Content Marketing Tech Tool of the Week: Technorati

Technorati logoThis week's content marketing Tech Tool of the Week is Technorati. Technorati was originally founded as a blog search engine, but has expanded into a full service media company. Not only does Technorati highlight the best content from the best blogs on just about everything, they do have their own set of writers that publishes content, and that's where the importance of Technorati comes it.

I am one of those writers for Technorati (it's not that hard to become a writer if you have some talent). Although Technorati does not pay in money, it's one of the few sites that actually does pay in exposure. I know us content marketers aren't supposed to work for exposure, but if you're looking for a good avenue to build an expertise, a good avenue to write for yourself, or to do some article and content marketing, then Technorati is the place.

Just how worthwhile is Technorati? I've gotten clients and Twitter followers because of my work on Twitter. I've also utilized Technorati as part of an article marketing strategy for another client, and those articles are now on the first page of Google for their respective keywords.

Technorati and Content Marketing Strategy

First off, Technorati does do some marketing of your content (by posting them to their Facebook and Twitter accounts), so without doing anything on your own, your work reaches thousands of people. This is on top of the other folks who decide to retweet or to share your content through their own networks. It happens more often then you think. A recent article I published about photos and Facebook got 14 retweets. That's in addition to the two from Technorati and my own retweet. I don't know any of those people who retweeted my work, although one or two of them have retweeted more than one of my pieces. Not bad for writing 300 words.

Content Marketing Ideas

Second, Technorati does a good job of offering you topics to write about. Sure, you can write about whatever you want, just as long as it's in good taste and is newsworthy. However, if you wouldn't mind a few ideas thrown at you, Technorati does have a Yahoo group for writers. It's through this group that a Trending Topics list is sent out almost every day, sometimes twice a day. If you see something you like, give a shout out to the group, and then write the piece. Sometimes, the particular channels will send out their own lists of topics to write about. The women's channel does it often, as do the cloud computing and sports channels. If you're uneasy about all these lists and shout outs clogging up you inbox, use the Mute feature on Gmail. If you don't know what the Mute feature is, then checkout Gmail labs. Writers always have the option of opting out of the groups.

Quality Content Marketing

Third, Technorati writers publish quality content, and each channel has an editor to go through the content to make sure that it is publish worthy. So, you don't have to worry about your excellent content being next to mediocre content like on other websites. Technorati isn't a content mill that's looking to churn out content. They're about highlighting the best in blogging while blogging themselves. Many of the other writers on Technorati already have their own blogs, or are simply experienced writers with strong expertise. Freelancers and content marketers would find themselves in good company.

Overall, I think Technorati offers something different, whether it's the chance to write for yourself once in a while, to write about topics you don't normally get to write about, or to garner a bit more exposure for your work and what you have to offer. I think freelancers and content marketers who aren't on Technorati are certainly missing out.

5 Reasons Why Coworking is Great for Content Marketers

For those who don't yet know, I rent space over at Saint Louis Coworking. I pay a monthly fee to have my own desk and to have a professional business address (plus, my rental office isn't to keen on the idea of working from home). It's also not the most productive, since my home doesn't have the room for an office. However, I am the only content marketer here, and I think more freelancers and content marketers should come and join me and the coworking movement, whether or not they are writers. Here are five reasons why coworking is good for freelancers:

  1. It's Easy Networking - Not everyone in the coworking space is the writer, so a shared workspace presents an excellent opportunity to network with other professionals. You never know who you may run into that will need some web content written or a manuscript looked at. Most coworking spaces also host events where members may attend for free, so this is yet another opportunity for you to network with professionals and let people know that you are a writer for hire.
  2. It's a Chance to Get Out of the House - Working from home may be cheap, and may have everything you could ever want or need, but you certainly don't want to spend all day every day at home. Even if you don't want to rent a desk or office at a coworking space, most do have a drop-in option where you can find a table to work at. It has less distractions than a coffee shop, and you won't have to worry about finding a spot or having an outlet for your laptop. Coworking spaces have plenty of both as well as free coffee. Plus, it's a chance to get outside the house and talk to people face-to-face.
  3. It's an Opportunity to Work with Other People - Not only does coworking offer a chance to network and to find work, but it's also a chance to work with others and exchange ideas. If you need to come up with a few topic ideas to pitch to a blog, you could possibly ask your coworkers for help. If you're working on a story and you need another source or two, you could find if you're coworkers could help, or know someone who could help. In return, you may be able to offer that marketing consultant a few good ideas, or be the go-to grammar person of the place.
  4. It Often Has All the Necessary Office Supplies - I understand the benefit in having your own printer, fax machine, and telephone for your home office, but many coworking spaces also provide all that for you as part of the membership fee. That's less money that you have to spend on printer paper, cell phone minutes, and maybe even copying fees. Although that could mean fewer deductions you can add to your taxes, it does mean fewer things that you have to worry about, whether you worry about them now or later. Also, depending on how much stuff you have for your freelancing business, a coworking membership could also mean additional storage space and free office furniture.
  5. It Has Things That Are Almost Impossible to Have at  Home - Even if you do have a professional home office, it can still be a little strange to host a client meeting. Fortunately, most coworking spaces do have at least one conference room or private meeting room for that exact purpose. It would save you the trouble of having to go to a separate location from your office. Saint Louis Coworking, for example, also has a small library and a public library within walking distance, so getting a book isn't a problem either. And, depending on the location of your coworking space, eating out is now a more viable option. Of course, I wouldn't recommend eating out every single day, but sometimes it's nice to grab some Thai food or a few slices of pizza.
I think coworking is great and that more freelancers should do it. If anything, it does add a sense of legitimacy to what you do. You aren't trapped so much in the world of your own office, but you do get to meet others doing what you do (and succeeding at it as well). Coworking offers a sense of community of other freelancers and independent contractors, which is something that can be hard pressed to find.

