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

Filed under: Copywriting No Comments
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. 

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 85

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.

Filed under: Copywriting No Comments
25Sep/180

SANTINI’S 2018 EROICA COLLECTION

Santini’s 2018 Eroica collection is an authentic line of vintage cycling clothing for men and women who, in the spirit of cycling’s pioneers, inspire to ride their own heroic adventure.

In search of heroic rides

We’ve all seen the iconic photography of the greats of cycling’s early days. Black and white images of whip-thin riders on bikes that weighed three times what a modern bicycle does. Riders in baggy wool clothing and goggles who carried tires like bandoliers across their chest and drank water from corked aluminum bottles. Riders who had to shift gears users levers on the down tube or, if you go back far enough, had only one, fixed gear.

They fought over primitive mountain passes, in all kinds of weather, in heroic performances that still motivate cyclists today. Such riders were the inspiration behind L’Eroica, the epic, vintage-cycling-inspired event held each year in Gaiole, Chianti Italy.

Riding in the wheels of the greats

The Italian world Eroica means Heroic. L’Eroica means The Heroic, and refers to an annual cycling event in Gaiole, Italy where cyclists pay respect to the heroic performance of cycling’s early sporting pioneers by riding long distances on rural Tuscan roads using only vintage (pre 1987 by strict rule) equipment and clothing.

Since its inception in 1997, Eroica has grown more and more popular among cyclists who want to and connect to the authentic roots of the sport. As well as the original event in Gaiole, Italy, there are now Eroica events in Spain, Japan, the United States, South Africa, and other places where people want to come together to celebrate cycling’s values and traditions.

L’Eroica Gaiole takes place On October 7th this year. Drawing on our half-century history making clothes for cyclists in pursuit of their own heroic performances, we collaborate with Eroica to bring you a collection of vintage and vintage-inspired clothing.

'Polvere e fatica' (Dust and exertion)

Our Eroica collection incorporates the textiles and manufacturing processes of cycling’s early eras. You’ll find wool, metal zippers, embroidery, patches, and silk foulards in the collection, as well as options for both for summer and winter riding. The color palette reflects the unique pink Tuscan sunsets, the earthy bordeaux and rich greens of the landscape, and the white Strada Bianchi roads that dominate Tuscan wine country.

For men, there are several short-sleeve wool jerseys, a couple of modern kits in vintage looks, and long-sleeve jerseys and jackets in classic materials for winter riding.

For women, our POLVERE line offers one jersey in wool with a pink houndstooth print and three jerseys in modern textiles. Ultra-feminine in both color and cut, the COURE woollen jersey is aquamarine and cream with needlecord stripes. The Eroica collection for women includes coordinating accessories.

To complete the heroic look for both men and women, we offer retro embroidered woollen Eroica bibs and shorts with a modern, antibacterial padding designed to mimic the look of the original leather chamois.

The entire Eroica collection is ‘authorized’ for use in Eroica events and available now at our website, at Eroica events, and at select retailers.

Original article posted at www.santinius.com

Filed under: Copywriting No Comments
24Sep/180

Who decided blog posts have to be 500 words?

I have been freelance copywriting professionally for a couple of years now. When I write for the web for clients, I am often asked to keep my word count to 500. It’s so common a requirement I always assumed it was a hard-and-fast rule, born of incredible wisdom, marketers law that should never, never be violated. Sticking to this word-count limit is one of the greatest struggles I have with copywriting though.

When I sit down for a writing session, focus on putting an idea down into a Google or Scrivener doc, a thousand words come out before I can take a breath to see how whatever I’m writing is turning out. A good writing session on one topic may yield 1,500, 2,200 words or more. I start out my copywriting assignments this way - throwing down any and all thoughts, ideas, client quotes, and gathered research on the assigned subject. Cutting that natural flow back to 500 words takes time, three or four passes at least. The trimming is what stretches copywriting assignments from two-hour missions to six-hour slogs.

500 words is soooo brief? It’s a shackle of a word count. To get there, I have to suck back what I want to say. I have to buzz-cut paragraphs to make my point under the limit. I have to sacrifice one or more of my precious children so my whole family will fit neatly inside someone else’s idea that a family car should have only three-seat and headroom for little people.

The 500-word blog post recommendation is a fabrication

So why? Why am I being held to this punitive word count in a world where so many amazing words exist?

Google this question and the 500-words recommendation pops up over all kinds of web pages designed to tell YOU how you *should* optimize your web content. So search engines prefer it over longer pages. Because your audience won’t stick around for longer articles than that. So your point gets across with brevity.

I found this on an affiliate marketing website - “Many bloggers prefer to stick to short articles, generally between 500 and 750 words… According to Forbes.com, 200 words is the ideal length for a blog post because it keeps the reader’s attention, doesn’t leave room for fluff, and creates a quick and effective call to action (CTA).” This is a common theme among websites heavily focused on product listings and sales. Content whose purpose is to move a product.

The writer then goes on to immediately contradict themselves, citing the benefits of posting longer pieces. “...longer posts allow you more space and freedom to work keywords into your content alongside your overall message and a CTA. Forbes has the data to support the case for longer content too. Citing results from a serpIQ study, the top 10 results on Google all have a minimum of at least 2,000 words.” The same article then cites research on the site Medium.com that suggests 1,300 words (about seven minutes of reading time). This was common best practices on websites focused on quality and depth of content. Content intended to inform, educate, and inspire.

My 500-word assignments are coming from product-focused websites. Brands with a product mission. So it makes sense that they’re taking the advice that the online marketing world has to offer. And it makes sense that when I want to write something where I take a bit of time and complete a full thought, it lengthens naturally into something that lines up with what readers prefer.

So...

I’m just going to do what I want (unless someone is paying me)

The 500-word recommendation having a purely commercial origin makes sense. Websites designed to sell product need focused, shorter articles because the research span of someone looking for a product online is short. Understanding that it’s not just an arbitrary number helps me when I’m taking on these copywriting assignments. It gives me focus, a specific word target to hit, It challenges me to get lean with the words, to get right at the point when I’m writing the setup (where I usually like to take time to build up the product story that’s about to follow).

When I’m writing specialty content, the audience expects me to take more time, go further in depth, and let the writing tell whatever the story is your trying to convey. Which is a license to write in my more natural rhythm.

Okay, frustration is gone, I’ve worked out my resentment to the arbitrary 500-word blog-article recommendation. I can embrace it now. Can you?

PS: This article is almost 800 words.