stevemedcroft.com
21Oct/180

When is it time to hire a writer?

I am a freelance writer, for hire, to work on content-production projects ranging from short, evergreen web articles to book-length non-fiction. Contact me for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.

If I told you I was a writer for hire, you might ask yourself why on earth would anyone want to hire a writer? Isn’t writing something anyone who is literate knows how to do? Don’t we write our own text messages, emails, notes to family, Facebook posts, Yelp reviews, Instagram hashtags? Don’t we write constantly? Communicate every day in a hundred ways?

Acknowledged. Not everyone *needs* a writer. I assume you’re capable of putting across your own thoughts in written word. But, there is an argument that writing is a skill that needs to be developed when applied to specific tasks. When you have a need for properly planned, focused, and easy-to-read content, a writer-for-hire can make written-word products that suit your need. Sure, you might be able to take care of yourself, but hiring a writer could ease the burden of actually completing the work yourself and, hopefully, give you a polished final result.

Here are six types of writing projects I, and writers like me, take on for clients. If you could use help on a project that fits one of these categories, contact me.

Web articles: Usually short and punchy, I’ve written web articles for all kinds of publications and clients over the years. I’ve written how-to articles, blog posts, and in-depth analysis into the various types of bicycle chain lubricant, for example. The client briefs and word-length requirements vary, but writing for the web is about getting to the point quickly, covering a subject that fits into its online home, and delivering to the allotted space and time. Do you have a website? Need content developed?

Catalog copy: Writing for product can be as important as the imagery. I work with clients in Europe that produce two or three product catalogs per year. They create the first English-language version (usually a translation from their primary language) and have me to tighten and smooth the language so it flows naturally for their English-speaking distributors and customers. I might also be asked to produce summary paragraphs for the introduction to the catalog. I am then tasked, at times, to write longer-form web content for the same product sets. Are you producing content about your products and services? Should we develop a plan to optimize that content for your audience and give it the best chance of being useful?

Interviews and profiles: There are seven billion human beings on the planet right now. That’s seven billion different experiences in the world, seven billion different perspectives on life, seven billion different stories to tell. My most-rewarding short-form work is done when I get to help someone tell their story though interview or profile. I’ve written prose and Q&A-style interviews throughout my writing life and would like to spend more time in the future helping people tell their stories to the world. Are there people in your orbit, with unique perspective or skills, that we should highlight to your audience/customer base? Or do you have a story you want to tell?

Event reports: I’ve reported on cycling races across the US (and even a few in Europe). There’s a journalistic satisfaction in writing a good race report; setting the scene for the reader, laying out the stakes for the competition, getting play-by-play from the finalists, producing the official results. The additional fun challenge in race reporting is also the timeliness; the attempt to publish the story as close to the completion of the competition as possible. Sure, it’s exhausting work, but once you develop a rhythm for writing competent race and event reports, the work is extremely satisfying and rewarding. The same editorial narrative style can be applied to any event coverage. Are you part of, or putting on, an event? How can I help you tell its story; the how and why it exists, the timeline of how it played out, and capture the top moments so those who couldn’t be there can still get the sense of what you were trying to accomplish?

Newsletters and round-ups (subbing): The editorial term ‘subbing’ means, simply, summarizing a group of content into one article. When I was the mountain-bike editor of www.cyclingnews.com, the worlds most widely-read cycling news website, I would take product press releases and summarize that week’s race reports, interviews, and technical review into a weekly news round-up. Subbing is an art and I enjoyed doing it. The skill can be applied to any collection of material that would benefit from being turned into a newsletter or periodic review. A great example is the New York Times' Your Weekend BriefingCan you imagine putting a periodic summary of content you’d like to share with your audience?

Whitepapers and book-length projects: Sometimes, a subject demands in-depth study. I’ve written two non-fiction books. Call Centers Made Easy was my attempt to help small businesses leverage communications technology to better connect and communicate with their customers. The book spoke to the fact that large customer-support-intense companies (airlines, insurance companies, banks) invested millions building out systems to optimize their management of customer interactions. My book showed small businesses how those large centers did it and how they could emulate some of the technologies and concepts (to the same benefits) using small-business telecom systems. I also wrote a book called The Telecom Manager’s Survival Guide which spelled out how to, well, manage the telecommunications infrastructure for a large company. What subject in your life would you like to develop into a longer written project? White paper (3-5k words)? eBook (5-25k words)? Full-length nonfiction project (50-100k words) you want to take to a publisher?

