I'm going to go back to...well, whatever it is I do on Tuesdays and Thursdays. See you all tomorrow--and in the meantime, check out Peter's blog!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Should You Offer a Guarantee?

For a while now, I've been going back and forth on the idea of giving a guarantee for my work. Most writers whose sites I've seen either don't offer one, or offer one privately in certain circumstances but don't advertise it.

A guarantee gives new buyers a level of reassurance and security; it removes a barrier that might prevent them from hiring you. If they've never worked with you before, they may not want to take a chance on hiring you if they aren't a hundred percent sure they'll like what you do for them; and no matter how many samples you put up on your site, they won't be 100% sure until they've seen the first draft. Theoretically, a guarantee could bring in more business from new clients.

However, there are definitely drawbacks to the guarantee idea. If a project doesn't pan out, you might have to return some or all of your fee--for work you spent a lot of time on. It's enough to scare many writers and other creative professionals away from offering any sort of guarantee at all.

But think about how many times you've had someone come back to you and tell you they hate the first draft so much they want to go somewhere else. How many has it been, in all your years of business? For me, it's been once. That's one time in two years, hundreds of separate clients, and over a thousand projects.

If you're going to do a guarantee, here are a few different ways you can do it--and their pros and cons.

The "If-You-Don't-Like-It-You-Get-Your-Money-Back" Guarantee. This guarantee offers any number of variations on a certain theme: if the customer doesn't like what you write, he doesn't have to pay. There are two obvious drawbacks to this: you might get a lot of returns from clients who would rather take their work somewhere else than work through the revision process with you; or you might get someone try to scam you by claiming not to like the work, not paying, and then using it anyway.

If you're going to use this guarantee, you should probably take some steps to protect yourself in the fine print. Say the guarantee only goes into effect after two rounds of revision have been completed. Add a clause that says if the client takes advantage of the guarantee, all copyrights revert back to the writer.

The "If-You-Don't-LIke-It-I'll-Revise-It-Endlessly" Guarantee. This is a variation on the above, where you actually offer to rewrite the copy over and over to a client's specifications if they're not satisfied. With this one you don't lose money, but you do lose time--you could technically be caught in a never-ending revision spiral. These are a bit tricky--if I used them, I'd set the "endless revisions" period to only last a certain time frame, and be very clear that the guarantee does not cover changes in scope.

The "Results" Guarantee. Offering a guarantee based on results is tricky. You could offer a guarantee that your client's site increases its rankings in search engines; or that sales go up with your sales letter. If you want to specialize in sales-heavy work like landing pages or sales letters, offering a guarantee that your words will sell can be a very powerful USP. But you'd have to be extremely confident in order to pull this off.

Some things simply can't be guaranteed. Most legitimate SEO experts don't guarantee their work, simply because it's impossible to say with complete surety that your work can get a client's site to the top of the SERP's. With advertising, you can't really guarantee a certain response. I would love to be able to offer a guarantee like this, but only after years of observing the results my clients have had with the work--and even then, I'd probably find that a certain percentage don't go up as expected. This could be due to many different factors besides the writing.

The Partial Guarantee. The way I work right now, the client gets a certain percentage of the fee back if he wants to pull out early--no matter the reason. I have an "exit strategy" worked into my contract that states I'm entitled to a certain percentage of the original fee if the client pulls out at certain stages--say, before I''ve started writing but after I've done some research; or after I've done a first draft but before I've completed revisions.

This is part of my standard client contract, but I don't advertise it--in my marketing I'd rather put the emphasis on how much someone is going to LOVE the writing, not what will happen if they don't. I'm not sure if advertising it would do me any good, either--it might just remind potential client that if they don't like the work, the guarantee isn't 100%. Still, it's a guarantee that's fair to both parties--client and writer. You know what they say about a good compromise.

I think if I were to advertise a guarantee, I'd go with the first option listed here. I'd also list some qualifying factors in the contract. I also think I'd probably not have to honor that guarantee very often; most clients I've worked with have been very happy with the work. It's definitely something to think about.

