by Jargon Writer

Writing my way to becoming a freelancer

Hosting OR Where you Keep Your Domain Name

As I discussed in Monday’s post, hosting services are services that “store” your website files in a place on the web (or, really, on a server that is always connected to the web) so that anyone can find them anytime.

Now, the reason I said not to buy your domain name immediately once you find one that you both love and that is available, is because some hosting services offer a free domain rebate or free domain name with purchase of a hosting plan. My host, dsgnrhosting.com, offers said rebate. Godaddy also offers hosting – my roommate bought her domain name through Godaddy and uses them for hosting and has been very pleased with them thus far. As with any major business decision, shop around a bit. The following are some things to consider when comparing:

Price and Payment Plans – Some sites are more flexible than others. Do you have to pay the year upfront? Can you pay month-to-month? How easy is it to upgrade or downgrade your hosting package? Do they offer any coupons (godaddy offers a number of coupons, according to my roomie)? Remember, money spent on hosting and your website is money you are taking out of your bottom line. It is an investment, and having a good website is a good investment, but you want to make sure what you’re buying is actually what you need. In addition to looking at the price for hosting services, check for extra fees –set up fees and domain registration fees, especially.

Memory – Essentially, this is how big your cabinet is; it will decide how many files you can keep up and how complex your website can be. If you already have a website built, you can look and just see how big the files are. If you don’t have a site built yet, it may be a good idea to ask a friend or colleague whose site you like how large their site is – this is likely to give you a pretty good indication of how much space you’ll need.

Email – Most hosting services include email services @yourdomainname.com. For instance, that is how I have an email account mbreau(at)jargonwriter.com. Can you create unlimited email addresses at your domain name?

Hosted Domains – This is how many domain names you can have set up for that hosting service account. I plan on having at least 3 domain names – one with my company name, one with my actually name and one for my blog (which will be http://www.jargonwriter.com as soon as I get it set up).

Traffic – This directly effects how many visitors you can get per month. In addition to actual visitors, this number is affected by search engine spiders (“crawlers” that check your site and catalog it so that search engines know what the site contains), which run through your site on a regular basis. There is a complicated formula for figuring out how many visits you can get per byte, but the easiest thing to do is just call or email the services you’re considering and ask what those numbers are.

Downtime – Servers generally undergo routine maintenance, but occasionally things happen and they go down. While the server is down, people will be unable to access your site. Ask about average annual downtime and policies pertaining to downtime, like whether the site reimburses customers for extended downtime.

NOTE: There are free FTP services out there (firefox offers one, for example) which essentially make the need for a hosting service moot. Instead, your website is uploaded to the ftp site and web surfers can access it. The downside, is many of the free services are fairly easy to hack; if you’ll be using your site for any sort of monetary transactions you NEED to purchase a hosting services or you’re putting your customer’s accounts at risk. If you’re just setting up a basic website, you may be able to get away with using a free account – but hosting services come with many additional perks (like the email address thing) and a good hosting services is a lot less likely to go down than a free ftp site.

Once you’ve chosen a hosting service, signed up for a package and bought your domain name, it’s time to start designing your site.

In the comments, please let me know what hosting service you use, what your experience has been and/or what factors play(ed) into your choice of a hosting service.

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, in practice, writing | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shopping For A Domain Name

As I discussed yesterday, one of the first steps in setting up your website is choosing a domain name. The easiest way I’ve found so far to find out what names are available is to come up with one and then input it at Godaddy.com, which will quickly search for the chosen domain name with a variety of endings (.com, .net, .info, .us, .me, .org, etc).

This lets you know that the name is available. But don’t hurry into purchasing the name–some hosting services, including mine (dsgnrhosting.com), offer you a free domain name when you purchase hosting. This, among a number of other things, is something to consider when choosing a host for your site (a post on choosing a hosting service coming soon).

Personally, I favor having a domain name that ends in .com, if at all possible. Most people immediately think of a website as being a “dot com” so while other options exist, my recommendation is that you find a domain name that is available with that ending. For me, having a unique domain name is important enough that I am running each of the names I consider through godaddy before adding it to my list of possibilities.