The price of a writer-for-hire

The cost for a writer to help you with any of these kinds of content projects vary. A writer looking to break in, or one that has the capacity for high-volume, short-turn-around work, could be quite inexpensive. You can find them online, as well as find marketplaces for freelancers to bid on your job. A pedigreed writer with background and history that is a testament to their skill, and who likely has the freedom to select the projects they work on, may be prohibitive.

I’m somewhere between those two ends of the spectrum. I work on freelance projects when I want to; when I like the project, the client/collaborator, and feel like I can produce interesting work. I charge, in round numbers:

  • Fifty-cents per contracted word plus expenses. That means, if I am contracted to produce a 500-word blog article, I may turn-in 556 words, but the client pays for the budgeted amount of $250.
  • If a word-count price model doesn’t work (very short word-count projects, the editing of existing copy, or research-heavy book-length projects), I negotiate, in advance, either a flat fee or a financial arrangement tied to the income produced by the work (in the case of book-length projects).

If you have a writing project you’d like to discuss, please reach out through the contact me page on this website, or find me on LinkedIn.

20Oct/180

VEGA COLLECTION

Oct 20, 2018 - Our Acquazero-treated VEGA winter clothing is your insurance policy for when nasty weather threatens to rob you of the joy of riding your bicycle.

Ignore the weather forecast and go for a ride

It’s easy to dress for cycling in summer; a short-sleeve jersey, your favorite Santini bib shorts, and a slather of sunblock are all you need. The job gets trickier in fall and winter. Even mildly cool air can throw off your training when you’re driving through it at twenty miles per hour. Throw in some moisture, up the wind speeds, or drop the temperatures near freezing, and riding a bike becomes a challenge that can only be solved with a hardy will and a proper system of protective winter cycling kit. Like Santini’s Acquazero-treated VEGA collection.

The VEGA collection of winter clothing includes long-sleeve jerseys, bib tights, a jacket, gloves, and shoe covers -- all designed to wrap you in a warm embrace without cloistering. The fabrics we chose are insulated, but breathable. Properly worn when you head out in cold weather, VEGA clothing is designed to keep you comfortable at the start and, as you warm up, release trapped heat and sweat to maintain ideal core temperature. The collection’s VEGA Xtreme jacket, a Polartec shell, adds a layer of protection for the worst of days.

The genius of the VEGA collection is our unique moisture-protection treatment called Acquazero, which allows cyclists to prepare for, but not be defeated by, challenging weather conditions. Chilly mornings? No problem. Foggy skies? Threat of rain showers? Pish-tosh. Acquazero-treated VEGA clothing is the solution to staying on your bike in winter.

Acquazero is an ingenious chemical bath that impregnates a flexible moisture barrier into our thermal fabrics. It’s a protective treatment designed to prevent light rain and road spray from getting to your core, where it can harsh the mellow of your riding experience. We’ve been using Acquazero on winter cycling clothing for years. It saves you from moisture beautifully and holds up to repeated (gentle-cycle) machine washes.

The VEGA winter-riding collection

The collection includes the following items:

Thermal bib tights - Acquazero-treated. Perfect for temperatures between +5 and +15 Celsius (40 to 60 degrees fahrenheit).

Thermal jerseys - long-sleeve jerseys in Acquazero-treated Blizzard thermofleece. Our best-selling winter item, the VEGA thermal jerseys are good for temperatures between +5 and +15 celsius.

VEGA Xtreme jacket - For temperatures between -8 and +5 (15 to 40 degrees farenheit ), the VEGA Xtreme jacket is designed so you can ride in the harshest weather conditions. Made with Polartec’s Windbloc fabric, a 3 layer shield with an advanced microporous membrane for maximum breathability, Vega XTREME offers total protection from wind and rain.

Accessories - Blizzard thermafleece long-fingered gloves and shoe covers treated with Acquazero round out the collection.

Use our VEGA winter-clothing system to keep yourself on the road and protect your core in colder months, and reduce the total number of winter clothing items you need to own (and carry). Add base-layers underneath to ride in even the most unseemly conditions.

Original posted on www.santinius.com

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14Oct/180

Dear Twitter (a break-up letter)

I’m sorry, but I can’t see you anymore. It isn’t working between us. I need some space. And by space, I mean, I’m leaving. And I am not coming back.