Any writers or other freelancers out there: do you offer a guarantee? What's your experience been with it?

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Ethics of Setting Your Prices

Over at Men With Pens the other day, I saw a post that took an interesting take on the issue of what to charge. It got me thinking.

We all struggle with what to charge. And naturally, we all want to make as much money as possible. Most "what to charge" advice, including from the writers-who-started-it-all Bob Bly and Peter Bowerman, is geared toward how to charge more. No thought is given to whether or not it's right or wrong. The prices you charge are a business decision, and a wider morality shouldn't factor too heavily into your pricing. You're running a business, after all--not a charity.

In the writing community, there's definitely an attitude that it's actually "wrong" from a moral standpoint to charge less. There's a good reason for this: so many, many people charge next to nothing for their work that it undermines the community as a whole. The theory goes that when you do an entire website rewrite for $20, it makes it more difficult for me to charge $2,000 for the same service. Of course, you do get what you pay for--and a $20 website will be much different than a $2,000 website. But some clients see only the number of zeroes after the 2--and that brings the writing economy as a whole down. It's a tough world out there, the logic goes--and writers have to maintain solidarity by not giving the work away.

I absolutely believe we should all charge what we're worth. But is there an ethical side to setting prices? The way I set my prices is a personal decision mainly guided by what I need to earn. I don't think I'm the most expensive guy on the block, but I'm not the cheapest, either--and I don't generally worry about what others charge when I set my prices. I choose prices that work for me. However, there are some situations where I will think about what the person I'm working with needs to pay. Here they are:

When it's a nonprofit. There are some causes I believe in very strongly, and I'll work with those nonprofits for a reduced price. In some cases I'm willing to give small projects away for free. I can't afford to do this with larger projects, simply because of the time involved--but I do offer a reduced rate for them.

When it's family or friends. Okay, I admit it--my friends and family get my services for free. I've written my dad's business brochure, my boyfriend's resume (and the resumes of many of his and my friends), my brother's website bio, and provided proofreading and editing for countless other projects free of charge, mainly because it's my little brother or main squeeze or best-friend-since-birth asking. Maybe some would say I should charge, but I like being able to do this for them for free.

When it's a small company with a small budget. Okay, this one's a little different. I don't reduce my prices for every budget-conscious small business that comes along. But if I make a quote and the prospect tells me it's too high, I'll work with them. I'll suggest ways they can save money with me--by writing the copy themselves and having me rewrite it; by providing me with an outline and all research materials; or by cutting back on length or other specifications.

Naturally, you need to set prices that work for your business--and you want to make as much as possible. But there are ways to work in your ethics, too--and work with small, budget-conscious clients without giving away the farm. If you can do it successfully, hopefully they'll come back with more once they've grown.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Things I Do For My Clients...That I Don't Tell Them About

I just discovered RogueInk--this blog is absolutely hilarious, and I love the writing style. Perusing the archives, I found this little gem that mentions the crazy things we writers do for our clients--that we generally never tell them about.

This practically made me fall off my chair. I do all kinds of weird things that maybe I should brag about--and maybe I should really never tell anyone. Good judgement aside, here's my confession: five things I do for my clients that I never (except in this post) admit to.

I literally sit down to write at nine A.M., and don't get up until 4 P.M. I am not a workaholic. I am very careful about setting my deadlines so that I have plenty of time to get everything done. Even so, I get really, really involved in what I'm doing--sometimes I forget to eat all day, then look at the clock and realize it's time for dinner. Am I hungry? No. I'm too busy to be hungry. I generally don't include this little fact in my marketing material, because, makes me sound psycho.

I am paranoid about mistakes. I am a total grammar Nazi. Misplaced apostrophes and typos send me into red-faced, muttering rants. I live in terror that the ONE time I forget to spell check, I have a big, fat, glaring error right in the headline of the first draft I'm sending over to a brand-new, high-paying client. So I check everything over five, six, eight times before I send it.