If you have already established a legal business entity – you’ve registered your company name with the local business bureau and done all the government paperwork– then your domain name should in some way work with your established name. If your name, as registered, isn’t available as a dot com (many common words are in use already as domains for related products and if you’re using your name and you have a common last name that may be taken as well) many articles recommend you choose a .net, .info, .me etc. Other articles suggest adding words like “the” to the beginning of your name.

What I recommend instead is using a shorter, quirkier or easier to remember version of your name – an abbreviation, for example. For Melissa Breau Copy Company perhaps I’d do http://www.melbcopy.com, which rhymes when pronounced (mel – b – copy).

The trick is to make it both related to your actual company name in a way that will allow clients to create an association between the two mentally and to make it obvious and clear enough that clients will still associate it with your company.

When you’ve found a domain name that you feel is a good choice for your company and is available for purchase, your next step is to choose a host for your site (do this BEFORE buying the domain name).

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, in practice, writing | , , , | 5 Comments

Why I Don’t Write About Social Media (A Link Round Up)

You may have noticed I don’t really talk about social media much… I use it to market and promote myself, but I haven’t done a blog post discussing all the best ways to tweet or how to be popular on Facebook — other than the one post I did on using it to create incoming links. That’s because there is already a lot of great information out there on this topic.

Here are some pieces to read on promoting yourself digitally:

Why Should Businesses Engage in Social Media – Lindsey’s post answers the common questions: why do I need it? And do I have to engage once I have it? Who has the time for this stuff, anyway? She provides links to solid resources Gen-Y and social media enthusiasts can use to show the benefits of social media to their boss, their boss’ boss and the guy down the hall. And in the process, you just might become convinced yourself.

The Power of Social Media – It’s all about revolution. The media world is turning upside-down and this piece explains why that is good for you. Leveraging social media is about understanding that personal branding is about two things – your network and you (but mostly you). Mehul explains how these tools can impact the opportunities you are offered in your career and in the business world.

Don’t Waste Your Time with Social Media – Wait, it’s not what you think. Kenetic Ink discusses how to make social media a part of a marketing strategy, instead of dabbling in it in ways that will result in no results. The piece discusses how to assimilate new marketing and branding techniques into more traditional methods and create a brand that pops on multiple levels.

10 Social Media Errors Businesses Should Avoid – Have you heard of the power of a whisper? When you whisper, the listener leans in to hear what you’re saying; they listen more closely and pay more attention. Shouting at your audience does not work — but bribing them might.
In this piece, which is allegedly about what to avoid, Wayne really clues readers in on how to use social media correctly. By explaining what not to do and why, Wayne clearly shows what businesses should do. He explains why Social Media can’t be measured in terms of ROI (return on investment), and other things that people new to social media commonly get wrong.

10 Ideas for Small Businesses to Launch Social Media Campaigns – Also by Wayne, this post reminds you of the little things that you can do to make social networking work. this piece can almost serve as a check list of ideas each business should implement when they begin investing in social media.

Do People Understand the “Social” Part of Social Media?– From the queen of unconventional,  this piece illustrates in a clear way why half-assing social networking doesn’t work. Marian isn’t afraid to cut straight to the punch and does so in a way that both illustrates the point and makes you laugh. Also of interest are her posts on starting a new blog and twitter.

Group, Fan Page or Both? – Entrepreneur discusses one of MY biggest questions – how the heck do businesses use Facebook to create connections? I have a lot of difficultly with this because I don’t use Facebook the way most people apparently do – I use Facebook for two things: to connect with people I already know and have known for a long time and to play Scrabble. But many consumers use Facebook in a number of other ways – and this piece discusses the different ways your business can tap into this marketplace.

Are there other posts that you feel add significantly to the conversation about social media? Add them in the comments.

March 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Resources for a New Freelance Writer / Sm. Biz. Owner

At least once a week I want to share links to some of the great articles I came across that week. Check them out – there are some great pieces here!

4 Measures to Put in Place so Your Freelance Writing Clients Won’t Rip You Off
Contracts, kill fees, late fees and deposits help make sure you don’t do the work and then never see your money.

And from the same site …. Do You Know What You’re Selling? Successfully Marketing Your Online Freelance Writing
This piece talks about how important it is for a writer to define their own business – after all, if we can’t put our own company into well written words how can we expect anyone else to trust us to do that for their company?