I know this probably comes as a shock and I’m sorry to be so blunt about it, but I want you to understand that this is about me, not about you. I’ve reached a point in my life where I have to make some changes. Changes for my health, for my well-being, for my sanity even. I want to be happy, and I’m not happy when I’m with you. And honestly, I can’t believe you’re happy with me either. As much as it pains me to let go of a years-long relationship, I need a clean break.

Please don’t cry. We’ve had a good run haven’t we? It’s important to me that I believe much of the time we spent together was positive. In fact, when we first met and everything was still so new and fresh, you opened me up to a world I hadn’t been part of up until then. At first, we had the same friends, then you introduced me to a whole world of new people. I was drawn to the stories and the people that you knew and could get me access to. I met all kinds of other writers and artists and people I admired. You let me see practically inside their heads and how they thought about their work, their place in the world, and shared their successes. I even got to commiserate alongside them for their losses and missteps.

To be part of your life while you became famous was really special to me. I got to watch you grow, to ride along as you empowered people to change the worlds. You grew so powerful that you helped people literally overthrow their oppressive governments, settled debates among titans, and gave voice to the creative and the suffering. I fed off your power. I felt connected. I felt like because of my relationship with you, I had a bigger voice than I’d ever had before.

The truth is, as strong and powerful my love for you was, I was always reserved in our relationship. I allowed myself to be pulled by you. When we’d spend time together, I always let you choose what we saw and how we spent our time. You set the agenda. I was passive about it. Which is fine. I know this was my choice. But looking back, maybe that was a sign this relationship couldn’t last. I gave you too much power over my mental wellbeing. I didn’t contribute, I just consumed. Which made me feel weak and controlled. And I began to resent myself for it.

The wings of darkness are flapping over us

Then things turned. I know this is tough to hear, but it’s as if dark forces took you over. The Twitter I loved started to get moody and irritable. It wasn’t long before politics, fear, negativity, and hate replaced that beautiful window into the worlds of my creative and positive friends. All everyone wanted to do with you was fret and wring their hands about the world. Even though I still wanted to see you every day, I would leave our time together feeling bad about myself and scared for the future.

Your success, in the form of attention and growth in numbers, seemed like it was a drug to you. Even if you knew (I believe in your heart of hearts, you knew) that it was bad for you, you kept taking it. You acted like that attention was all that mattered. You didn’t seem to care that it was corrosive and negative and harmful to the great collective human soul. Attention was attention.

You are feeding on darkness. You have become infected with desperateness and mean-spiritedness. I catch a little more of it every time I am around you. Being with you, I allowed darkness to grow inside me. Which means, I am then feeding your need. It is a nasty cycle and I hate myself sometimes for both what being with you is doing to me, but also by what this co-dependency does to you.

Worst of all, you have started to take sides in some of the debate that you are enabling. You had never done that before. And I find myself almost constantly on the side you chose against.

So, for both our sake, I have to let you go. I’m making a clean break. I don’t trust myself to just take some time off or put us through a trial separation. It’s over. I’m leaving. I’m deactivating my account.

I know that this will have no real impact on you, I’m not naive. I was always just a teeny-tiny blip in your journey. You meant way much more to me than I ever meant to you. But I didn’t want to leave without you knowing why. I still love you enough for that.

I hope you understand my choice. And I hope that somewhere, maybe deep inside you, you know that I’m actually doing the right thing and you can be happy for me.

Anyway. Thank you. I love you. But goodbye.

Steve Medcroft

PS: The steps to deactivating a Twitter account are:

  1. Login to Twitter in a browser on your PC.
  2. Click on your profile image to open Profile and Settings.
  3. Select Settings and Privacy.
  4. To save your history, click on Request Your Archive. You will receive an email link that allows you download the history of your activity on Twitter.
  5. Click Deactivate Account. You will be taken to a confirmation window that notified you your username is reserved for 30 days

After deactivation, some of your activity may be available in search engines, internet archives, and the feeds of other people. You will receive a confirmation when the deactivation is complete. Then you’re free.

11Oct/180

The leap from PBX ACD to CCaaS?

A long time ago, I wrote a book called Call Centers Made Easy. It was an attempt to help small businesses realize that they had a call-center inside their company, in the form of their sales team, their service department, IT department, or Human Resources. The book taught that modern PBX phone systems could give them access to the tools large call centers used to manage interactions between customers and staff more efficiently. The book is outdated but the premise is still valid.