If the job takes longer or is harder than I estimated, I won't bill you or ask for an extension. I am absolutely steadfast about the prices I quote. My view is that if I didn't understand the project at the outset, that's my problem. I will deliver at that price. And I'll meet that deadline too, even if I have to stay up all night for three days straight.

This actually did happen to me once. I made a bid on Elance for a job that sounded like it was nine pages long. The client was actually asking for THREE documents nine pages long. I quoted on the first scenario, then realized I hadn't read closely enough. My bad...I did it anyway, in the four days I'd promised.

I get really nervous every time I send a first draft to someone new. I want them to like it. I really, really want them to like it. In 99.9% of cases, they do. But every time I send something out to a new client, I check my email incessantly every five minutes afterward to see if they responded back. I can't think about anything else until I know that they don't hate the first draft.

I will research for hours to make sure I'm not giving bad info. I have seriously spent Herculean amounts of time on the web looking around for obscure information about fire sprinkler installation, luxury mattresses, and the life cycles of freshwater oysters to ensure what I'm writing about is true. Even for a dinky little keyword article.

And in general, I never tell my clients about any of it. (But just now--I did.)

Okay, so spill it: what do you do for your clients that they never hear about?

Monday, April 21, 2008

"What I Want to Be..."

Over at Biz Chicks Rule, Lori Widmer from Words on the Page has been chosen as a finalist in their "Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day" contest. Her entry is well-written, engaging, funny, and thoroughly deserving of your vote in the form of a comment made on the Biz Chicks Rule site. The entry with the most comments wins, so head on over and make your voice heard. Great work, Lori!

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Young-Edgy-Cool Conundrum

When I was first starting out, I worked for a client who wanted me to write something edgy for them. Something dramatic and cool and hip and so edgy you could shave with it. I did what they asked. They hated it. I shouldn't have been surprised.

The thing is, Edgy is rebellious. Edgy doesn't care who it offends or who doesn't think the product is the right match. Edgy is what it is, and screw the world.

Which is why so many businesses that say they want "edgy" copy actually don't. Most tones targeting certain demographics don't actually offend non-target markets; they just don't draw them in. When you're working with Edgy, you have a very real risk of ticking off people who aren't in your target market. You might think "So what? They're not my target market, so who cares?" A lot of business owners do, actually. They might not be trying to actively target non-edgy consumers, but they don't want to take the heat for offending people, either.

In addition, many of those business owners themselves aren't in that target market--and they don't respond to that edgy copy. What they consider "edgy" might be only slightly more boisterous than usual; actual edgy copy might scare the dickens out of them. As a copywriter, it's a tough call how to handle requests for Edgy. Here's what I do:

Always ask to see an example. Tone is subjective no matter what the client is looking for. When you start asking about tone, you're often going to get vague and difficult adjectives like "sensual" and "hip." Much of the time, when you ask the client to show you an example of writing that has the tone they're looking for, it's very different than what you imagined initially. (For example: I was writing for a client who had a pin-up model website and described the tone she was looking for as "sensual." When I asked her to show me an example, what she actually wanted was something crisp and professional.) With Edgy, it's especially important to ask the client to show you an example of what they're looking for.

Write it up edgy, then tone it down. I often write up the copy as edgy as possible, then go through and tone down the language a notch or two before sending it to the client. In general, it's better to err on the side of less edgy on the first round; something that's less edgy than they're looking for won't cause them to panic and run for the hills, whereas something that's more edgy might. If they want to sharpen the edge, you can always send them your secret first draft.

Consider their market. Some businesses want you to write hip, edgy copy for markets that aren't necessarily geared toward that, just to stand out. If the audience isn't really one that lends itself to edginess--it's not young; it's business-oriented; or it's family-oriented, for example--chances are the client's idea of "edgy" is going to be pretty tame. Consider the client's target market when judging how edgy you think they'll actually want to go.

