5 Signs You’ve Hired a Bad Writing Company

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More and more small business owners are outsourcing their content writing needs to the pros—which is smart and sensible, but also potentially dangerous. There are multiple writing companies out there but not all are created equal. It’s important to know some of the signs of a less-than-reputable writing company so that you can avoid getting burned.

To some extent, of course, these things will be obvious: A company with a real office and a full staff of salaried writers—like Grammar Chic!—is going to come with a bit more prestige, professionalism, and reliability than a lone guy who operates a freelance company out of his mom’s basement. (With no offense intended to anyone who writes in his mom’s basement.)

Beyond that, consider some of the telltale signs that the writing company you have hired is less than legitimate.

#1. There’s no consultation.

Our basic philosophy at Grammar Chic: We probably know more about writing than you do, and you probably know more about your business than we do. To facilitate a strong working relationship, we need to spend some time talking with you, learning your story and your values so that we can put them into words and make your content shine.

A writing company that thinks this step is somehow unnecessary, or that the entire process can be done over a couple of bare-bones e-mails, is frankly delusional. Great, value-adding written content takes some perspective and some depth, and a consultation is non-negotiable.

#2. There is a one-size-fits-all mentality.

All businesses are different and have different needs with their written content. Your content should reflect your goals. If the writing company tries to put you into a box—a standard-issue word count, structure, or aesthetic approach—without hearing what you’re looking to accomplish, well, that’s trouble. You’re just not going to get a very effective piece of writing from a company like that.

#3. Revisions are not included in your balance.

Even great writers may need a second or third attempt to get the content exactly the way the client wants it. A writing company that makes you pay for revisions is cheating you, plain and simple.

#4. You’re not offered a proposal.

It’s amazing how many writers seem averse to writing out their proposal—but as with any professional service, your writers should offer you a full, written account of the work they propose to do: Basic word count ranges, turnaround dates, revision policies, consultation policies, and, of course, charges and fees.

#5. You’ve never actually seen their writing.

What’s the one thing that all professional writers do? They write—but how are you supposed to know your writing company can deliver the goods unless you’ve seen some of their written work? Reputable writing companies should have their own blogs and they should also be willing to furnish you with some written samples, upon request.

Learn more about what a reputable writing company looks like by calling the Grammar Chic team today at 803-831-7444; or, by visiting us online at www.grammarchic.net.

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How to Blog Consistently—Even While Running a Business

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The biggest impediment to regular content creation isn’t a lack of ideas or even a dearth of writing talent. It’s not a lack of understanding about how content marketing works or why it is beneficial. For many small business owners, it boils down to one simple thing: A lack of time.

You may not have a single spare moment in your day that you could devote to writing. What’s maddening about it is that you know there are people who do it. You know business owners who not only run successful companies, but also have robust writing habits. They pen their own company blogs with great regularity, and you just can’t understand how.

We don’t claim to have a magic bullet or a slam dunk strategy, but we do have a few tweaks you can make to your day to generate a bit more time for a writing life of your own.

  • Be ruthless with your time. What are the parts of your day that simply do not add value to your business or to your life? Where are the areas where you are least effective? You can probably figure it out by spending a week or so carrying a logbook and tracking how you spend each hour and each minute. You may be surprised by how much time is wasted answering e-mails or attending needless meetings. Cut the filler and use that time to focus on content creation.
  • If you don’t want to outsource your content writing, then outsource something else. All businesses have simple, repeatable tasks that can be done by others—bookkeeping, payroll, what have you. Delegate, automate, and free yourself to write if that’s what you’re most passionate about.
  • Schedule it. This will seem obvious to some and revolutionary to others: If you seriously want to write company blog posts, you need to put it on your schedule, rather than just hope for a few free minutes to open themselves up to you.
  • Block out some time. Rather than scheduling 15 minutes of blogging time on Monday morning and then another half hour on Wednesday afternoon, schedule all your blogging time in one big chunk—say, two or three hours on Friday afternoon. See how much work you can get done in a big stretch of dedicated writing time.
  • Seek inspiration. Your writing life may not get far if you sit down during your scheduled blogging time just to stare at a blank page. Try to keep track of inspiration throughout your week—simply jotting down ideas, bookmarking compelling articles you read, and keeping track of customer questions. This may take an extra minute or two out of your week, but it can make your blogging time much more productive!

For more blogging strategies and insights, don’t hesitate to contact the Grammar Chic team: You can reach us at 803-831-7444 or www.grammarchic.net.

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When is it Time to Hire a Content Team?

Hand Drawing Content Flow Chart

The launch of your small business might go hand-in-hand with the development of a business Facebook page, or perhaps a corporate Twitter account. Some entrepreneurs really start their new business right by implementing a blog and a full-fledged content strategy. As your business grows, however, so do the demands on your content marketing—and on your time. As such, many business owners eventually reach a point where they realize they cannot go the DIY content marketing route any longer; they need to outsource it to a content marketing professional.

But when do you know that you’ve reached that point? What are some of the telltale signs that it’s time to call someone like Grammar Chic?

Here are some dead giveaways:

You simply don’t have time for content marketing any more.

Remember that content marketing isn’t a one-time thing but the cultivation of ongoing relationships with your clients—and as with any relationships, your content marketing relationships require time. It’s imperative that you have new content posted daily, and that you plan well in advance with an editorial calendar. If you don’t have the time to invest in content development any longer, it may be time to call in the A-Team.

But it’s not just content development that can eat into your time. Actually posting content takes time, even if you’re automating it with something like Hootsuite. And nurturing relationships, interacting with followers and fans through social media, can be a full-time job in itself. If these responsibilities are distracting you from things like sales and business development—or, more likely, they’re simply falling through the cracks—then you may need to outsource.

You’re running out of ideas.

You know your business better than anyone else, and you’re certainly an expert in your niche—but we’re experts in obtaining blog topics for any company and in any field. When inspiration is hard to come by and you feel like you’re just repeating yourself, call in the professionals.

You’re losing sight of results.

Early in your business, when you just have 50 Facebook followers or so, it’s easy enough to tell when you’re growing your fan base and generating some social interactions. The deeper into content marketing you go, however, the harder it can be to track ROI. That’s when you call a team like Grammar Chic.

You’re losing sight of content marketing’s many changes.

Content marketing changes daily—and if you’re not able to keep up with reputable content marketing blogs, then you simply can’t stay abreast of significant trends.

You realize you’re not the world’s greatest writer.

We don’t want to sound harsh about it, but: A lot of entrepreneurs will happily admit that writing is not their primary gift. When you reach a point where you feel like you need a full-time, fully-committed writer on your account, that’s when to call Grammar Chic.

And you can reach us at 803-831-7444, or via www.grammarchic.net.

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Streamline Your Homepage (And Increase Customer Engagement)

icon_home_largeYour company homepage creates the first impression most customers and clients will have of your business—so of course you want to nail it. You want to convey the value and distinction that your business can offer, and you want to do it in a way that people will actually read.

Yet, we still see many business homepages that are vague or lacking in real value proposition. We see others that are long, rambling, and unfocused—the kinds of homepages that nobody is actually going to read.

Maybe your business homepage falls into one of these categories, and you know it. There’s no time like now to revise, rewrite, and get it right. Or maybe your company homepage is pretty good. Even so, it never hurts to go back over it and give it some polish.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or just trying to improve what you’ve already got, here are our recommendations for mastering your company homepage—making it efficient, effective, and engaging.

  1. Keep it short. When writing homepages for our clients, we generally try to keep things to 300 words or less—sometimes much less! You can get into the specifics of your business on the About Page; frankly, nobody has time or interest in reading an epically longwinded homepage.
  2. Remember your buyer personas. Who are you writing to? What are they looking for from your business? What needs, problems, or benefits should you make clear on your homepage?
  3. Keep it value-focused. What’s in it for your customers? What benefit will they receive from learning more about your business? If you want people to keep reading, that’s what your homepage should convey.
  4. Use short sentences and short paragraphs. For mobile users in particular, this is a must!
  5. Include a call to action. Invite users to explore other parts of the website, but also welcome them to contact you right away with their questions or inquiries. The call-to-action is the most important component of any piece of Web content!

The user experience begins with the homepage, so it’s worth spending some time to get this right! Of course, you can always ask our writers to give you a hand. Contact Grammar Chic at 803-831-7444, or www.grammarchic.net.

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What to Do After You Post the Perfect Blog

Perfect-blog-postYou spent the last couple of weeks mulling over a great idea for a sweet new company blog post. This morning, you finally carved out a couple of hours to write it, review it, revise it, and ultimately post it. The blog is now live for all the world to see, and you couldn’t be prouder.

So now is when the real fun begins.

Blogging is significant, and a great way to establish value and thought leadership on behalf of your brand. Writing isn’t the end of the process, though, nor even is posting. Content marketing is all about engaging, building relationships, connecting with users—so how are you going to use that top-notch blog post to connect with your customers and clients?

Here are a few things you should do once the post goes live.

  1. Share it. Your first stop should be to Facebook, where you make the post public. Write a quick summary for it—maybe a line or two of teaser text, conveying value or asking a pointed question. Hashtag And make sure your blog post includes a compelling image that will appear in Facebook newsfeeds. Once the post is up on Facebook, share it on any other social networking sites you use. Don’t forget about Pinterest and even Instagram, assuming you have a compelling image to use.
  2. Schedule it. You don’t have to share your post once and then be done with it, though neither do you want to beat a dead horse. Go to Hootsuite or the social scheduling app of your choice and set the post up to be shared again in a couple of days; maybe share it two or three times in the first week, then periodically revisit it afterward.
  3. Email it. You may not want to do this immediately, but make a note to include a link to this and any other really good blog posts in your next company e-mail blast.
  4. Put it up on LinkedIn Pulse. Trust us on this one!
  5. Ask for feedback. Send your post to a couple of personal friends or family members and ask for their thoughts; take their feedback to heart next time you have a new blog post to write.
  6. Start brainstorming. Does your great blog post open some doors for more great blog posts? Does it present you with an obvious opportunity for a follow-up post, or a post on a related topic? Could you repurpose it, using similar content in a different form—an FAQ, maybe? Spend some time reflecting on the post and plotting your next few blog entries.
  7. Reuse it. If you’ve got a really hot topic on your hands, there’s no reason why you can’t re-use that blog as fodder for a press release, a YouTube video, or perhaps even an evergreen section of your company website.

Remember: In content marketing, it’s not just about what you write. It’s about what you do with it once it’s written. To learn more, contact Grammar Chic, Inc. today at 803-831-7444 or www.grammarchic.net.

 

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What Your Job Interviewer CAN’T Ask You

Jobless man

It’s best to approach any job interview expecting the unexpected. While there are some basic, standard-issue questions you can probably count on, there are almost always some weird, unexpected, or downright random questions that make their way into the process—making it vital for job candidates to be nimble, ready to think on their feet.

You should be ready for any question—including the ones your interviewer isn’t supposed to ask. Yes, there are some questions—of a personal or demographic nature—that interviewers are not supposed to ask. When they ask these questions, they open up their company to potential legal action.

Not that this stops them: A pretty high percentage of hiring managers ask these taboo questions—as many in one in five. So the odds are, if your job search process lasts very long, you’ll end up in an interview where one of these forbidden questions is asked.

And what are some of these questions? You can probably guess—but some definite no-nos include:

  • Are you pregnant?
  • What are your religious beliefs/affiliations and/or your political beliefs/affiliations?
  • What is your race, color, or ethnicity?
  • Are you in any way disabled?
  • What is your marital status? Do you have children? Do you plan to?
  • What is your financial status (i.e., are you in debt)?
  • What are your social smoking/drinking habits?

And the biggest, most common one of all: How old are you?

To be clear: There is nothing illegal about asking any of these questions, but, in most contexts, they will imply a discriminatory motive, which most certainly is illegal, or at least grounds for you to bring a case against interviewers who ask these questions.

Not that we recommend getting litigious about it. What we recommend, first and foremost, is that you be ready to hear these questions. Second, be comfortable declining to answer these questions if you feel uncomfortable with them. And third, regard these as red flags; if an interviewer asks one of these questions, well, it may not be a healthy company culture that you’re seeking to join after all.

For more job search tips and secrets, make sure you follow our Facebook page; and, feel free to contact us today at 803-831-7444, or www.grammarchic.net.

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What Every Business Owner Should Know About E-mail Marketing

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E-mail marketing has long occupied a strange place in the content marketing landscape. It is perpetually underrated, perhaps because it’s not as flashy or simply not as new as Facebook marketing, Pinterest marketing, YouTube marketing, and the like. Underrated though it may be, study after study confirms that e-mail marketing is an essential tool for small businesses—and that in fact, it may be the most potent online marketing tool of them all.

Of course it is only potent when used properly, and to that end Search Engine Journal has a great new read: Some essential points about e-mail marketing, gleaned from some thorough HubSpot data collection. The points made in the article are all worthwhile, but, for all the small business owners out there, we will affirm the following points in particular:

  • Mobile matters. How do most people check the bulk of their e-mail? Through their smartphones. Mobile use has increased 400 percent since 2011 alone, making it a must for marketing e-mails to be formatted for mobile.
  • HTML is the way to go. When using an e-mail platform, it’s preferable to use an HTML base rather than a text one, as it allows for e-mails to include bold, italicized, and colorful text; a majority of consumers prefer these more eye-catching e-mails.
  • Consumers are using e-mail filters more and more. Knowing what the filters look for is essential.
  • Consumers don’t necessarily reject all marketing e-mails, but they are picky about what they save and what they delete. Offering attention-grabbing subject lines that convey immediate and actual value is the key. Make it clear that you’re not just talking up your brand; you’re offering something customers might truly be interested in.

For small business owners, e-mail marketing is a must—and you can perfect your e-mail marketing measures by checking out all of this impressive and illuminating data.

You can also hire a top-notch marketing team! Call the Grammar Chic team today at 803-831-7444, or visit www.grammarchic.net.

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