Working on your website? Here are 5 reasons why you should never leave your words to the last minute.

It happened again. Someone contacted me looking for copy for their new website. After a general discussion about the project- how many pages they needed, whether I would be starting from scratch or polishing existing content, and who the target audience would be – I asked a simple question:

“When do you hope to launch the site?”  Their answer: “By the end of the month.” Less than three weeks away.

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Don’t leave your words to the last minute.

 

I get it. People spend a lot of time working on design – their logo, colour scheme, and a wire frame. They may arrange a photo shoot and even have a video produced. The words? Those can get dropped in at the end.

Here’s why that’s the wrong approach:

1.  A good looking website is important. It needs to be easy to navigate, and function properly. But even the most stunning photographs won’t sell your products and services if your words aren’t up to snuff.

If your message isn’t clear you’ll lose sales. Period. Getting to the heart of what you really want to say, who you are saying it to, and what you want those people to do, takes effort.

2.  After 15 years in the business, I’m pretty good at writing copy that is ‘on brand.’ But, I’m not a mind reader. My favourite clients are the ones who treat my first draft as just that – a FIRST draft. If something I’ve written doesn’t sit quite right, they let me know. And sometimes words read differently on the screen.

I’m always happy to take another run – or two – at your copy. A bit of back-and-forth can take some time, but the results are worth it.

3.  SEO. Your web designer should be ensuring your site is optimized ‘behind the scenes.’ But to help with organic search, your copy needs to be SEO-friendly too. Someone needs to research keywords and phrases. If you don’t’ have a list to send along, that someone will be me.

4.  I know a little about a lot of things, but I’m probably not an expert in your field. In an ideal world, I’ll spend a few hours checking out your competitors’ websites to get a feel for your industry.

5.  I’ve got regular copywriting clients, and I’m a contributor to a handful of magazines. I’m blessed to have ongoing work, but that means I’ll be writing your website copy while I’m juggling several other projects. I’m a queen of time management and I love what I do, but I also have a life.

Here’s one final copywriting misconception that I hear on a fairly regular basis:

“I only need a few sentences, so it shouldn’t take very long.”

In reality, it  can take more time to write 60 words than 600. Why? Because if space is limited, every word counts. Those short, snappy phrases have probably gone through dozens of rewrites.

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It can take time to write those short, snappy sentences.

My advice to anyone working on their website? Give you copy the attention it deserves. Start thinking about your words at the outset. And if you’ll be working with a professional copywriter, reach out right away.

As for the person who contacted me this week? I’m going to squeeze them in to my already-full calendar. Happy writing!

Nicole Laidler helps people grow their success one word at a time. To see what she’s been writing lately, visit her at Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing

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Women who #MakeAnImpact

I’ve been too busy to blog this month, so I missed getting this prepared and posted in time for International Women’s Day on March 8. Luckily, I discovered that women (rightly) get more than 24 hours of recognition.

In the US, Great Britain, and Australia March is Women’s History Month.

For some reason, here in Canada we celebrate women in October. The theme for 2018 was #MakeAnImpact.

As a freelance journalist and copywriter, I am fortunate to meet and write about many amazing women. Here are four who made an impact during 2018.

Nicole Haney

Nicole Haney

Nicole Haney traded in her office job for her kitchen. Photo: London Inc. magazine. 

Many people dream of leaving the security of their office job to launch their own business. Nicole Haney actually took the leap, trading in her desk at Ivey Business School for her kitchen.

As the founder of Boho Bakery, she’s been sharing her passion for healthy and delicious snacks with an ever-growing customer base. I interviewed Nicole for the March, 2018 issue of London Inc. magazine – just as her Boho Bars business was taking off.

You can read the full story here.

Today, Nicole has achieved her goal of breaking into the Toronto market. You can now find Boho Bars in more than 20 retailers across the GTA.

I’m a Peanut Butter lover myself, and I usually have a few bars handy as a healthy snack-on-the-go. Keep your eyes on Nicole and her Boho Bars – if they are not already at a supermarket or health food store near you, chances are they will be soon.

Nicole Girotti

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Nicole Girotti doesn’t let a busy career and family life keep her from learning. Photo: Western Continuing Studies 

Like so many women, Nicole Girotti wears many hats. She holds a full-time position at Western University, is an instructor at Western Continuing Studies  (WCS), and is the mother of two young children.

If that wasn’t enough, Nicole is also a WCS student where she has completed numerous professional certificates and is working towards several more.

