Tag Archives: freelance writing business

SEO, ScribeSEO, & Blogging

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Last week’s Media Mondays department, Expats Love Social Media in China, marked the first day ArchitectureTravelWriter went live with bona fide SEO. It wasn’t, however, as easy as 1 2 3, as ScribeSEO said it would be. It was instead yet another harrowing experience in the blogging life of this freelance writer.
First I bit the bullet and bought a ScribeSEO plan. The damned tab had been open on my browser for almost a week, so it was time to just do it. Monetization and SEO are irrefutably imperative factors for someone who’s started her own blogzine and spends 20 hours weekly on it.
ScribeSEO, evidently, requires a plug-in that I didn’t have. Scribe’s first recommendation is WordPress SEO by Yoast. I advise anyone who blogs to steer clear of that bloody plugin– unless you have a PhD in computer programming or you’re a specialist in SEO.

I don’t know what a meta description is, nor do I know how to write one. Do you string a few words along or actually write prose? I don’t know how to create custom titles. Is that the title of my post or the blog or is there a third title I create so you can find the keywords?
I go to Yoast’s site seeking answers. There are none. I link on the ‘Contact’ page only to find his site generates an error message. I seek answers on WordPress. My password isn’t working. Neither does the new one they email me. I go through FAQ and Help pages. I send an email to customer service, practically pleading for assistance. I go to ScribeSEO’s page and watch demo videos on how to use the blimmin’ product. I look up how to change a template as that solution had repeatedly appeared. Nothing resolves the issue.
Finally, I opted for a tabula raza. I deleted Yoast’s plugin and installed ScribeSEO’s second recommendation: All in One SEO. With just a few short fields to fill out– the post title of fewer than 60 characters, a description of fewer than 160 characters, and some keywords– rather than seemingly endless fields to fill out, as was the case with Yoast’s plugin, it’s 20 seconds later, the ‘Analyze’ button appears on my post, I click it, and I’m done.
Take a breath. Actually allow a giggle of relief escape from my throat. And look at my new terrific report: a 100% SEO rating.

 

You too Can Accomplish a 100% Rating on Your First Attempt

The key lesson is that sometimes when blogging, especially on WordPress, it’s necessary to try a few plugins until you find one that works exactly on your level. I needed a plugin to make ScribeSEO easy enough for an idiot, and I found it. It’s also happened to me when installing plugins for a Twitter feed, subscriptions, and analytics. My head’s missing a few patches of hair now and I think another wrinkle formed on my face, but I feel much better knowing I’m doing my blog some SEO good.

Pitching: Linking Interior Design & Writing

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Evidently it’s unprofessional to pitch your work. At least so says the Design Institute of Australia.

It appears the DIA is the solicitation of design services without payment. That sounds similar to when I, as a freelance journalist, write a quip as the basis of an article, send it to a publisher with fingers crossed that they’ll let me buy my article based on the quip. This is how some half of my work comes along when work is going well. But for the DIA, that’s just unacceptable.

Here’s why: “Free pitching may be initiated by a customer who requests the provision of free services, or it may be initiated by a designer who provides free services in the hopes of later payment,” according to the web site. Furthermore it “destroys” the credibility of the design profession.

When I listen to such harsh language I’m likely to disagree. However, I’ve worked with interior designers from several countries and simply can’t imagine why they would pitch to clients. Nothing is cut and dry, though. Take for instance all the design shows I attended, especially around the holidays and winters in Sarasota, Fla. Thousands of people attend these designer houses. Dozens of designers apply to participate. A small handful are  accepted. Then they’ll proceed in designing a room…for free.

What’s in it for them:

  • potential awards from the organization hosting the competition
  • recognition in local media
  • collaboration with other designers
  • a “free” example of your design skills to market to hundreds of potential clients, those who buy tickets to these houses, often because they’re looking for design ideas and/or to hire a designer.

I do not agree with the DIA’s seemingly belligerent stance on free pitching. In fact, the DIA disdains pitching of all types. Here I will stand in defense of designers, especially those new to the game who are starting from nothing. I don’t blame those who want to pitch. It’s not every day you have journalists like myself knocking on your door to write about you. It’s not every day competitions are held. Marketing is imperative. But how to do so, remains the question.

