Copywriters: need some linguistic inspiration?

Copywriters are always searching for the perfect word or phrase to describe a concept or sell a product. Sometimes the perfect words are difficult to come by.

If you’ve ever needed a word to describe ‘a face badly in need of a fist’, ‘a beautiful girl viewed from behind’ or ‘the itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whiskey’, you’re in luck. Copywriters should take inspiration from this excellent blog post: 25 Handy Words That Simply Don’t Exist in English. Thanks to our favourite stationery store Present And Correct for alerting us to this post via their Twitter.

PS. One of our clients, LoveTEFL, are experts in teaching English. In fact, they are currently recruiting wannabe teachers who are taking their first steps towards teaching English overseas. If this post caught your eye and you have a love of language and travel, their free Supported Jobs programme might be of interest.

6 social media tools for freelance article writers (and their clients)

As freelance article writers, we’re often asked to write blog posts and manage WordPress comments for our clients. We also look after social media accounts, making sure web content and blogs are well-publicised in order to trigger viral shares. It takes time to write content, and it takes even more time to stay on top of lots of different accounts and ensure you’re using them all in the right way. 

There are no shortage of tools for the job, but here are six social media management services that our freelance article writers use to stay on top of multiple message streams.

dlvr.it

Dlvr.it is a syndication tool that allows you to repackage your blog RSS feed and pass each new post through to your social media accounts. It provides a functional one-way stream, automatically updating your social media channels each time a new article is posted to your blog. This is ideal if you use different freelance article writers to generate a constant stream of blogs – you don’t need to manually check and update your feed each time someone posts something new.

Contrary to what you might think, too much automation is not necessarily a good thing. Social media is – well – social. For best results, you need to put some time into interacting with your followers. But if you just want a basic set-and-forget solution to getting those blog posts out there, dlvr.it is certainly not bad. We’ve been using it for years, and its versatility of combining streams, auto-hashtagging and scheduled updating makes it worth a try. Consider another solution for Facebook though, as it rarely triggers the kind of interaction you’ll need.

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck is a beautifully designed tool which has effortlessly made the transition from app to web app. It’s now owned by Twitter, and it’s available through your browser in the cloud, as a Chrome extension, on smartphones and on your desktop.

Tweetdeck is good for people with lots of followers, or companies who get lots of replies and DMs, as you can see them all laid out in one interface. It’s also good for monitoring multiple accounts if you have the space on your monitor for all those columns. You can scroll around if not, but it’s not quite as easy to see everything.

Columns can be moved and are completely customisable. For example, if you track a hashtag, you can set up a column for it. You can also have a column set up for particular words and phrases that you’re interested in monitoring. This makes it an efficient tool for watching trends and keywords. I also like how new followers appear in your stream, alerting you and giving you the option to follow back. Unfortunately following someone is a four-click process: it would be nicer if this were a little easier to achieve with a single click.

Ping.fm

Ping.fm is another tool that has been around for a while, and we’ve been using it in conjunction with dlvr.it for basic one-way updates for several years. It’s triggered by a manual process: write one status update and Ping.fm sends it out to all networks on your behalf. Ping.fm is incredibly versatile, and the content that appears on the social networks you select will vary depending on the format you need. 

Ping.fm is about to partner with Seesmic, and it hooks in to more than 30 networks in total. It also works with some social networking sites that other sites simply don’t cover. That makes it ideal for freelance article writers who blog for niche sites on a regular basis. 

Desk.com

Desk.com (previously Assistly) is a paid customer support solution in the cloud with some interesting social networking features. Although it’s more of a helpdesk tool, it’s a useful option for people who want to encourage engagement on social media. It helps you track interaction and conversations as helpdesk style tickets called ‘cases’.

By linking your Twitter and Facebook pages to Desk.com, you can track conversations in one place. You also have the option of linking a Support mailbox to the same Desk.com interface. This kind of ‘social helpdesk’ is something that’s slowly appearing in much more expensive service desk packages, but if you only need the basics, this is a good place to start.

Desk.com isn’t a SaaS product every company will find useful, but if social conversations are tough for your team to manage, it might be worth looking at. Bringing tweets into a mailbox interface makes it much easier to keep conversations in one stream, so different freelance article writers can work on the same conversations seamlessly. Desk.com also makes it very easy for you to track keywords on social media and respond proactively to tweets about your brand: customers really like this. Threadsy is another similar product which is worth a look.

Buffer 

Want to generate a constant stream of updates without irritating your followers? Buffer is the tool for you. Use it to set up scheduled tweets to spread a marketing campaign more evenly, or ensuring your social media accounts are updated when you’re away from your computer for a holiday (or overnight). Simply pre-compose your tweets and add them to a queue – Buffer does the rest.

Sometimes a great article is lost in the ‘noise’ of Twitter streams. Set Buffer up to publicise old posts automatically, getting the maximum value from the blogs and articles you paid your freelance article writers to create.

The features are a little basic compared to some of the other sites we use, but it definitely has its niche. Capacity is limited though, so you’ll need to pay (or refer people) to get more space.