Tips and Tricks to Conducting an Interview for Your Business Blog

conducting an interviewFor many freelancers that are just starting out, conducting an interview can be a nerve-wracking experience. What kinds of questions should you ask? Will the source realize that this is your first interview? What if I run out of questions and there's that awkward silence? What if I miss what they said?

Conducting an interview is an important part of a freelancer's career, and something that ought to be done now and again on ing business blogging. Editors are always going to want expert testimony and anecdotes for assignments, so if conducting an interview is something you're nervous about doing, you're going to need to get over that quick. Here are a few thing to keep in mind that might make this whole process just a little bit easier:

  1. Prepare questions before initially making contact: This is particularly important if you're calling the person. I've had it happen where I called the person up, and they were ready and willing to do the interview right then and there. If that's the case, you'd want to have a few questions ready so you don't appear flustered or disorganized.
  2. Remember the five Ws, and the H: Who, what, where, when, why, and how. Make sure that your questions asks each of the five Ws and the H. Especially make sure you get in a few whys and hows. Those often lead to the best quotes.
  3. When making contact, confirm if its still a good time for them to talk: Although the interview may have been scheduled beforehand, always ask if it's still a good time for the source. Not only is it polite, but you never know if something has come up last minute for your source.
  4. Use a Reporter's Notebook: Even if you're going to record the interview, I would suggest using a reporter's notebooks, which are 4x8. It's really easy to take notes in those notebooks, and their size makes it easy to fit them in a purse or back pocket. Their also spiral-bound, making room for you to carry a pen as well.
  5. It's okay to share quotes, but not the story: Sometimes, the source will ask that they get to see the story before it goes to print. That's an absolutely no-no, as it's unethical on a number of grounds. It gives the source a chance to alter the story toward his/her favor. It also gives the source the chance to see who else you've spoken to for the article. Depending on the source's feelings on the others, seeing the story gives them a chance to discredit your other sources. If the source asks this, tell them that the most you can do is share his/her quotes and have those approved. That's ethical and fair.
  6. Always ask if the source has any suggestions on how to do x, or in what else should be considered with y: I ask this one because I interview a lot of company executive and PR folks, and I want to get them out of the rut of "buy my product and it will solve all your problems." Everyone knows that's not the case, so don't put that sort of BS in your articles. For example, I interviewed an executive of a video presentation software company. Obviously, having the software won't automatically make anyone's video any good. I asked the executive if he had any suggestions in how to make a good video. He delivered nicely.
  7. Always ask the source if there's anything that hasn't been discussed that he/she ought to let you know about: Even if the source doesn't have anything else to say, it's a great way to close the interview and to get some excellent closing quotes. If the source does have a few things to add, then you'll be glad you asked the source in the first place.

Content Marketing Tech Tool of the Week: Google Places

Sorry that this week's Tech Tool is coming on Wednesday instead of Monday. Monday got really hectic for me all of a sudden. It was a pizza and red velvet whoopie lunch kind of day.

Anyway, the Tech Tool of the Week is Google Places. No, this is not because it's really really fun to write reviews. It's this week's tech tool because it's a great way to find contacts for an email marketing or a direct mail marketing campaign. Google Places makes it easy to find valid, quality contacts that could lead to some quality business for you, much easier than web surfing yourself or going through the phone book.