Work Smart: Increasing Productivity & Efficiency – I would love to write for this site at some point in the future – but this is a great piece from Young, Fabulous and Self-Employed. We all have enough distractions – the key to being a successful entrepreneur (and, as a “freelance writer” that’s what I am) is to prioritize and set up systems to get things done.

February 22, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, research, writing | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating a Press Kit

A press kit, or media kit, as defined by Wikipedia is a pre-packaged set of promotional materials of a person, company, or organization distributed to members of the media for promotional use. They are often distributed to announce a release or for a news conference.

I would add to this that press kits are one way (some) companies can introduce themselves to new clients. A well-developed press kit will showcase the company’s accomplishments and make a convincing case for why a client should utilize them. While this wouldn’t be appropriate for a retail store, it would definitely be appropriate for a b2b company or a freelance writer’s press kit.

There are two general physical formats a press kit can take – it can either be in the form of a booklet (stapled or bound together) or it can be a folder with multiple pages inside. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type.

A booklet generally looks more professional; it is more permanent and has a polished, finished appeal that encourages clients or the media to take you seriously.

A folder format, while less professional looking, can have pages swapped out (so you can include up-to-the-minute information)as a company gets press coverage, releases new products or other news-worthy events take place. They can be printed out on any color printer, while a booklet needs to be printed by a professional (although some Staples / Office Depot locations may offer this service). Finally, when press information is in a booklet format editors or clients are likely to consider it as one piece – a whole – and judge it as such. Meaning it gets glanced at once and then either tossed or kept. With separate pages in a folder each piece is generally judged individually.

No matter which format is chosen, a press kit consists of the same basic elements.

A basic press kit includes the following: (included are some download-able samples I’ve done)
A Company Bio which discusses how the company was founded, why and by whom. How it has changed since that time. What products or services (briefly) the company offers and any recent company news. If the company is still very new, the founder(s)’ qualifications or past experience can also be included (attached is a company bio I did for an events planning company).

Press Releases on anything the company has recently created a press release on. This includes events the company has hosted, new products or services it is now offering, new hires, sales or special promotions,  anniversaries and/or any other occasion (attached is a release I did for an author on the release of his book). If the press kit is being printed in a booklet or brochure format, then it may be more appropriate to include a single page that includes a brief blurb of recent newsworthy events.

Samples of Company Work can be included where appropriate. For example, as a writer my press kit will include all the samples attached to this blog post plus some sample articles I’ve written. I may even reformat one or two of my posts and lay them out to include in my press kit. Some other samples that could be included: posters for an event the company sponsored or hosted, design work or statements from satisfied customers.

Services Offered should appear in a list format somewhere within the press kit. Including pricing is optional, but personally I recommend it. One of the leading reasons that people do not buy a product or service is that they cannot find a price. That’s a silly reason not to gain a client (IMHO). In this post I listed (w/o prices) the services I offer.

Contact information should definitely be included. Ideally, each page will have at least the company website across either the top or bottom of the page – but a complete header or footer might include a contact email address, website and phone number. A business card can also be included if desired.

An Intro Letter that pitches the company’s products or services can be on top (in a folder) or on the opening page (in a booklet). Essentially, an intro letter will basically be a sales letter, making a case for why the editor you’re sending the press kit to should write about you or why the client you’re soliciting should be interested in your services (attached is a sales letter that I did for a graphic designer – this is an example of what you’d use for a client-focused press kit).

OPTIONAL: A CD with high-resolution images of products, a company logo, a head shot of the company founder, or image from a recent news event / sale. Be sure you have rights to the images you include; the idea here is to offer the editor an image to include with his/her story.

OPTIONAL: An Expert Interview / A Helpful Article on a topic of interest to potential clients and/or an editor. This can take the form of either a Question and Answer article with the company founder on a topic tangential to the company’s products or services or an article discussing a related topic. For example, I could include a piece on SEO when pitching web content writing to a new client. An event planner might include a piece on picking the perfect venue – the idea is to position a company employee / the company as an expert in its field and to illustrate the benefits of its services / products.

February 17, 2010 Posted by | in practice | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments