Top-Notch Marketing Tool: The Panel

This past weekend, I attended the ASJA 2012 Writers Conference, which I had been freaking out about for months. I was invited to speak on a panel about sex writing and, not only did the prospect of speaking to a crowd of professional journalists and authors intimidate me, but I felt self-conscious about the fact that I was the only panelist without a book. (It didn’t feel right to count the ebook I’d co-authored the other year.)

I worried: Would attendees think I wasn’t accomplished enough to give them advice? Would they roll their eyes as I hid behind my notes and stuttered over my words? Would they riot over the fact that the organization had allowed such a poor public speaker to have access to the mic? (I have an over-active imagination… )

As per usual, I was overreacting, and I made it through the panel alive. And after that, I was able to enjoy the other panels and presentations throughout the day. I found it to be a great opportunity to see how others structured their panels. I was able to see what worked, and what didn’t. And at the end of the day, I was convinced: I should do this again.

Putting together a panel — whether at a major conference or as a smaller, standalone event — can be a great marketing tool. It can help you establish yourself as an expert. It can bring you into contact with other luminaries in your field. It can raise your visibility. It can strengthen your writing resume. It can even act as a source of income!

But putting together a successful panel? That’s something else.

Here’s what I learned from just one day at the ASJA conference:

Make It a Conversation. For our Writing About Sex panel, we each gave a 10-minute presentation, and then segued into the Q+A. Which was fine, because we each had something slightly different to share (I spoke about the variety of sex writing markets out there; Rachel Kramer Bussel spoke about submitting to erotica markets; Rae Francoeur spoke about writing literary erotica; and Joan Price spoke about promoting your sex writing). But sometimes lectures (even mini-lectures) are not as engaging as conversations.

In contrast, when I later attended Breaking Through to Online Business Markets and, later still, What’s Next Once Your Book Comes Out, the moderator asked the other panelists questions, which they each answered in turn. It allowed each panelist to share their slightly-different perspective on the topic at hand, and also broke things up in such a way that the audience remained engaged.


Make It Focused. Another thing my panel — and others throughout the day — had in common is that they were aimed at two different audiences. For example, our sex writing panel was aimed at both nonfiction sex writers and erotica writers. Other panels were aimed at both freelance article writers and book authors. In some cases, attendees may be interested in both areas. But oftentimes, a writer who is in the mag-querying mindset is not in the book-writing mindset, and vice versa.

Which means that half your audience may find their eyes glazing over for half your presentation.

And there’s nothing scarier than staring out into a sea of writers and seeing bored faces.

Think carefully about the audience you want to reach, and what you want their takeaway to be.

But Not Too Focused. I attended Breaking Through to Online Business Markets because — I don’t know — sometimes it’s nice to write about something other than sex. The three panelists there were editors for three different business/financial publications and, as such, they shared a lot of super-fantastic advice on what their publications were looking for, and how best to pitch them.

I loved getting that insider perspective but, in some ways, it was too specific. What about the other business/financial publications out there? As a beginning business writer, how could I break into that niche in general?

I left the panel feeling that maybe I wasn’t ready to break into that market, though I certainly had the lowdown on how best to pitch those particular publications once I’d become a more seasoned business writer.

Provide Value. Of all the service content I read online, my favorite posts are always the ones that provide clear, step-by-step instructions for getting things done, concrete ideas, and valuable resources. Unfortunately, most of the posts I come across are a lot more general than that, providing inspiration and empowerment, but no clear tips for reaching my goals. These posts provide me with a boost of excited optimism… but then leave me hanging, asking myself: What’s next?

How can you provide value? It’s an important question to ask yourself when drawing up blog posts and newsletters and, in the same way, it’s an important question to ask yourself when putting together a panel.

My fellow panelists and I focused on specifics when giving our presentations. I, for example, mentioned specific publications, the columns they were looking to fill, and their pay rates. I even included editor contact info in our online handout. Similarly, at the What’s Next Once Your Book Comes Out panel, the panelists shared creative ideas for book promotion and, in their online handout, included a slew of resources, including Jenny Blake’s uber-comprehensive, 15-tab, book marketing spreadsheet. Now that’s what I call value!