To use Google Places to find businesses to pitch, go the the rating page where you would normally start if you wanted to write a review. Next, go to the search bar, and type in a specific type of business with which you want to work. If you want to do work for clothing boutiques, then type in "clothing boutiques". If law firms, then maybe type in "law" or "lawyers." Since I have a lot of experience covering technology, I typed in "technology."

After that, peruse through the results, clicking on the businesses that interest you. If you are doing a direct mail campaign, then an address is right there for you. If you are doing an email campaign, or would like to see if there's a specific person you could send your direct mail to, click the web address to find this information. You may not always find an email or a company directory. If you want, you could call the business to find the information, or you could skip the business all together.

From my perspective, I think that the results from Google Places are very trustworthy. If they happen to have a recent review, then it's very likely the business is still operating and that the contact information is valid. This is a problem you can run into if you pull information from the phone book or an online directory. Also, many of these listings are put there by the businesses themselves, so these companies are hoping to be found. Maybe they didn't intend to be found by someone who's offering writing and editing services, but you never know. That might be something the company needs!

Give it a try! Best of all Google Places is completely free, so you don't have to spend any money on contact lists from database companies. Plus, if you run into a business that you want to review, you can do that also.

When It's Time to Let Go: Dropping a Content Marketing Client


Clients come and go. That's just the nature of the beast of freelance writing, and business in general. The client runs out of work, or runs out of money, or decides to switch gears with its business or marketing plan. But, there are times when you simply have to let a client go.

I don't mean turning down a client if he or she asks you to work for them again. I mean severing business ties, although politely and professionally. There are clients, no matter how green their money is and no matter how much they are willing to work with you, who simply aren't worth the time and effort.

I understand that it's a difficult notion to face. No one likes to say "no," especially when it's a "no" to paying work and valuable experience. But, if you have that gut feeling that the business relationship just isn't right, find an appropriate time to cut off relations, once and for all. Here are a few instances to help solidify that gut feeling, if you're on the fence about a client or two.

  1. Outside Your Niche or Expertise - I had a blogging gig that lasted about six months. It was for a social network for scientists and researchers called iAMscientist. The blog involved topics such as science news and science recruiting, you know, things relevant to that community. I agreed to the gig in the first place because the network was one of my first clients, and I really needed to get my feet off the ground. But, I terminated the gig because even after six months, the blogging never got any easier. I don't have any degree or background in the hard sciences. It was tough from week to week to come up with ideas, since there were topics that I didn't have the skill set to write about and very few in this area that I did. So, I quit to open up that time to gigs for which I was better suited.
  2. Disappearing Acts - I've had a few clients who promised me ongoing, regular work, assigned me a few things, and then disappeared for weeks. No work. No responses to any emails or phone calls. Nothing. After a while, I stop chasing. Why waste my time chasing when I can spend that time working with clients that actually have the time of day to respond to my emails and calls, or who trust me enough to assign responsibilities so I can work without their tutelage? After all, when you finally do hear from those magician clients, they expect you to pick up the same workload that you could afford six weeks ago. Umm... things change in six weeks. I still have to make money and pay my bills. Do they really expect you to be waiting around for them? After two disappearing acts, I call it quits, because I certainly won't wait around.
  3. The Point of Contact - Drop these clients as quickly as possible. These are the clients that appoint someone as a point of contact for them. I don't mean someone who's representative of a company or a department. I mean when Joe is the point of contact for Sally, and Sally is the true representative of the company or department. In my experience, Joe doesn't quite know what Sally wants, has little decision making power himself over the project, and often has to defer to Sally anyway for just about everything. Essentially, Joe is a middleman, and a poor one at best. These sorts of clients waste time and create headaches for a return that just isn't worth it.
  4. Pay is Too Low - Not that I only care about the money, but as freelancers we're businesspeople who need to think about the bottom line. I just terminated business with a client because the publication slashed its article rates in HALF. The full price was already a little lower than what I would like, but it provided a chance to develop a niche that I wasn't developing elsewhere. But, the new rate would put me below minimum wage for the amount of time it takes to do one article. If I can make more money working at McDonald's for the same amount of time, then it's simply not worth it anymore.
  5. Credit Where Credit is Due - Get the feeling that your client is treating you like trained monkey instead of a paid professional with ideas and expertise? Yeah, I've gotten that feeling too. This client leaves little room for your questions and input. He or she simply tells you what to do, with the expectation that you won't do anything more than that. I have a client like this (who's also a #2 by the way), who steps on the gas pedal during our Skype conversations and doesn't let up til he's done and is ready to get off the call. He doesn't ask what I think about things of if I have any ideas on the project. He rambles about his ideas, asks every now and then if I'm following along and that's it. Since he's a #2, I'm chucking him the next time he disappears. If I'm not going to be given the chance to be invested in the project by actually contributing, instead of just following orders, then I won't be invested. I'll find someone else who wants me to be invested.

