If you’re writing for online businesses, you need to have a good understanding of the actual value of your work.
No, I’m not talking about “how much your time is worth” based on your personal assessment of your value and writing skills. I’m talking about the true value of your words.
It surprises me that so many writers who focus on online markets don’t seem to have a real grip on what their words can do and why they can be solid gold for their clients. These folks continue to trumpet vague concepts like “quality” or they rely on clichéd notions like “Google loves fresh content” in their marketing instead of explaining why their words are really valuable to a potential client.
The fact that you write well is worth celebrating. It’s a great skill and it’s something in which you can take great pride. All of that grammatical perfection and your ability to turn a phrase that would bring a big ol’ crocodile tear to Papa Hemingway’s’ eye is worth approximately nothing to your potential clients, however.
You see, they’re not interested in spreading glorious prose around the world. In many cases, they might not be able to discern a truly awesome piece of writing from near-crap. Their interest in words is far more mercenary.
They want to know that giving you $X to write something will produce $X+$Y in return.
That means you need to know why you’re writing can make them money.
That’s easy when you’re talking about a sales page or other more direct forms of copy. You can tell them (and hopefully substantiate) that your copy generates conversions. You write, the product or service sells and everyone lives happily ever after, sleeping on fluffy mattresses stuffed with Benjamins.
Your writing has additional value, though. At least it does if you’re good at your job.
In addition to closing sales, good text can be a search engine booster by virtue of its ability to naturally attract high quality links. It can play with Google’s attraction to specific keyword use. It can pre-sell like crazy. It can increase credibility, building up the ethos leg of Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle. It can clean up messes, provide differentiation, establish brand, clarify the confusing, drive direct traffic from article repositories, serve as list-building inducements, become a go-to reference point, heal the sick, make the old young again and solve the India/Pakistan dispute over Kashmir.
Okay, those last three are a reach. But you get the idea.
You can’t hope to successfully pitch your work at a higher rate if you can’t tell a compelling story about what it’s going to do for the client. Sure, some of the folks looking for writers already have a clear understanding of your words’ tremendous value, but most of the people out there in Buyerland aren’t necessarily at that point. They need a little education to go along with that negotiation and you should be providing it by pitching the benefits of your work.
It’s not good enough to say that you’re worth $X because “Google loves fresh content.” Anyone can provide “fresh content.” You need to be able to explain exactly what it is about your writing that will earn a loving embrace from Big G.
You can’t make that pitch if you don’t know why your writing has value, though. If you try, you’ll end up sounding like my five year-old when she decides to bust out a big new word she heard on TV–cute, but uncertain and unpersuasive.
So, here’s the big question–and your answer is probably worth thousands of dollars if you write for the ‘Net full time–Do you know what you’re selling?
If you do, you’re in good shape. If you don’t, you’re in trouble. If you’re not sure, you probably don’t. If you’re on the wrong side of the knowledge divide, you need to start carving off some time for homework. It pays to understand your clients’ business as it relates to the value of online copy/content much, much better than they do. In many cases, it can be the difference between settling for what people are offering and creating mutually beneficial relationships and well-stuffed mattresses.