Edginess is a subjective factor. One person's idea of hip and cool can be another's idea of annoying and offensive. To get the tone exactly right, it's important to be able to read between the lines--and ask for very obvious examples. If you do this, chances are you'll hit the right tone the first time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Forget Paying Your Dues: Why You Shouldn't Wait to Live Your Dream

Before I quit my job to start freelancing full-time, I visited a city organization that pairs aspiring businesspeople with retired, experienced business owners who can give them advice on getting started. The guy I was paired with used to own a retail store. I told him all about what I wanted to do--I was excited about it--and he responded with skepticism. "What's your hurry?" he said. (I was 24 at the time and probably looked about sixteen, so I can see why he said this.) He told me I should get a job with an ad agency, work there for five or ten years, build up some experience, and then start out on my own.

I couldn't tell him why I was in such a hurry--and why the last thing I wanted to do was follow his advice. From a practical standpoint, it made sense. But I knew what I wanted right then, and five or ten years of "dues-paying" at an ad agency sounded to me like five or ten centuries of purgatory. It felt right to be in a hurry, and I didn't think paying my dues was useful. So far, my gamble has paid off and my business has been going well--and I've had some time to think about why I thought paying my dues was a bad idea. Here are a few reasons why I encourage aspiring writers to jump in--especially if you're starting in your twenties, like I did.

Because if you really want it all, you'd better start early. How many times have I heard that today's young women just can't "have it all"? (Nobody talks about whether or not men can "have it all." But that's another blog post.) One of the biggest stereotyped qualities of Generation Y is that we work to live, and we care about family time. We really do want it all--a fun, fulfilling job, plenty of leisure time to enjoy ourselves, spend time with our families and enrich our lives, and enough money to not have to worry too much about money (we don't all have to be Donald Trump, though). The thing is, it takes time to find that great career with that great flexibility built in. And if you want kids too, you're racing your biological clock the whole way. It's easier to make career gains while you're child-free. Since we don't want to wait til retirement to enjoy ourselves and we can't wait too long to have kids, we can't afford to put in a decade of dues-paying that may or may not pay off.

Because if you're young, it'll be easier now than later. Taking a chance on your career is so much easier before you have a mortgage and a family depending on you--and that's more likely when you're young. Of course, many people of my generation are stuck with enormous college loans, which makes taking risks more difficult. But even so, it might be easier when you're young than when you're older, with more responsibilities.

Because it's possible to fake experience--as long as you have the skills. Writers need samples. That's it. Period. You don't need a long list of previous employers. In two years, I've never gotten asked for a resume and I've only rarely been asked who else I've written for. If you have decent samples that show off your skills, you're going to be fine. If you have ad agency experience, by all means you should highlight that in your marketing materials--but you don't need it.

It took me a while to really have confidence in this. I thought that because I was young and didn't have dozens of years of experience starting out, I couldn't possibly know enough about life in general to do this. But I knew I could write--and I'd seen samples from professional writers who had dozens of years of agency experience. I absolutely knew I was a better writer than some of them already. Believe me--if you can write, you're set. Everything else is just extras.

If I had listened to that well-meaning retiree, I wouldn't be where I am right now. I'd still have a few years to go before I'd paid enough dues to start my real career. Maybe paying your dues is a sensible choice in some professions--but in my case, it would have left me hopelessly behind on the life I wanted. If you've been thinking about starting a career in writing, maybe you're more ready than you think.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Meeting a Long-Time Client for the First Time

I have a client who's located in the U.K. This is one of the first clients I landed after I quit my job to freelance full-time, and since our first (tiny) project together he's sent me monthly work on a regular basis. We've emailed back and forth several times a month for over a year now. Just this week, he mentioned in passing that he was in New York--not too far from me--and we managed to meet for lunch.

We had a great time--a two-hour lunch turned into a five-hour conversation about work, hobbies, and life in general. I now don't just have a client; I have a new friend.

Especially if you're a web content writer, it can be an isolating business--99% of the time, you don't meet your clients in person. When one comes to town, it's a great opportunity to get to know each other better. It can also be nerve-wracking; I definitely wanted to make a good impression, but I didn't want to come off as trying too hard. Here are a few things I learned from the experience--that I'm passing on to you.