Writers are often asked to write things on spec in order to secure a job. We also have to take writing tests, even if we have several years of experience. For instance, I applied for some freelance writing work on a web site that specializes in placing freelance writers. The client, an Italian firm starting an architecture design-oriented web site, asked me to write a 900-word sample, for which they said they would pay me should I be selected as the writer. I wrote it. I was accepted. Then the firm ran into a few snags. They won’t start the web site until an unforeseen date, and they haven’t paid me yet.

I’m not an interior designer but I do have to try to sell my work just as you do. My empathies remain with you.

“Pitching is any practice that involves the speculative or competitive provision of design services (including concepts) for a commercial client that results in the designer receiving or charging less than their normal professional rates for work that is intended or likely to be commercially realised or in an attempt to win new business,” the DIA site says. I shall not tell you not to pitch but I do implore that you consider your marketing practices seriously. You need to get work, for sure, but people seem to be throwing their morals and ethics out the window; therefore, be sure to get paid.

Read more of the DIA article here.

What Does Travel Teach? Bad Face

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Through August the Travel Tuesdays department centers on what’s to be learned from travel. I’ve briefly discussed the differences between non-travelers, tourists, and travelers, and I’ve revealed some enlightening lessons. Today, as forewarned, I’m confessing to how travel has helped me to confirm (at least to myself) some of my best qualities, whilst showing my ugly parts (to many people who didn’t deserve it).

Sometimes travel evokes the wretched

  • I can’t take long trips with people.

When my friend Tofu and I went to Costa Rica I had scheduled several appointments with developers and architects, hoping to come back to the US armed with architecture and travel stories to sell. That marked a peak in my freelance writing career. But focusing as much as I did on my career shoved my ego front and center of my life, canceling out bogus attempts to compromise with Tofu, who wanted to travel to see the volcano in Arenal. It fit well into our otherwise loose agenda. However, some strange intuition upon arrival there sent us packing our bags the next day. Granted, the weather didn’t permit seeing the actual volcano, however, Tofu would likely have stayed for days roaming the tiny town’s streets and taking long hikes through the mountains. Who knows what my strange intuition meant? Surely it prevented my ability to compromise with him. I insisted on leaving to Jaco, the beach town full of surfers that we had just left for Arenal. He didn’t complain, yet I knew he was upset. I wish that I’d been better equipped to compromise, to give him what he wanted: a few days hiking the greenery, rather than battling the beach and the surfers (neither of which appealed to him). A conflicting factoid lies within the following travel lesson.

That trip also taught me I sometimes want to relinquish the leading role. I’ve circled the globe, owned my own company, and happily spent half my adult life single. Sometimes I just don’t want to be in charge. Yet it’s rare that I understand how to let someone else do it. He’ll have to be stronger than me.

  • Never as good as the first time.

I used to be married to my career and joked that Indian culture was my concubine. My first trip to India in 2006 had such as profound effect that it segmented my life. As BC is to AD my life was “before India” and “after India.” India materialized love. The air, the sun, the humidity, the people, the food, the religious diversity, the palpable spirituality filled me with love. I learned that love comes in more forms than I’d known. I also learned that there’s a world within me that doesn’t link to my career. It wasn’t until my career took a nose dive with the Great Recession that I actually heeded that lesson. I moved to China to teach English at a university and took several months off professional hiatus, a break more than necessary.

My second trip to India revealed her ugly underbelly. I’d returned there in November 2010 with a plan to live there likely indefinitely. But love was nowhere to be found. I may have taken a lover, but as Sharon Stone said in Basic Instinct, “That’s not really the same thing now, is it?” India suddenly seemed to me like the devil who’d swallowed heaven. Admittedly there wasn’t a day when I didn’t see some beauty in it, but that was a marriage that would never be. So long as I treat her like a concubine, in and out for short bursts, perhaps, we can continue our love affair. Until then, I’ll always remember the sirens singing in her ghazals (dramatic Indian ballads).

Today I recognize that kind of fantasy talk in other, newer travelers. Far be it from me, though, to tell them that no matter how many times they return it will never be as good as the first time.

  • “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” — John Lennon

None of my plant to turn interviews with Costa Rican (known as Tican) architects materialized. My return to India turned rancid as month-old milk. I still bare the cognitive dissonance of leading versus following, though I am working on it. These are all life lessons that lead me to wonder over the value of education. When seemingly unrelated lessons link a whole new manner of learning is possible.

Confronting fears whilst battling ego. This is a view of Jaco, Costa Rica, from a mini-truck that lead me to an experience from which I could confront my fears both of heights and of water.