Devising an entertaining story for a sewer pipes company tickles my creative bone. Challenge and curiosity power my writing days. Specifics follow.Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
The Power of a Workflow: Freelance Writing
Workflows prove fun when they incorporate joyful obsessions. My daily mission satisfies two passions: curiosity and challenge. By way of example, a few months ago I knew nothing about lumber grades. Today, I comprehend the nuances of the stamp appearing on every piece of wood sold in the USA. The same then-now syndrome holds true as regards logo design, the iconic “honeycomb” user experience model, “finance and insurance” concerns of auto dealerships, and more.
Marshaling the facts forms step one. The remaining phases of all jobs adhere to my pre-established workflow. Phase one concerns research. The second major phase witnesses the full writing process.
Crafting Web Content for Small Businesses: My Research Workflow
1️⃣ Study the client request to ascertain keywords.
Some clients envision a title stuffed with certain keywords. I may be shooting myself in the foot here, but honesty requires candor. The longer a mandated title, the more likely the article will fall to the rear pages of the Google search results list. Why? Google loves succinct titles, roughly 12-13 words max.
Clients also tie the writer’s hands by insisting certain phrases be repeated xx times, a technique destined to trigger Google’s hostility. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) requires intelligent application, not brutal keyword stuffing.
My initial study focuses on the primary keywords. It continues as I move to the next phase, gaining familiarity with the basics of the subject matter.
2️⃣ Google the basics to gain an overview.
At 6:00 a.m. my lumber knowledge begins with the ability to spell the term, and ends with vague familiarity of different decor-suggested woods, e.g. pine vs cherry wood. Within an hour, my brain overflows with related details. The overview fuels additional research, the latter forming the basis for my writing.
3️⃣ Discern appropriate longtail phrases.
My goal: discover additional phrasing, beloved by Google, as it relates to the current topic. I visit keyword tools specializing in presenting longtail keywords and phrases. Example: bullet journal → bullet journal ideas, bullet journal spreads. Those phrases will replace some braindump wording during the editing phase of the writing process.
4️⃣ Review authoritative sites for link-it potential.
Including links to well-regarded sites makes Google smile, as well as website visitors. Links also elevate the quality, and authority, of a post.
I bookmark each helpful article in my PinBoard.in account, entering the client’s name in the provided description field. My premium subscription translates into auto-pulling each bookmarked page to the PinBoard server, accommodating full-text searching when desired.
My Writing Process
1️⃣ Initial draft of article.
One word best describes this aspect of my writing process: faucet. I ignore grammar niceties, concerned only with wedding thoughts to paper.
2️⃣ First edit: massage the text with a clean up.
At this stage, I don my Grammar Police hat, massaging the rough draft with proper words and phraseology. Like most professional writers, I’m prone to repeating certain favored phrases. I scour the text, using my preferred writing app’s find feature, and replace all instances of repetition.
My PinBoard stash includes a group of grammar-oriented pages, my stay outta jail section. The tagged items hold the words I find problematic, e.g. bare vs bear.
3️⃣ Second edit: readability and flow.
Page-turners earn that moniker by presenting an easy to read story with an intriguing plot. One of the great surprises discovered during my writing journey: Ernest Hemingway’s books reflect a 5th grade reading level. Current top-selling authors (e.g. John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, and Mary Renault) write at a 7th grade reading level.
Multiple stellar online tools provide readability analysis. You paste text into a large field, punch a button, and absorb the suggestions. Among the suggestions: keep the text at a 7th grade Reading level.
4️⃣ Walk away.
Every work-completion deadline I present includes at least 3 individual walk-away hours. Write. Edit. Walk away for an hour. Rinse and repeat. Fresh eyes catch errors elusive to machine-gun style serial reviews.
5️⃣ Run links through a citation checker.
The WordPress software engine powers more than 25% of websites, worldwide. Its create a link screen includes a title area. You see this information when you hover your cursor over a link.
I exploit the title field, adding courtesy information. I include the linked article’s publication (last modified) date where available, as well as the date this author last accessed the page. The citator sometimes provides an otherwise elusive publication date. It also presents the citation in any one of several formal writing styles, satisfying related client requests.
Why do I provide this extra information? I value readers. A few seconds of extra work provides a detail many crave.
7️⃣ Finalize → Submit.
My final edit and proofing culminates in checkmarking the title, signifying I’ve added it to my freelance writing assignments log. I then submit the article to the client. Finally, if I’m not wearing my Apple Watch, I strap it on my wrist. If the client requests an edit, the Watch ensures prompt notification.
My Preferred Tools
All research and writing occurs on my iPad (Pro). Using the iOS split screen feature, I keep two apps in view throughout my writing. The Safari browser greets me in the left panel. Its unique one-tap readability feature removes all extraneous elements from a page, empowering sole focus on the text. My writing app, Ulysses, sits to the right.
Copying and pasting URLs eats mere seconds with this workflow configuration. And, with my eyes dancing between web page and draft article, I ensure the uniqueness of my content, e.g. no duplication of source language unless quoted.
Unlike Microsoft Word and other old-school word processors, Ulysses inflicts no nasty formatting surprises. I simply write, adding K.I.S.S.-style (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) Markdown to conjure desired formatting. Working within a plain txt format precludes time-wasting efforts to tame formatting. I get more done in less time. Conversion to a client’s preferred format, whether HTML, PDF, .rtf, or Word, requires mere taps. I can create or tweak a Ulysses style sheet to coerce overall appearance desires, per export format.
Am I schooled in CSS? Nope. But I have a friend named Google, who has yet to turn a deaf ear to my query.