Ask before booking the restaurant. I checked with my client to see what his preferences were, and that narrowed down my search for the perfect restaurant considerably. A lot of people will just shrug and say "oh, I'll eat whatever;" in which case it's generally a good idea to choose a fusion-y place with a lot of options, if you can find it. It's generally a good idea to choose a place that has at least a few healthy options, unless the client tells you he's craving burgers or something.

Consider the client's industry when choosing a wardrobe. I wore a blazer, a nice sweater, and a pair of classy-looking jeans and heels. I didn't wear makeup; not that I don't think you should, but for me makeup is an all-or-nothing thing and I didn't want to overdo it. I considered wearing a suit, but the venue was fairly casual and it was in the middle of the day, and I knew this guy wouldn't be too dressed up (SEO's tend to be a pretty casual lot). Consider the client's industry before you decide what to wear; a financial services client might be a little more formal.

Be considerate. One thing that factored into my choice of a restaurant was proximity to his hotel. I figured I'd choose something convenient and easy for him to find on his own, without spending money on a cab to get there. The client noticed and appreciated that the place was so close and easy to find.

Be prepared to offer suggestions for what to do next. You may or may not have time to run around town with your clients, showing the sights. But if he's visiting from another city, chances are he'll want some suggestions for fun, off-the-beaten-track touristy things to do. I gave my client several suggestions for fun things to do in Philly while he was there, but I probably could have given more interesting and unusual ones if I'd done a little research beforehand.

Who pays? I paid. I thought it would be a nice gesture, and I think it made a good impression. I'm not sure what the formal rules are for client lunches, but my instinct said that I should pick up the tab.

Getting to know this client was fun and worthwhile--and I encourage any of my clients who happen to be in Philadelphia to drop me a line. With a little preparation, a client lunch can be a fun and stress-free way to spend the afternoon.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dealing With Problem Clients: Maybe the Problem is You

I remember when I was first starting out, I had a terrible time with a client who had never worked with a freelancer before. My first drafts never hit the right tone; he was always trying to get me to do more than the contract specified; and we just seemed to lock horns a lot. At the time, I considered him to be a "problem" client.

I just finished a project with another client in a similar industry who also had never hired freelancers before. This client was a little more work than a more experienced client would be, but still the project went relatively smoothly. Thinking about it, however, I realized that the project went better in part because I had more experience dealing with this type of client--and I was able to head off some of the typical problems before they happened.

When you're just starting out, taking on a demanding or inexperienced client can be asking for trouble. Here are some of the ways you might be making the problem clients worse.

You're not clear enough. I definitely had this problem when I first started: I wasn't absolutely clear on what could and could not be done, and this led to misunderstandings. Some of the things I've learned to spell out clearly include the fact that deadlines depend on client response; the more forthcoming they are on interviews the better my copy will be; and vague adjectives like "edgy" or "approachable" need to be more clearly defined.

You don't stand your ground. Your business policies are the way they are for a reason; so are your prices. Sometimes clients put pressure on us to change business policies or prices, but for the most part that's a bad idea. WIth some--especially clients without large budgets or without prior experience working with freelancers--it's important to stay firm. If you do, and if they know what you can and can't accommodate, they can be easier to work with.

You don't realize you need to educate your clients. Some clients don't know that a 50% deposit is the norm or that you need considerable feedback and information from them in order to deliver an effective product. Others see your quote for a single-page press release, and think a single-page sales letter should cost the same. Some don't have expectations that are in line with reality--usually because they haven't worked with freelancers before. You can let it make you crazy, or you could explain as clearly as you can. Some writers refuse to justify their prices or practices, but I've found many seemingly "problem" clients can be reasonable once they understand why you have certain policies or practices.

You're a prima donna. Maybe you have strong feelings about the copy--but in this business, you can't treat it like your Magnum Opus. Everything you write belongs to the client, and if they want changes, ultimately you need to go along. It's important to learn when to take a stand on the writing and when to give in.