Brainstorm how you can help your audience take action now.

For the love of god, go off-book. When I first started talking during our panel, I made eye contact with the audience, filling them in on my background as if we were having a casual, one-on-one chat. But as I went on, diving into the nitty-gritty of publications and pay rates, I found myself relying more and more on my notes. I was making less eye contact with the audience, and I could even hear my voice transitioning into Boring Lecture Mode.

If you’d gotten the chance to take a peek at my notes, you would’ve seen that I’d typed out every goddamn word I wanted to say. I was so afraid my mind would go blank, or that I’d start having a panic attack, that I didn’t want to leave anything to chance.

In contrast, when I looked over at Rachel’s notes, I saw a single, scribbled-on piece of paper containing headings and bullet points. And that’s about it.

As a result, she was able to maintain that casual air, and keep her audience engaged.

Color me jealous.

Speak Loud, Clear, and Slow. My middle school history teacher always used to tell us this. It’s a good mantra to remember. Yet I always seem to devolve into full-blown panic, mouth drying up, sentences coming faster and faster so that I inevitably stumble over my words. Consider me your cautionary tale. Use me as an example of what not to do.

(I’m actually considering joining the Toastmasters Club as a way to get more confident with public speaking, and receive feedback on my presentations. I went to a meeting the week before the conference, and it actually eased some of my fears.)

Get the Audience Involved. Q+As are obviously a great way to do this, and are standard at many public presentations. But I thought it was an especially inspired move on Rachel’s part when she asked our audience members to share the negative repercussions they’d experienced as a result of their sex writing. (Kayt Sukel’s description of the creepy emails she receives from creepy dudes? Priceless.)

How else can you get them involved? Worksheets? Pitch session? Ice breaker? Get creative!

Anyone else out there been to an especially good panel? What stood out for you? What worked and what didn’t?

Related: How to Throw an Event That Rocks the House, Are Professional Organizations Worth the Cost?, How to Market Yourself: Getting Out More

How To Make Your Marketing Plan as Much Fun as a Glitter Hula Hoop Dance Party

It’s no secret that publishing houses’ promotional budgets have shrunk, making it necessary for authors to act as their own publicists. Hell, when I was a mid-level marketer for an academic publisher five years ago, I was often frustrated by the limitations placed upon me when it came to promoting my authors. What I was able to do then is very similar to what most publishers are limited to now:

  • sending out review copies and press kits to a select group of media outlets
  • writing copy for forthcoming catalogs
  • if the timing was right, sending copies of the book to BEA, or to relevant professional conferences
  • and maybe — just maybe – sending out direct mail pieces focused on the book

It’s not much. But I don’t see these limitations as reason to abandon the traditional publishing model entirely.

Sure, there are some things I prefer to simply self-publish (such as my starter kit) but, when it comes to my memoir, I want someone else to shoulder the burden of line editing, typesetting, design, printing, and sales. I want my book to have a chance of getting reviewed in Publishers Weekly, or of appearing on library and/or bookstore shelves. I want the support of a major publisher behind me, and of an editor who believes in my work, so that I can reach even more readers. I want to be part of a publishing house whose backlist I admire.

Goddammit. I want to flip through the pages of a book with my name on the cover, inhale deeply, and feel that I’m a part of the industry that made me love reading (and new-book-smell) in the first place.

And besides, I don’t think that this new practice of authors shouldering the promotional burden is necessarily a bad thing.

This morning, I sent the final draft of my proposal along to my agent. She had already expressed the opinion that it was good to go, but I wanted to take one more pass at my promotional plan. I had just finished reading Guerrilla Marketing for Writers, and my head was swirling with even more ideas for promoting my book in new and creative ways. In fact, as I was adding these new ideas to my proposal, I was… well, I was downright gleeful. I was having fun.

This could be due to some severe mental deficiency. I don’t know. I used to go to therapy a lot.