I interviewed Nicole about her commitment to learning, and the challenges of juggling work, studying, and a family.

You can read my story here.

For Nicole, there’s no such thing as a “perfect work-life balance.” I love her honesty, her energy, and her determination to keep on growing.

Alison Konrad and Mirit Grabarski

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Alison Konrad & Mirit Grabarski study workplace diversity. Photo: Nation Wong. 

Lots of people talk about gender and diversity in the workplace, but Professor Alison Konrad and PhD candidate Mirit Grabarski actually study it.

For them, diversity is more than a buzzword. It’s a social justice issue and a way to create a more equal and tolerant society.

These strong, smart women also work and teach at Ivey – and I had the pleasure of interviewing them for the school’s In Touch alumni magazine.

You can read that interview here.  If you make it to the end, you’ll get to my favourite part where they answer the question:  If you could give your younger self advice about navigating the workplace as a women, what would it be?

Their response might surprise you. And it got me thinking – whether you’re male or female, what would your answer be?

Nicole Laidler is a story-based copywriter, freelance writer, and word strategist based in London, Ontario. See what she’s been writing lately at www.spilledink.ca 

Freelance Writing: What’s love got to do with it?

It’s Valentine’s Day. If you’re paired up, congratulations! Hopefully you’re happy, and your Valentine will spoil you with a token of their appreciation – whether it’s a card, a box of chocolates, flowers, a fancy night out, or a fun night in.

I don’t have a Valentine, so I thought I’d mark the day by sharing a few thoughts about something I do love: words.

Love

After 15 years writing for a living, I still love words! 

2019 marks 15 years since I graduated from J-school and launched my career as a freelance journalist.

It’s hard to believe that in 2004 Facebook was in it’s infancy.  Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat had yet to be launched, and mobile phones were simply used to make calls. Today, we carry the world in our pocket and spend far too much time worrying about our virtual life.

The media landscape has also changed beyond recognition since 2004. In fact, my alma matter – Western University – no longer offers an MA in journalism. It’s been replaced by a Master of Media in Journalism & Communication , which is an interesting commentary on the blurring of the lines between actual journalism and PR.

Somehow I’ve manage to write continuously through all the upheaval.

Like any job, there are days that seem to drag on forever. But overall, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do what I do. So in honour of Saint Valentine, here are three reasons why I’m still in love with freelance writing:

The variety.
I’ve written about everything from cheese to concrete. I’ve interviewed farmers, CEOs, artists, researchers, and the odd politician. Some weeks I’ll be working on a magazine article (or two), website copy, and social media posts for several different clients. Every day is different.

Some projects may be less exciting than others, but the brain-numbing ones won’t last forever and a great story may be just around the corner.

The flexibility.
I started a full-time communications job the day after I graduated from J-school. I was also a regular contributor to several different local publications – which have all since folded or eliminated their freelance budgets.

Once my son was born I made the decision to leave the 9-to-5. At the time, it didn’t make sense to return to work just to pay for day care.

I’ve been extremely fortunate that my freelance income never had to pay the bills. But it always provided me with my own money and a connection to the outside world.

I’ve worked early in the morning and late at night. I’ve brought my laptop to the hockey rink and to the beach. I’ve done interviews from my car (parked, of course!) Last summer was the first time I closed my office for an official vacation. No one fired me – and I’m doing it again this year.

The ability to set my own hours and control my work load is one of the big advantages of working freelance. I wouldn’t trade this flexibility for the world.

The opportunity to learn.
Writing a wide variety of copy for so many different clients means that I now know a little about a lot of different things. This career path definitely takes an open mind and a willingness to learn!

I’ve also learned a lot about the art of writing over the past 15 years.

When I went to school, I studied journalism. It was a great foundation. I was taught how to research, interview, fact-check, and tell stories. But it quickly became clear that freelance journalism was not where the better-paying jobs were at.

So, I learned about PR, corporate communications and copywriting. I read books, attended seminars, and took online courses. And guess what? I discovered that I enjoy this type of writing too. And people seemed to enjoy working with me.

Today, I’m still learning. I’m currently enrolled in two online courses and I’m sure I’ll take many more. As the world of corporate communications and journalism evolves, I want my skills to keep up. And besides, it’s fun.

So  from this grateful freelance writer to you – Happy Valentine’s Day! What do you love about your job?

Nicole Laidler is the owner of Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing. She’s passionate about helping people tell their stories, build their brands, and grow their success one word at a time. Visit her website to see what she’s been writing lately! 