It's not fun to terminate business with a client, especially if the client may not see it coming. It may be particularly hard to find a good moment to do it, and to develop an explanation that's more polite and professional than "you're a horrible client and I just don't want to deal with you no more." But, there are times when it has to be done. It's better for you in the long run, and it's probably better for the client too.

Why There's No Better Time to Start Freelance Writing than Right Now

Over 25 million Americans are out of work, almost four years after the initial recession hit in 2008. Nicholas Kristof wrote an excellent op-ed piece in the New York Times about unemployment, questioning if the federal government still considers jobs a priority. Certainly, the American people still consider it a priority. I agree with Kristof that the Washington ought to be doing more to address unemployment. But, I think that we also need to ask, what are WE doing about unemployment?

These same millions of Americans, many fired and laid off from companies they worked at for 10, 20, even 30 years, are fighting in that rat race for a new job. Somewhere. Anywhere. The Wall Street Journal reported that the average job seeker gives up after five months of job hunting. Giving up? Job hunting? I have to wonder why are so many people are spending so much time fighting and waiting for someone to hire them when they can just hire themselves.

I'm not necessarily talking about starting your own enterprise or brick-and-mortar store, but self-employment as a freelancer or independent contractor. Especially those who have decades of work experience in a specific industry, that's valuable information and specialization that a professional can offer, and charge for. Americans are good, hardworking people, right? Why do we need someone else to give us a job when we could just give ourselves a job, become our own boss, and reclaim our work and our lives?

After all, what kind of thanks and rewards are corporations given us? The August cover issue of Mother Jones shows that corporate profits are up 22 percent, but that money is not going towards hiring people or increasing salaries. It's staying in the pockets of the executives. Yet, the non-executives who still have jobs are working harder than ever. Working the equivalent of two full-time jobs, leaving no time for our spouses, our families, or anything else for that matter. When we agree to take a position, we shouldn't agree to give up the rest of our lives too.

Well, sure, many of these positions come with benefits that are hard to come by as a freelancer or independent contractor. But, how long does that last? Take the case of Aloha Airlines. The airline filed for bankruptcy on March 20, 2008. Ten days later, the airline ceased passenger flight operations. And, just like that 1,900 employees were laid off. Benefits: gone. Salary: gone. Pensions: gone. All that hard work and dedication to Aloha Airlines evaporated in a matter of seconds, as anything to show for that hard work and dedication no longer existed. Aloha and Mahalo!

Consider independent contracting as a completely viable way to earn a living. Sure, you might not make money right away, but how much money are you making in those five months of job hunting? You have a better chance of earning something as an independent contractor than as a full-time job scout. It's also cheaper for the company. As an independent contractor, you're not asking for a full-time, 40-hour job complete with salary and benefits. You're asking if you can fill a niche in the company for a short time. It's a great position for a company who may need the work done, but maybe doesn't have enough work to justify a full-time employee. Or isn't willing to provide the full package of a full-time employee. That's where you come in. The best part? If a company doesn't have a need for you, or a need for you any longer, you're not up the creek without a paddle. Hopefully, you have other clients to help pay your bills, and can easily find more clients to fill that gap. Now that's job security, when losing a client or losing a check doesn't mean you have nowhere else to go.

Take Mr. Haggard, Kristof's neighbor from the op-ed I previously mentioned. Haggard used to work on a crew detecting underground gas, electrical, or cable lines. He was earning $20 an hour before he was fired in 2008 at the beginning of the recession. Haggard has since been job hunting, on the prowl for two year. In that time, he's only gotten one call back for job as French chef, a job that didn't pan out. Now, Mr. Haggard would be great as an independent contractor or consultant in that industry he spent 15 year with. That's a ton of industry expertise that he can offer, and Haggard could charge well more than $20 an hour for his time and expertise. Haggard even admitted in the op-ed that company's are interested in hiring someone in his 50s. Well, I'm sure Mr. Haggard doesn't have that same bias toward himself, right?

 Now, if anything, is the best time to make a change and to strike it on your own. If you were a victim of the economy, laid off or fired after years and years of service, why would you want to go back to another company and corporation, and put yourself at risk of that happening again? When you're self-employed, you never go out of business, and you would never have the audacity to lay yourself off or to discipline yourself because you chose not to work those extra hours of overtime after already putting in 10, 12 hours.

I grant that I'm not (yet) making a six-figure salary doing this, but I am only 23-years old and I've been freelancing for nine months. I'm making enough to make ends meet, and it's not at the expense of leisure or family. If I can make it as an independent contractor, I believe that others can do it, especially if you have years, even decades of industry experience.