But it seems to me that learning to be one’s own best publicist has a myriad of benefits:

1. Drawing up a promotional plan pushes authors toward new heights of creativity.

2. Sending out press releases, contacting media peeps, and appearing in public, on television, or on the radio forces (introvert) authors to face their fear of the spotlight.

3. Masterminding and executing that promotional plan makes authors better business-people. (And if you’re going to write books for a living, you’d best treat the whole affair like a business… not a hobby.)

4. In learning to talk themselves up, authors learn more about their own value.

5. Finding professional organizations, nonprofits, party planners, niche bookstores, and others to collaborate with on events and other forms of publicity plugs authors more firmly into the industry they were so eager to write about in the first place.

But most important of all, taking the wheel of your own promotional plan — whether you self-publish or go the traditional publishing route — connects you to your readers in a way that may not have been possible if you’d written your book, sent it off to your editor, and left it at that*. (*Not that that is easy.)

Connecting to your readers in this more personal, hands-on way helps you make them readers for life.

As I wrapped up the fourth draft of my promotional plan this morning — beefing it up with even more opportunities for content marketing, digital campaigning, and event planning — I felt excited for what might come next.

For all I know, what comes next might entail being summarily rejected by every publisher on the face of the planet, and being denounced as the crappiest, most self-indulgent, and most misguidedly optimistic writer ever.

But maybe — just maybe – I’ll get a book deal.

In which case I’ll get the chance to actually execute my promotional plan.

Cue the glitter hula hoops and the PULP disco party!

p.s. I folded down almost every single page of Guerrilla Marketing for Writers. Pick it up for you’re looking for ideas on how to marketing your own book.

Related: How An Author Can Be Her Own Best Publicist, How to Keep Up the Momentum During the Holidays,  How to Market the Crap Out of Yourself

How to Make Your Marketing Copy POP!

Despite being a writer — and a writer who once worked her way up the corporate ladder in the marketing department of an academic book publisher, no less — writing effective marketing copy for my own small business is still a struggle for me.

Because of this, I’ve spent a lot of time poring through business books and marketing how-tos, and even took one of Dave Navarro‘s workshops in order to revamp the sales page for my career coaching business.

My latest read? Sam Horn’s POP! Create the Perfect Pitch, Title, and Tagline for Anything. A marketing book written to help readers connect with customers, it’s not just about marketing — it’s about branding as a whole.

I was skeptical about this book when, within the first 40 pages, Horn held up both the Daddle and the Smitten as examples of fantastic branding. After all, both products are pretty ridiculous, and people regularly make fun of them. (Check out the Amazon reviews for the Daddle. Absolute comedy gold.) Could I really take advice from someone whose paragons of branding were so corny?

But as I read on, I realized that Horn was actually pretty brilliant.

Are you struggling with your own marketing copy? Each chapter in POP! focuses on a different content marketing technique. And while you probably won’t use every single marketing tactic in your own marketing content, trying out even one or two could set your product or service apart from the competition.

For example, if I wanted to more effectively promote my ghostwriting services to sexual health professionals, I could use the Valley Girl Technique to find something in pop culture that my service is “like” (get it?), and play around until I came up with something like: Steph Auteri: The Sex Whisperer, or Steph Auteri, the Shrink Whisperer*. (Shut up. It’s a work in progress.)

Or if I wanted to publicize a Word Nerd Networking event, I could simultaneously use the Alphabetizing Technique and the Juxtaposing Points Technique and write something like:

“Introverts — Come out for an evening of speed networking! Because we’ve eliminated the pressure of approaching new people, you can spend your time effectively networking instead of fretworking (and — later — regretworking).”

Okay, yes. It’s lame as hell. It’s not quite there yet. But you get what I’m saying…

Luckily, as I made my way through Horn’s book, I realized I had been using some of her techniques without even realizing it. Take the name Word Nerd Networking, for example. It contains both a rhyme and alliteration… a POP! double whammy.