Last week, I met with a client with an HR staff of fifty servicing a national workforce using basic PBX ACD functionality and reporting. The goal was to help find ways modern contact-center systems could improve their staff's workflow and, more importantly, help them serve their customers (the company's employees) more efficiently.

The meeting challenged us to lay out clear gains for the business to move from a PBX technology frozen at it's latest release to a provider delivering under the CCaaS model.

So what are the gains? Do we just rattle off a checklist of features that our CCaaS provider partners offer? Or can we frame the discussion in terms that help a business realize their mission-oriented goals of improving department efficiency, enable them to give better client service, and provide them the kind of analytics that help them make smarter decisions is service of the mission?

Here's the case we made. What do you think? What did we miss? What are the other wins for a customer in this same position? And if you are customer with the same challenge, can City Communications help you solve it?

The potential gains for a business moving from PBX-based call-center technology to CCaaS:

  • Improved efficiency for the staff. Today's contact-center systems offer new call-routing and agent-grouping methodologies. You'll be able to design workflows to help your team manage more interactions with finer analytics. You can add the ability for your agents to handle department-bound email, chat sessions, text messages and other digital interactions. Which will improve your staff's work experience and your ability to establish policies and processes for how you're handling contact with your clients.
  • A better experience for your customers. The goal with any new system is to find ways to reduce friction for your clients and help you to meet clients where they live (increasingly on mobile devices). Allowing you to offer text messaging, mobile-app integration, and chat capability means clients get better access to your department. Interactive Voice Response and integration to your back-office systems could allow you to open up self-help options so employees can get questions answered outside normal hours and offload some calls and messages. Automatic callback and other outbound-calling services allow clients to connect with you at the best times for them (and help you manage busy times more efficiently).
  • Analytics that improve service. By integrating all contact types into one system, you'll be able to improve (and demonstrate the improvement of) service levels. You'll get granular, cradle-to-grave data on how well you're servicing your clients (how often they call, email, chat or text with you). If we can integrate to your current CRM, the systems should be able to share information (contact records and notes posted to the CRM, the analytics being able to reference ticket information to contacts).
  • Future-proof investment. Cloud-based systems are services you subscribe to, not products that you buy. Your expense is limited to the subscription cost. No capital outlay. No annual maintenance. No upgrade or expansion charges every year or two. Every company we partner with that provides this kind of service maintains you at their latest release and offers new features as they come online as part of the service.

Originally posted on LinkedIn in October, 2017

10Oct/180

Beryl Burton – Britain’s first worlds double winner

One of the great joys I have in copywriting assignments is when I'm asked to contribute copy to be printed on a fabric label that will adorn a very special cycling jersey. Santini makes jerseys that celebrate famous world championship wins (and special world championship winners). The labels come with a demanding word limit (350 words) and challenge me to write the story of an event famous to people who know the history of the sport (or the people involved). I *must* get them right. That's a challenge I enjoy. Being proud of the final copy is a great reward. What follows is the most recent example. 

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Beryl Burton - Britain’s first worlds double winner

When Beryl Burton, OBE, first took up cycling, riding with her husband Charlie and the Morley Cycling Club in Yorkshire, she had to be helped along. By her second year, she was a contributing member on group rides. In her third year, she started racing and went on to dominate the UK time-trial scene for most of the rest of her amazing, but sadly short, lifetime.

Burton earned the respect of global cycling fans and journalists with her world championships win in Leipzig in 1960. Against aggressive Soviet competition, racing behind the intimidating Iron Curtain, Burton led the pack for the first half of the race. She broke away with Elsy Jacobs of Luxembourg. Jacobs couldn’t hold the Briton’s pace, so Burton spent the final 35 kilometers off the front. She crossed the finish line with a three-minute margin over a chasing pack of thirteen riders.

The accomplishment is especially remarkable because Burton won the individual track pursuit world championships earlier that week, delivering the most-elusive prize in cycling; a same-year track/road worlds double championship.

Although she chose to remain an amateur, Burton is one of the most decorated cyclists in history. Domestically, she was virtually unbeatable. Burton won the Road Time Trials Council’s British Best All-Rounder Competition for 25 consecutive years (1959 to 1983). She earned 72 national individual time trial titles at multiple distances and set records that stood for decades. She also won 24 national titles in road and track racing. Internationally, she won five pursuit world championships on the track (1959, 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1966) and road worlds a second time in 1967.

Burton was recognized for her achievements in sport with appointment as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1964 and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1968. She died in 1996.

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