As a content writer, I’m pretty lucky in that I get to learn some nifty things from my clients all the time.
This learning comes in two ways – research and experience.
I get to write lots of blog copy, websites and sales pages, which means I get to do lots of lovely research around subjects.
Like recently, for example, I’ve been writing a lot of copy for startups. I’ve learned lots about the world of seed funding and exciting new apps in development. Or the clients who send me off to find out stats on women in leadership. And a blog I wrote the other month about fixing ceramic bowls.
I love a good bit of research because I get to dig about in interesting subjects and learn some new facts that might come in useful for a pub quiz.
Then there’s the other type of learning. The experience. And it is from this that I collate some excellent ways of working and viewing content.
If a client does something in a different way that works, then I adopt it into how I work. And there’s a kind of shared learning going on between all the people who I work with—a bit like cherry-picking all the best bits.
So I thought I’d share some of the best tips I’ve picked up recently and share them with you.
1. REUSE YOUR EMAILS
Part of my job that I love is taking a blog and turning it into more pieces of content, including an email newsletter. There’s something deeply satisfying about making the words work super hard for their space. But sometimes when we do this, we forget that we have lots of content that our new audience has never read.
A couple of my clever clients reuse these emails as part of a sequence for their new subscribers. It’s kind of ingenious because they don’t have to sit and send regular weekly emails, but their audience doesn’t know the emails are from months or even years ago.
I pop in now and again to check the stats and mix it up a bit. But if your content is still relevant, why only send it once? Why do your new followers miss out on the good bits you’ve already said just because they didn’t find you as quickly?
Sometimes the best answer isn’t to keep creating content but to use the content we have more smartly.
2. NAME YOUR IMAGES PROPERLY (AND USE THEM MORE THAN ONCE)
I have one particular client who gives the images in their media library really obvious names. As in the thing in the picture. Even if they’ve taken them from stock images. And when the image is uploaded, it gets given an alt-tag that makes sense to the picture.
This seems so simple and obvious, but so many people have convoluted naming conventions (piggy-bank-red-v1 anyone?), or you’ll get IMG1112375 as the file name.
I could go into how this is an SEO no-no, or you could take the time to name your files correctly. It’s a two-minute job. And if someone comes to manage your website or you outsource your content management, then it makes their lives a bit easier.
Generally, if I see this on client’s websites, then I go through and rename the images when I come across them.
But this one client with the super organised media library – they reuse the images in more than one post. And I don’t reckon anyone notices or cares. If the image adds something to the content, then why not use it more than once? Your website speed will thank you for it.
And while we’re on this image subject, please resize every image you upload.
3. BLOGS TO EMAILS AND EMAILS TO BLOGS
Whichever way around you like doing this, it doesn’t matter but please do it for your sanity. If you have a blog, then chances are it will make a useful newsletter (see point one). And if you have a newsletter, can it be turned into a blog?
Yes, the writing needs tweaking for each platform, but that’s much better than continually creating content.
4. GET A GOOD SYSTEM IN PLACE
A new-ish client emailed me the other day to let me know they were moving from Trello to Asana. While I wanted to scream: ‘not another project management app’, I pulled up my socks and got on with it.
You see, I’d rather have a client who was happy with their system to produce content that works hard than get everyone onto my way of working. Which is clearly the best for me but it’s not for everyone.
I reckon that right now I use about six different project management apps and there’s barely one out there that I’ve not tried yet. Sure, I have my favourites, but I’m part of a much bigger business organisation picture. So I slip into what everyone else uses. With the occasional recommendation of something, they might like to test out.
If you’ve got a good system and routine in place, then things are less likely to trip you up if you have a last-minute change of plan.
Heck, I even get behind a good old spreadsheet on Google Docs for someone who wants to organise their life that way.
5. BE SMART ABOUT YOUR SALES FUNNEL
Now over the years, I’ve seen some pretty amazing sales funnels at work. I’ve tested onboarding and sales sequences going out at different times, editing and written to many sales email templates. Although it generally comes down to know, like and trust and being able to answer: ‘what’s in it for me?’
Some good sales funnels that I’ve seen at work have included automating a freebie from a Facebook group into a nurture sequence of emails. Auto-webinars feeling like they are live and prompting immediate engagement with the emails.