Also, Sex Play for Prudes, the working title for my book. It contains alliteration (I heart alliteration), and also juxtaposes two concepts you’d assume wouldn’t typically go together: sex play and prudes.

Horn also suggests using first-person stories to maintain people’s interest. This is something that comes naturally to me, as I’m your typical, narcissistic personal essay writer. ;)

These are only a smattering of the techniques Horn showcases in her book. I suggest you pick up a copy if you want to know the rest. Because while some techniques may lead to something so corny you can’t stand yourself (Fretworking? I know. I hate me, too.), others may carry you to branding victory.

*I’m totally using this one.

Related: How to Increase Your Chances of Landing That Book Deal, Even Coaches Need Coaches: 4 Experts I Love to Bits

How an Author Can Be Her Own Own Best Publicist

Blogging buddy and author Brette Sember has about about 40 titles to her name at this point, a number that often serves to make me feel like a lazy-ass bum. Like, what have I been doing all these years!? Her output has been so extensive that her published books fill one and a half shelves on her office bookcase.

She published her first book when she was home on maternity leave from her law practice in 1998. A publisher called and asked if she was interested in writing a book about how to file for divorce in New York. She never looked back. Now, she’s spending time promoting her latest book — The Muffin Tin Cookbook, due out in April — and she’s finding the publicity process wildly different from what it was just 14 years ago. Lucky for us, she’s willing to share what it’s like to be your own best publicist.

1. You’ve written a slew of books, in a variety of subject areas. Considering how labor-intensive book development can be, what has drawn you to these longer-form projects, and how the hell do you maintain such an impressive output?

I love books. I love reading them and I love writing them. I’ve done my share of magazine work and it’s not my favorite process. A book is my vision (with input from my editor). I’m just suited to writing long-form and I enjoy being able to have the time and space to explore things. My mom is also an author, so I guess it is in my blood.

I have some books I wrote which were renamed in later editions, so that makes my numbers look higher. I also have some books where publishers took my old books and repackaged parts of them as new titles to be more targeted or specific. I co-author a lot of books, which means I’m not writing the entire thing on my own. Writing books is my full-time job, so I do have time to devote a lot of energy and thought to what I do. Most of all though, I just love what I do.

2. Over the years, we’ve seen book publishers’ marketing and publicity budgets shrink, forcing authors to shoulder more of the promotional responsibility. What was your experience like in this area with the first few books you published, and how has it shifted over the years?

This has changed a lot in the 14 years I’ve been doing this. In the beginning, my publicists set things up for me and I did the interviews. Period. I started to do some online moving and shaking very early on, though, and was successful at getting my books reviewed or mentioned on early blogs. Now, of course, the burden is almost entirely on the author. I rely on publicists to mail out the review copies I get requests for and that’s about it. It’s hard because as an author you have to wear so many hats and they might not all come naturally. Just because you’re good at writing doesn’t mean you’re good at publicity, so I think this places a heavy burden on many authors. And it’s not like you can just hire your own publicist — you’re looking at a commitment of about $10,000 to do that. So most authors are left trying to get this done themselves, in and around their other writing work.

3. Considering the necessity of self-promotion, what do you see as the main benefits of going through a traditional publisher?

I do self-publish several titles myself as Kindles and Nooks and I love the freedom it gives me to write what I want and get it out there immediately. I still love print books, though, and for long projects that require a lot of my time and a lot of investment in research or recipe development, I like to get an advance to defray those costs. I’m not interested in storing 2,000 books in my garage to sell or distribute myself and I’m just not interested in formatting a book or doing anything of the print functions myself. For now, I’m playing both sides of the field and will as long as I see a benefit.

4. What have been some of the most effective ways you’ve found of self-promoting your books? Have you tried anything off-beat that perhaps a publishing house wouldn’t have come up with on its own?