You're not asking the right questions. As writers, it's our job to communicate clearly. Many of us complain that we got the first draft wrong because the client's directions weren't clear--but we're the ones who should make sure they are before we start. Your client questionnaire is a crucial tool in gathering the information you need to write a powerful piece of copy. If you're getting a lot of responses from clients dissatisfied with your first draft, you might want to take a second look at the questions you're asking.

You're not picking the right clients. You don't have to say "yes" to every project. Knowing which projects to take on and which to avoid is an instinct that takes some experience to hone. You may be experiencing a lot of headaches from problem clients because you haven't yet learned the signs of a problem project, or you don't realize it's OK to say no occasionally.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Where is Jennifer?

I suppose you're wondering where I've been lately--I know I've been a bit erratic with my blog posts. The truth is I've taken on a part-time on-site gig for a few months, plus handling my regular scheduled client load--so I'm working approximately a job and a half right now. For the time being my posting here will be a bit more few and far between than usual--but I promise to write as much as I can. Thanks in advance for bearing with me.

Be back soon!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

SEO: Mostly Writing?

I read over on Inklit the other day that the difference between an SEO and a writer is about $40 an hour. This quote made me smile, because the more I look into SEO, the more it looks to me like writing plays a crucial role. When I first started investigating SEO to promote my business, I thought it was an arcane, technical art I probably had little hope of understanding. But on further investigation, it seems like much of SEO is well within my skill set.

Am I ready to call myself an SEO yet? Not quite. But I am ready to start promoting myself as an SEO-knowledgeable writer; which I think will help me develop a USP. Could any of you writers out there be more SEO than you realize? Here are a few SEO-crucial skills that rely on writing, not mysterious technical wizardry.

Keyword-rich copy. Integrating keywords into your copy can help you position your pages to rank well with the search engines. Of course, many business owners get it wrong by simply spitting out keyword-stuffed copy that doesn't appeal to prospects. A strong writer can integrate keywords seamlessly into copy that persuades prospects to buy. But either way you go, it's writing.

Anchor text. Anchor text is the text you use to link to a site. Google counts the amount of times a certain keyword is used on other sites to link to yours, and this can affect your rankings for that keyword. But it's not as simple as throwing up a bunch of articles with anchor text that uses "freelance writer" to link to you. If you rank artificially high for a single phrase, it could count against you--so it's often smart to vary the phrases you use as links so they look as natural as possible. Finding the right anchor text is a writerly skill.

Linkbait. Linkbait is anything on your site that encourages others to link to you. It could be video, audio, or even online games--but often it takes the form of good old fashioned excellent content. Good writing is a large part of building excellent linkbait.

Article marketing. Article marketing can get the word out about your business, bring you links from high-PR sites, and generate traffic. And, um...they're articles. So they're writing. I've seen plenty of businesspeople throw crappy articles up on article marketing sites, but if you write them well, they can do much more for you. In fact, just recently I landed a large project because the business owner found one of my EzineArticles and asked if he could use it in one of his presentations.

Blogging. Blogs provide your website with fresh content that helps keep it high in the SERP's. A good blog also helps prospects get to know you and establishes you as an expert. Good writing is crucial to any blog. Many people tout frequency of posts as more important than content, but in my personal experience good writing is key. I spend an hour or more on each post, post three times a week, and get healthy traffic from this blog--it's also won industry awards and helped me connect with crucial networks. I can't stress enough how important good writing is to any blogging effort.

Title and meta tags. Title and meta tags are the most technical I get. These are found in your site's HTML code, and they determine what appears as the title to your site in search engines. They're also more important to keyword placement than keywords in your copy. Writing good title and meta tags that include crucial keywords and encourage users to click is an art form that writers are well-placed to master, once they learn the right format.

If you think SEO is something you can't master, think again. There may be more to SEO than writing--but writing is a crucial part of the process. If you're not calling yourself an SEO writer, maybe you should.