And my personal favourite (because it worked on me and I’m from Yorkshire so notoriously bad at parting with cash), sending me a personalised video that invites me onto a sales call. I went to that sales call determined not to buy. But that funnel, from the first touchpoint, to lead magnet to sale, was extremely short—no weeks of dithering, months of consuming all the content. I jumped aboard and parted with my cash in a very short space of time.
Only my eyeliner brand gets me to part with money that quickly.
6. GOOD QUALITY BLOGS
I have a particular client who is very exacting on what goes out on their blog. I reckon I’ll come back to my edited version of the blog about three times before going through a checklist they’ve created for a final check. At which point, I’ll send it back through them for quality control.
This means that what goes out is quality rather than quantity. Every piece of content on the site exists for a reason and is never quick writing of the blog and chuck it up.
It means that all the content on the site works hard for its space. It reminds me at times of a record label that I used to work for telling me that; “we’re not selling records here, we’re creating art.”
One is churn, the other is something of quality and with meaning.
And it brings me onto the next thing I’ve learned…
7. CREATE CHECKLISTS
When I start with a new client, I create a checklist of the regular tasks I need to do for them. I pop them into Trello and set deadlines against them. It helps get us into the swing of routine work.
But having checklists is good for plenty of other tasks, like my client above who has a checklist for all blog posts that goes into the granular details.
Or you can have a checklist for how you like your content to be created and organised. That means when you’re ready to outsource it, it gets done in the right way (read: your way).
The same goes for creating procedures on how to do things. I have a client who needs membership pages set up maybe once or twice a year. I can guarantee that in the six months since I last set up a course on her website, I’ve completely forgotten all the steps I need to take.
So a checklist was created, and now I don’t need to go through a tutorial or try to dig out of my brain what I did last time. I go through the checklist and viola!. Saving me time and any mistakes.
9. YOU DON’T ALWAYS NEED SOCIAL MEDIA
This is perhaps my favourite piece of learning from a client. I started working for them and asked about what they’d like for social campaigns following the publishing of content. “Don’t bother, we do SEO,” they said.
And I do expect the majority of traffic to come from SEO on most websites than driven from socials.
While you do need an alternative online strategy, you don’t necessarily NEED socials to market your business. If you hate being on the platforms, don’t use them. Get creative and work around it another way.
10. TAGS AND TEMPLATES
I’ve seen some messes when it comes to email marketing tags before. And some ingenious systems. I take bits from a few different tagging systems on my preferred email marketing service, Active Campaign.
Getting a naming convention for your tags in place is incredibly important. You might think you only have a handful but five years down the line and you’ve got 300 tags and you don’t know what goes where.
When you’ve systematically named them, map them out. Then when you grow, you can find what you need right away. Same goes for templates. I’ve started creating some strict social media graphics templates in Canva and Pixelmator. Not only do these keep you within the brand guidelines, but they also make the job much quicker.
11. EDITING IS SO IMPORTANT
Yeah, I’m a bit biased. I edit copy all the time for other people. But here is what I’ve noticed, my brain needs to switch to a different gear for editing. You can’t write a blog or sales page or email, give a quick check through and make it perfect.
Sometimes when I copy edit, I want to restructure or rewrite whole chunks of text, so they sound better. Other times, proof and tweak are needed. But read back through some of your old blogs and see how they’ve aged. I bet you start to value the power of the proper edit now.
Write a thing, have a brew, and then come back to it. If you have time, sleep on it and recheck it the next day.
12. LISTEN TO OTHERS
My clients don’t have all the answers. I take the best bits that they do and make something from them that works. But I don’t have the best solution to content. I have AN answer.
The best part of working with others is that you get to learn from each other. The things you pick up in one place can be applied elsewhere. This continuous improvement makes you better at your job and benefits other people too.
I thought that when I left University, I’d put all my learning into practice. But the truth is that I’ve never stopped learning. There are development courses I want to go on, courses to improve my thinking and writing. Courses that help me think differently about content and best practise.
And these are all great. But learning from the people I work alongside and sharing what I find works with them, is incredibly important. So what can you learn from your clients or service providers?