I’ve had a lot of success with bloggers for many years, and publishers are now hot on this but weren’t for a long time. I make my own flyers for my books with color photos on them. Publishers send out these dry text emails or press releases. I put together a PDF with photos, color text and formatting that makes it fun to look at. I’ve also had a lot of success getting coverage in regional parenting magazines, which I’ve worked with for years and years as a writer and maintain a database of. They’re really receptive because they need content and if you can provide a free article that also promotes your book, they are happy to run it. I also have to tell you that my mom took my last cookbook, The Parchment Paper Cookbook, to the hair salon for the stylist. He has it on a side table and has told tons of people about it. Sometimes word of mouth is more valuable than you would think.

5. Finally, I can imagine that by the time your book comes out, you’re sick to death of it. Can you speak to this a bit, and also explain how you maintain your enthusiasm for the book so you can promote it in the most effective way possible?

People don’t realize you’ve lived with a book for a year or even two by the time it hits the shelves. You start with the proposal — trying to get a publisher interested. Then you write the book. Then you go through edits and copyediting and proofing. I also do the indexes for my own books, so that is another journey through the book. Then you start publicity before the book is out, trying to line up reviews, guest posts, etc. By the time there is actually a book for sale, it’s old news to the author! But it’s new to everyone else, so you have to kind of shake yourself up and try to look at it through the readers’ eyes and get excited about it all over again. And it is exciting to actually hold it in your hands after the long process. And it’s exciting when people tell you they like it, so that energizes you anew.

Related: 12 Ways to Market an Ebook, Wearing Different Hats

(photo via)

How To Grow Your Mailing List By Over 100% in Two Weeks

If we all squint really hard, this will start to look like me. Right?

I happened into entrepreneurship without anything resembling a business background. What I had instead was a B.A. in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, a good chunk of publishing industry experience, boxes full of how-to books, and a love of the written word. But my abilities as a writer didn’t translate into business success, and so I created my own continuing education.

I read books on freelancing, entrepreneurship, and how to make money as a writer. I read blogs about the business of writing. I even took several online workshops put together by Launch Coach Dave Navarro.

What I learned from most of these resources is that, when building a business, your mailing list is key. That built-in, loyal readership will help you market your products and services more easily than if you were cold-pitching your business every damn day.

I’ve been writing Word Nerd News for over a year now but, two weeks ago, I made my very first attempt to deliberately grow my mailing list and build up the word nerd community. In that space of time, my mailing list grew by over 100 percent. It’s still growing. How’d I do it?

I send out Word Nerd News once a month and, in each issue, I try to deliver something of value to my readers. I write up unique how-to content that has not previously appeared on this blog. I share the stories of seasoned freelance writers and fellow word nerds. I provide additional resources from around the web, and I share content from other writers that I think you’ll find interesting.

Still, many of us are already experiencing inbox overwhelm, and are loath to sign up for yet another newsletter. What’s in it for us? What will we get out of it aside from another email in our inbox?

This is where the “cookie” comes in.

I learned about the cookie through a fantastic video series — How to Failproof Your Business — put together by Dave Navarro and Naomi Dunford. Basically, the cookie is something of value you offer people (aside from just your brilliant newsletter). Something with practical application for them, that also showcases your abilities as an expert in your field. It can be an ebook. An industry report. A case study. The most amazing info product ever.

Despite how amazing your info product will inevitably be, after developing it, you don’t charge for it. No. You give it away. Well actually, no. That’s not true. Instead of giving you sweet, sweet money, all the reader has to do in order to receive this fantastic freebie is sign up for your mailing list.

It’s like the gateway drug to future awesomeness, and it’s a win-win for the both of you. You build up a mailing list filled with loyal and devoted readers who inspire you on a day-to-day basis. They receive — and continue to receive, if they stick around — content that improves their lives.

Which is where Freelance Awesome: A Starter Kit came from. I developed an info product based upon processes I myself found helpful in my own business, and then I offered it to my subscribers, urging them to tell their friends about it if they found it helpful, too.

Then — because I didn’t want to rely upon subscriber word-of-mouth alone — I went on a magical mystery blog tour, drawing up guest posts for a slew of bloggers I had long admired… some of whom had been instrumental in my own self-education as a beginning freelancer. I knew our readerships would overlap, and I hoped that creating content for these other readers would eventually lead them to hop on over to my site, sign up for my mailing list, and someday exchange friendship bracelets.

