4 Examples of Effective Headline Design.

headline design for web contentHeadline design? What does that mean?

It means writing and formatting your headline in a way that makes it jump out from the page, or email, or a smartphone.

It used to be that headlines had to do a single job, on the web page where the balance of the content followed. Read the headline, and then keep reading the body text immediately below.

Today, headlines still have to work well, immediately above the body content, but they also have to grab attention and hook readers when they stand alone.

Here are a few situations where your headline has to stand alone, or almost alone: When used as a tweet on Twitter. In an RRS feed. On a smartphone. In Reddit or Digg.

In these circumstances, your headline has to jump out from dozens of others, and get the reader to click through to the full page or post.

Read the full post…

Your new site visitors and subscribers don’t know who you are, yet. [TIMELINE]

Yesterday I was reading an excellent post by Chris Brogan, Start Fresh.

In his post he talks about how while you move forward with your career, many of your readers have stepped in half way through the narrative. They may not know where you “came from” or how and why you do what you are doing today.

Very good point.

For myself, I have been earning my living as a writer for 30 years now, and I have been publishing my online newsletter for over 10 years.

I guess a small proportion of my current newsletter readers have been with me from the beginning. But I’m sure most haven’t.

Read the full post…

Think like Michelangelo: A freelancer’s guide to choosing great clients.

part of the sistine chapelHistorically, artists have always needed to find a patron. Sometimes the church, sometimes a nobleman or a merchant.

Without the support of a patron, artists wouldn’t have had the resources to do great work. We all have to eat.

And those patrons often gave pretty clear instructions regarding the topic of the art. For example, painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel wasn’t Michelangelo’s idea. The work was commissioned by Pope Julius II.

In fact, Michelangelo was reluctant to take on the project. He would rather have been sculpting.

But you know how it goes…what the client wants, the client gets. (Particularly when, in addition to being the Pope, you are also referred to as “Il papa terribile”.)

The thing being, the artist’s life isn’t so very different from the freelancer’s life.

Read the full post…

Talking about the importance of quality web content with Ken McGaffin of Wordtracker. [VIDEO]

I have known Ken for a long time, but this is the first time we have got together to create a video interview.

As you can see, we touch on a few of the most important and pressing issues facing web content creators, and the connection between quality web content and link-building.

To hear more from us on this topic, you can sign up for a free,1-hour webinar we are delivering live on Tuesday, September 13th at 12:00PM EST.

Sign up for our “How to Build Quality Content and Links” webinar here…

The key to writing anything well is to look your reader in the eye.

always maintain eye contact with your audience

always maintain eye contact with your audienceLet’s start with an analogy.

You are giving a presentation to a group of people in a meeting room. You have a PowerPoint presentation on the screen.

During the course of that presentation, part of the time you will be facing your audience, looking them in the eye, and talking directly to them.

At other points, you will turn your back on the audience and speak to a slide on the screen. You might be pointing to some figures, a chart, or some bullet points.

Read the full post…

First, figure out what you love to do. Then figure out how to make money doing it.

writers desk in 1979
writers desk in 1979
My desk at home in 1979, including my full writer’s kit – paper, pen, manual typewriter, ashtray, coffee mug, and a small bottle of Bell's Whisky.

I pretty much stumbled into my first job as a copywriter. Up until a few days before I sat down to write my first ad, I didn’t even know that copywriters existed.

I was working as a management trainee at an ad agency in London. That meant I was being shuffled from department to department, so I could get a rounded education in the agency business. I was 22 years old.

After a stint in the media and production departments, I was passed on to the creative department. The creative director sat me down and asked me whether I was a designer or a writer. I told him I was a writer. Sure, I had done a stint at art college, but at heart I had always liked writing best.

Since the day I wrote that first ad – for a forklift truck company – I have been writing for a living. (They stopped shuffling me around, and left me in the creative department.)

I had always loved writing, and at the age of 22 I had found a way to make money doing what I loved. Lucky me.

Today, over 30 years later, I coach a lot of freelancers who seem to be trying to do this the other way around. When I ask them why they want to be a copywriter, designer, programmer or freelancer in some other way, they usually tell me they have heard it’s a good way to make money.

I think that approach makes things a lot harder for them.

I have succeeded as a copywriter and then a web writer simply because I love to write, and I’m fascinated by business.

Back in my early twenties I would work all day, and then spend many of my evenings and weekends writing ads simply as practice. I didn’t have to. I did that because I loved what I was doing. And I became better and better at writing as a result of all those extra hours.

Freelancers receive all kinds of good advice about how to make a decent living. Goal setting. Finding a niche. Marketing. Commitment. Mental toughness. Organization.

This is all good stuff.

But it won’t help you much if you don’t love what you’re doing.

And if you do love what you are doing, all those other elements will fall into place more easily.

So before you leap into your next venture, ask yourself the question, “Do I love doing this?”

If you don’t, pause for a moment and ask yourself this question:

“If I had followed the path of what I loved to do back when I was 22, what would I be doing now?”

Whatever the answer, perhaps you could start doing that now.

When you love what you do for a living, everything changes.