 

Stepping away to move forward

A few months back, I delcared 2018 my year of momentum. And now that I’ve reached the half-way point I can definitely say that this year is indeed shaping up to be one of momentous change.

On the work front, I continue to write for many of the same clients who have kept me busy since 2004. I’ve also forged new connections that are stretching my writing skills and expanding my accumulation of random knowledge. I still love my job and feel grateful to work with such a wide range of interesting people who seem to genuinely appreciate my way with words.

Since January, I’ve had the opportunity to do two speaking engagements. And I just rented a desk in a funky co-working space where I plan to finally get to work on a book project that’s been percolating for the past few years.

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A funky wall for a funky co-working space.

I’m now confident that I made the right decision to focus on growing my freelance business rather than trying to enter the traditional work world when my marriage fell apart almost two years ago.

On the personal front, I’ve experienced the love and support of family and friends – both old and new. I’ve had the pleasure of being able to open up my home and feel that I am starting to build a community of people who care.

I’ve also started to take better care of my physical, mental, and spiritual health. For me, that includes finally having the courage to take time away from the office.

As a life-long freelancer, not working can feel scary.

Unlike a salaried worker who can occasionally get away with daydreaming on the job, if I’m not producing, I’m not being paid. In the past, I’ve always brought projects along with me whether I was traveling overseas or just to the (former) family cottage. Over the last 14 years, there has rarely been a day that didn’t include some sort of research or writing.

That stopped this year, when I made a commitment to myself to take one week off in June, July and August.

Last month, I took advantage of a child-free week and flew to New York.

Me and Klimt

Me and Adele Bloch-Bauer, at Neue Galerie. (The original is upstairs – no photos allowed.)

I was joined by a friend and we spent five days exploring. We went gallery hopping – the Guggenheim, Neue Galerie, MoMA, Cooper Hewitt, New Museum , – stumbled upon a Damien Hirst exhibition in Chelsea, and I discovered my new favourite perfume which was kindly shipped back to Canada since the bottle was too large for hand luggage.

Beach

And then – the beach!

Last week, my son and I escaped to a rental cottage on the shores of Lake Huron.  I think I must be a beach bum at heart, because sun, sand, and time spent with friends who came up to visit felt like my first real vacation in ages.

So – what did I learn from my time off?

  • Clients (old and new) are willing to work around your vacation plans.
  • I still love traveling as much as I did in my 20s, and it’s something I want to do more of.
  • I can more-or-less navigate the NYC subway system.
  • Beach time is good for my soul.

Today I’m back at the keyboard with several projects on-the-go. I am not sure what adventure August will bring, but I feel refreshed and ready to embrace the second half of 2018.

How’s your summer shaping up?

12 Months of Transition

I dubbed 2017 my “Year of Transition.” And as I mark 12 months since my separation, I can honestly say that life as I know it is almost completely different from what it was a year ago. It hasn’t always been easy, but everything I’ve gone through has given me the opportunity to grow.

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For me, 2017 was a year of incredible change….

So, since it’s the season of lists, here are 12 things that I’ve learned during my first year as a single mom:

  1. I can make great decisions in high-stress situations.
  2. I can use a snake to unplug a sink.
  3. I can rise above negative situations. (If you’re surrounded by drama, try it sometime!)
  4. I can choose my mood. (see #3)
  5. Mom was right. Your reputation counts.
  6. I can assemble a hockey net – even if it takes three days!
  7. I can write more words in a month than I previously believed possible.
  8. I have a great poker face. (see #3 & #4)
  9. Simple things can make me very happy.
  10. I may be middle-aged, but I can still learn new things.
  11. Not everyone who is friendly is your friend. (But don’t take it personally!)
  12. Girlfriends (and male friends) who make you laugh are the best.
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It’s full steam ahead for 2018….

I have dubbed 2018 my “Year of Momentum.” After the free-fall of 2017, I feel like my feet are back on the ground and that I’m on the right path forward.

Who’s coming along for the ride?

 

 

How to generate more news coverage for your upcoming arts event

As some of you may know, I have covered the London and area classical music scene for more than a decade, writing regular music columns for several different publications over the years: Scene, ArtScape, The Beat, and most recently Eat Drink.

And as my deadline approached this month, I once again found myself wanting to bang my head on my computer screen. Why? Because several sources were simply not responding to interview requests.

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I currently write The Classical Beat column for Eat Drink magazine.