As each new guest post went up, I saw my subscriber base grow.

Do you have a mailing list already? You should get on that if you don’t. (I use MailChimp for mine, and I love it.) If you do have a mailing list, ask yourself: What can I offer to subscribers that will really get them fired up?

But before you go and do all that, take a trip up on my magical mystery blog tour. Here are all the places I was at when I wasn’t here:

I did up a post for Michelle Rafter’s WordCount blog on the 5 Steps to Freelance Awesomeness.

I told Brazen Careerist readers how they, too, could become freelance hardasses and get paid what they’re worth.

I came up with some creative ways to pay the bills over at Thursday Bram’s blog.

I shared tips on building an author platform with the readers of Lisa Romeo Writes.

I told Susan Johnston’s readers how they could create eight story ideas in one sitting, over at the Urban Muse.

And because I apparently like the number 8, I gave Linda Formichelli’s readers eight different ways to find accountability as a freelance writer, over at the Renegade Writer blog.

I did a podcast on putting together a freelance startup plan, over at Carol Tice’s Freelance Writers Den. You can access a recording of the podcast by registering for Carol’s online community.

And finally — in a bit of fortuitous timing, and having nothing to do with my blog tour — I gave advice on how to choose a writing coach (again at Susan’s blog), I showed Kristin Offiler’s readers my super-exciting home office, I gave networking advice to the introverts who read DMAG (check out page 16) and, in a happy surprise, I realized that Stephanie Dickison had highlighted me and my blog on page 23 of The Writer‘s March 2012 issue, as one of the blogs that are “worth a writer’s time.” (!)

Whew! That was exhausting. Enjoy your tour. Me? I need more coffee.

Related: How To Get Rid of Query Fear Once and For All, 12 Ways to Market an Ebook, Guest Posting: Pitch Like It’s the Glossiest Glossy Mag Out There

How To Keep Up the Momentum During the Holidays

I’ve been seeing it a lot lately. Fellow freelancers tweeting out that their calendars have opened up enough to allow for new business. I did it myself just last week.

Is it something in the air? Have our work cycles somehow become synced up? Are all of our regular clients just too damn busy stringing up twinkle lights and hanging stockings to bother with assigning out new work?

Part of it is the conclusion of another fiscal year. Large projects are ending. Annual budgets are drying up. Clients are holding back until 2012… fiddling with their editorial calendars… treading water until they feel safe spending money again.

Another part of it is Holiday Brain. Between all of those projects we just wrapped up, all of those pound cakes and soups we just made for Thanksgiving, and all of that holiday shopping we now have to do, we completely forgot about marketing ourselves. I mean, who has time to hustle when there are catnip candy canes and glittery tree ornaments to be bought!?

Unfortunately, considering how much money we tend to spend during the holiday season (buying a third ceramic Christmas tree was totally worth it), we need new income now more than ever.

So how can you make the holidays work for you?

Give one last end-of-the-year, holiday-themed marketing push:

  • throw an industry holiday party, at which all attendees leave with a stocking full of business cards, coupons, and candy cane kisses.
  • hold a workshop for writers, teach an e-course, or throw together a teleclass on targeting your pitches toward the (other) holidays.
  • speaking of targeted pitches, start brainstorming… for the fourth of July.
  • throw a holiday sale on your most popular products and/or services.
  • hold a holiday contest… look to relevant companies and collaborators in order to put together a kick-ass list of prizes.
  • gift your favorite clients with a holiday discount… or even with a small gift just to show you appreciate them. (Susan Johnston recently shared her own gift ideas here.)
  • make like Santa and gift every blog in your particular universe with a guest post. Well. Assuming they want one.
  • instead of a cookie swap or Secret Santa extravaganza, organize a product/service swap among those within your professional network. Watch new professional relationships bloom.
  • volunteer your time (and promote yourself as an expert) by answering questions on sites like Brazen Careerist or LinkedIn, or responding to reporters’ queries on HARO.
  • crash all the other holiday industry parties in your general area.
  • go caroling with local freelancers, and end with hot cocoa and career-related brainstorming for the new year back at your place.