Hootsuite

Analytics is a buzzword you’ll have come across if you’ve worked on social media and SEO projects as a freelance article writer. Hootsuite really excels in this area. It tracks all the clicks you get through all social media and can produce custom reports based on your content, shares and interactions. Hootsuite is another tool which has evolved from app to web in a very short space of time, and it has a really eye-catching layout that makes social media management a joy.

 

Hootsuite combines elements of all of the social networking tools above in one interface. It has the auto-posting abilities of dlvr.it and Buffer, the pleasing column-based layout of Tweetdeck and the thread-tracking and team working features of Desk.com. It also hooks straight into Ping.fm, giving you the ability to post to just about any social network you can imagine. Best of all? It’s free.

Got any more suggestions? Please tell us your favourites in the comments.

 

GoCardless Paylinks: Finally, a PayPal Alternative?

GoCardless Paylinks: Finally, a PayPal Alternative?

Envelope with paper card £50 credit towards GoCardless fees: simply use our referral link.

I’ve had an eBay account since 2002 (yikes!), so I was a very early adopter of PayPal. Although I think they’ve improved over the last couple of years, I still don’t really like to use the service. In my experience, their refund and dispute policies are questionable, their fees are extortionate and their support is pretty dire.

We’ve been looking for an alternative for a long time, and with GoCardless, I think we might be on to something. Quite a few of our clients set up web content writing projects on a regular basis, and we would definitely benefit from an easier way to bill them.

Until recently GoCardless required a certain amount of developer intervention, something we didn’t have the time to sort out ourselves. But today I got an email saying they’d introduced a Paylinks interface which allows anyone* to create a money request URL with no technical fiddling. I thought a little review was in order.

* When I say ‘anyone’, this is perhaps a little misleading: GoCardless don’t take card payments, so it’s a UK-only service. 

Creating a GoCardless Paylink

Signing up was a little problematic as I had to use a different email address and company name to my existing GoCardless account (which I had never used). Minor niggles aside, I found the process of creating a link pretty straightforward once I’d signed up.

Once the link was created, I had the choice of pasting it into an email or sending it through their web application.

If you have a regular customer, they can sign up for a Subscription. This is basically a Direct Debit, but the customer is free to vary the amount taken (please see the Update below).

Making a payment

When the recipient clicks my link, they’ll see a form where they can enter their bank details. There’s no option to pay by card, remember, so paying for the first time involves setting up a Direct Debit. Future payments are far quicker: once the Direct Debit is set up, it can be re-used.

GoCardless fees and charges

By far the biggest plus of GoCardless is the flat 1% fee. Not only is this cheaper than PayPal, who charge anything between 1.4% and 3.4% plus a flat 20p fee, it’s also much more predictable for businesses, and it can be factored in much more easily. Even better, GoCardless actually cap their fee at £2, making it super affordable for large transactions

First impressions of GoCardless Paylinks

I was slightly surprised to find that GoCardless won’t allow me to give my email address to a client for payment, in the same way PayPal does, and there is a certain amount of manual intervention in getting that first payment set up. The process of creating a link is quick, but there is a bit of leg work for the client the first time around, and I’d be a bit concerned about that if I had no other payment options. If a client has several invoices to settle, it’s going to be a bit of a pain for them to click a load of links and pay each one separately. Of course, if they register with GoCardless they don’t need to fill in the form each time.

I’d also be a bit worried about setting up a Direct Debit if I were a client, just because GoCardless is so new. Hopefully confidence will be built as the brand becomes more well-known. The team also told me on Twitter that they were considering integration with our cloud accounting package, FreeAgent. If this actually happens, I would be quite happy to ditch the PayPal account for UK clients, providing they enjoyed using it.

I’ll definitely trial GoCardless for a little while longer and see how clients respond, partly because it’s wonderfully innovative and simple, but partly because a PayPal alternative is a long time coming and we would welcome the chance to get rid of it. If you’ve tried GoCardless Paylinks, let me know what you think in the comments.

Get £50 credit towards GoCardless fees: simply use our referral link.

Update – 17th April

I’ve just heard from GoCardless who have clarified the Direct Debit system as follows.

“When you create a subscription with a customer, the customer isn’t able to vary the amount you’re taking from them (they can cancel the subscription, in which case we’ll tell you about it, but they can’t just change what they’re paying you!)”

Red Robot blog for Olark

Here’s another new blog post I wrote for Wish.co.uk! This time, it’s for the Olark website: Using Customer Service to Boost Your Conversion Rate. The fun of being an article writer is in the sheer diversity of topics I get asked to cover. This was a particularly enjoyable one to write.

I hear Wish.co.uk have temporarily sold out of their massively popular Zombie Boot Camp experience, but they’re in the process of launching a brand new zombie day out for fans of all things undead. In the meantime, if you’re looking for something unique for your loved one(s) this Valentine’s Day, how about a Romantic Break for Three?

Neither of us have updated the blog this week as we’ve been so busy. I also missed the chance to post this new guest post link last week when it first went online, simply because we’re dedicating all our time to processing work as quickly as we can. We have a fair few concurrent projects running, and it’s nice to be busy after a fairly quiet start to 2012.

If you’re thinking of kicking off a copywriting or web content project soon, or you need to hire us to write for you, we’ve posted a few handy hints on our Get a Quote page which will help you get started.