As a freelance classical musician turned freelance writer, I’ve been on both sides of the divide. I know that artists live busy lives and often juggle multiple jobs just to make ends meet. I know that most arts organizations can’t afford to splash out on expensive advertising campaigns. And I’ve heard the complaints about the lack of news coverage given to local arts events.

I don’t want to paint everyone with the same brush. Some arts organizations are fantastic to work with. Others, not so much. This blog is directed towards those in the second category, as well as anyone looking to see your name – and news – in print.

Have a website, and keep it up to date
In 2016, there’s really no excuse not to have a decent website. Whether you’re an individual performer or a larger ensemble, it’s simply an investment that you can’t afford not to make.

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People won’t find you if you don’t have a website….

It’s equally important to keep the information current, and to ensure that it’s accurate. Don’t forget to include contact information. (And if your website uses a contact form, make sure it actually reaches an inbox that someone checks!)

Friendly tip: Websites like Eventbrite now make it easy for anybody to sell tickets online. If you’ve got an upcoming concert, why not set up an account and link it to your own site?

Make a media list, and keep it up to date
Pay attention to who is covering the arts in your area, and make a media list. Don’t rely on generic info@ email addresses – who knows where they go? Try to find contact information for the individual reporters.

Friendly tip: Most newspaper websites list individual contact information…you just have to find it. Try scrolling to the very, very, very bottom of the Home Page. That’s where they like to hide the link to the Contact Us page. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to ask for a reporter’s contact information.

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Do some detective work to track down the emails of individual reporters.

Then, when you’ve got an upcoming event, let the media know. A formal news release is great, but a friendly email with some key information can also do the trick.

Give enough lead time and understand the news cycle
It’s the first week of October, and I just filed my November / December Classical Beat column. I’ll soon start working on a story that won’t be published until Spring 2017. That’s why it’s so important to get your information up on your website as soon as possible. I can’t cover your upcoming concert if my story was filed last week.

Having said that, most newspapers will only cover your event the day of, or if you’re lucky, the day before. Same goes for radio and television.

Respond to interview requests
There’s nothing worse than sending out interview requests and leaving phone messages that are never returned. (Other than finally hearing back two weeks after the story has been submitted.)

We’re all busy…but please respond quickly so we can find a mutually-convenient time to chat. If an email interview works better, just let me know and I’ll send my questions along. Please don’t make me chase you, or have to stalk you on Facebook….

Be prepared
Have the list of repertoire ready, as well as the names of any special guests. If you’ve got bios, send them along. High resolution photographs? Even better!

Take some time to think about what you’d like the public to know about your event. If you think you’ll be nervous during the interview, jot down some notes. If the reporter doesn’t ask about something important, just go ahead and tell them. And if you go blank and forget a crucial detail, send a follow-up email.

If you’re an artist, or part of an arts organization, what challenges do you face getting the word out? 

Nicole Laidler is a London, Ontario based freelance writer and copywriter and the owner of Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing. 

My stop-and-go summer

The summer months can be challenging when you’re a freelancer who works from a home office and the mom of a busy 10-year-old. Throw in home renovations, a steady stream of house guests and a dead laptop, and the regular summer juggling act gets thrown into high gear.

Me and skye

Our 120-lb “lap dog” is also part of the juggling act!

So I’m trying to forgive myself for being less productive than usual over the past two months.

That’s not to say that my keyboard has sat completely idle. Between overseeing new carpets, windows, and painting, chauffeuring my son to soccer and a few weeks of goalie camp, supervising various Pokémon Go outings, and showing visiting family and friends around our beautiful corner of the world, I somehow managed to string together a few words.

Website copy, blogs, a victim impact statement, and a handful of magazine articles have kept me busy. But they’ve all been written in short bursts, at some extremely odd hours of the day and night.

Eat Drink photo

I did manage to churn out a few stories this summer….including my regular music column for Eat Drink .

On the one hand, I recognize how lucky I am to have the freedom to work when I like. On the other, it can make for some extremely long days.

So I am eagerly anticipating the first day of school, when I hope to sit down at a clean desk, in my freshly-painted home office, and do a full day of uninterrupted work on my speedy new laptop.

I’m signed up for a September conference for women entrepreneurs, I’ll be participating in a sold-out evening of fashion in support of Make-A-Wish, and I have a list of story ideas ready to pitch, as well as a new Spilled Ink website – launching soon.

In the meantime, I’m going to spend as much time as I can savoring the last few weeks of summer. If you need me, I’ll be at the lake, refueling for a busy and productive fall.

Slice of paradise

No words needed….

How was your summer? And how are you getting ready for fall?