Whew! Now I really want to go caroling.


I plan on doing a whole slew of these. But for the moment, I’d like to let you know about my own holiday sale, over at Career Coaching for Word Nerds. Most of you already know that I already offer three career coaching packages at various price points, for those who want to commit to either four sessions, 12 sessions, or 24 sessions of coaching.

From now until December 31, I will be offering One Hour to a Word Nerd Action Plan, a single, one-hour session in which we lay out your plans for the coming year, after which you’ll receive a packet containing all of the action steps we discussed, plus a list of relevant resources.

Note: This does not mean you must schedule your session in the midst of this crazy-as-hell holiday season. It just means you have to purchase this package by the 31st, after which it will wink out of existence, much like the twinkle lights all over your neighborhood. (Um. Unless you have the sort of neighbors who leave that shit up through April.)

Interesting in purchasing the gift that will keep on giving? Head on over to my coaching page and scroll to the bottom for this holiday package.

Then get your ass in gear and start marketing, word nerds!

How have you gotten creative with marketing during holidays past?

Related: How To Market the Crap Out of Yourself

Your Online Platform: A Checklist of Website Essentials

I'm in love with my website. Is that conceited?

Earlier this year, I blogged about whether or not an editor would judge you if you didn’t have some sort of online platform. (Short answer: Yes.)

Since then, several clients have asked me for help in overhauling their own professional sites.

Which can be difficult. A website is a very personal thing. There’s no one right way to do it. It’s up to you to surf the web and bookmark examples of websites you like, making notes on what works and what doesn’t, and drawing up wish lists of your must-have features.

It’s also up to you to figure out what message you’re trying to convey (unless, of course, you hire a branding consultant).

What I can do is provide freelancers with a handy checklist of the basics they should include on their professional site.

1. A landing page. This is your storefront, the first thing that web surfers, assigning editors, and hiring managers see. Because of this, you need to convey instantly what you’re all about, letting the viewer know that he or she is in the right place. How do you do this? With your header. With your content. And sometimes even with your color scheme (color and pattern can be a great way to convey personality). If you’re not sure what, exactly, you’re looking to convey, ask yourself:

  • Who am I targeting with this website?
  • What action am I hoping they’ll take?
  • What do I have to offer?
  • What emotion am I trying to convey?
  • What is my life purpose, and how can I present it in an easy, bite-sized, elevator speech-type way?

2. Your contact info. And please, make it obvious. A web user shouldn’t have to conduct an exhaustive search in order to email you. What if they want to give you money for something?? Don’t make them beg. Place the info in the sidebar and, for good measure, have a separate “contact me” page with a contact form. And for something extra impressive, you can register for a Gmail address that features your personal domain name right here (and sometimes through your hosting service).

3. Social media buttons. I’m going to assume you’re active on Twitter. Or LinkedIn. Or something. Because it’s in your best interest to engage in social media in some way. Right? Right. So make it easy for people to find you on those other sites, too. Place social media buttons in your sidebar, perhaps close to your contact info, and throw that info onto your contact page as well.

4. A bio. Your landing page will give viewers a basic idea of what you’re all about. An “about me” page will go deeper. Include a personal bio. A company mission statement. An origin story. People like to buy from people. Help them get to know you.

5. A mailing list opt-in form. It’s always a good idea to cultivate a mailing list, even if you don’t plan on using it right away. In the future, it can act as a publicity tool. A sales tool. A way to survey your readers. A way to disseminate breaking news. That mailing list is power. (You can sign up for mine over in the right-hand sidebar ;) Mailing list and e-newsletter services like MailChimp, AWeber, and Constant Contact make popping a sign-up form onto your website easy.

6. A list of your services. Let’s return to that question you asked yourself above: What action do you want viewers to take? Do you want clients for your copywriting services? Ghostwriting collaborators? Speaking engagements? No matter how you choose to do it, make sure it’s clear to viewers what they can hire you for.

7. Some sort of portfolio. It’s not enough to tell people what you do. They’re going to want to know if you’re any good. They’re going to want to know if you’re experienced. They’re going to want to know why they should hire you. Portfolios come in all shapes and sizes, but what’s most important is that you showcase your best work, and that you focus on the work that most closely reflects the work you want to be doing more of.

8. An intuitive navigation. As mentioned above, you shouldn’t make people work to give you their money. Make sure you have a clear and simple navigation that immediately makes sense to those surfing your site, and that it repeats on every single page. Viewers should be able to easily get to whatever the hell page they want to, from whatever the hell page they’re on.

9. A blog (optional). This one’s optional, but I’m going to include it on this list because I think it’s a good idea. Why? A blog gives people a reason to (regularly) revisit your site. It establishes you as an expert in whichever topic you choose to blog about. It acts as a standalone portfolio, highlighting your writing ability. It shows editors you can write for the web. And if you’re worried about the time commitment, know that frequency doesn’t matter. Being regular does.

This is a bare bones checklist. What other web-related questions do you have?

Related: Will An Editor Judge You If You Don’t Have an Online Platform?, How To Get Your Guy, and Look Good Doing It

The LinkedIn Lowdown: How To Pump Up Your Social Media Campaign

I'm quoted in here, yo.

I create content for online magazines. I blog here at Freelancedom. I spend way too much time on Twitter. I get all my news from whatever I happen to be subscribed to in Google Reader. I spend my days seated in front of this laptop and, when my phone rings, I get confused. Why didn’t they just text or email? I wonder. (God I’m a recluse.)

My husband, meanwhile, works full-time for SocialFlow, a social media startup that optimizes tweets. He has a web development business on the side. He’s always glued to his Droid, and he uses Foursquare even when we’re at the goddamn recycling center.

His best friend says we’re “so Web 2.0.”

Yet I avoid Facebook. I’m not as active on LinkedIn as I should be. And when Google+ launched, I wanted to flee the country (or at least my inbox). Am I missing marketing opportunities?

I’m not one to embrace every social media site out there. I believe in figuring out where your audience hangs out, and participating accordingly. In fact, I wrote a lot about this — and other ways to avoid social media fatigue — here. But active participation on a handful of social media sites can really boost your traffic, your visibility, and your career.

LinkedIn, for example, has increased my visibility even without my active participation. I’ve even landed several lucrative projects through the site. Imagine what I could do if I joined some LinkedIn groups and jumped in on the discussions happening there. Imagine what I could do if I started reaching out to more people, and swapping recommendations, instead of passively accepting a small number of connection requests.

Yes. Imagine.

Unfortunately, I’m too damn lazy. But I do know what can be achieved with even a little bit of effort, and I’ve seen results from these (tiniest of) efforts, which is why — I suppose — Susan Johnston was good enough to interview me for her recent ebook, LinkedIn and Lovin’ It.

Published through Rockable Press — an online publisher offering detailed how-to guides and resources for web professionals — LinkedIn and Lovin’ It places a magnifying glass over one of the most popular — yet still underused — social media networks out there, and shows readers the marketing possibilities they’re missing. In fact, this book is so in depth that it even provides readers with the step-by-step on how to set up their own profiles, going into the nitty-gritty of headline writing, resume creation, photo uploading, and how to include external links.

It goes on to cover:

  • the ins and outs of building your online network
  • ways of maximizing your LinkedIn presence (and establishing yourself as an expert in your field)
  • conducting research
  • finding jobs
  • and more.

What I love about this book — aside from the fact that it contains concrete steps for boosting your online presence, helpful case studies, and… um… me — is that, despite how much I thought I already knew, this books goes even deeper. I walked away from it feeling inspired to do even more with my account. Because, honestly? Why wouldn’t I take advantage of a smart and easy way to bring in more eyeballs?

LinkedIn and Lovin’ It will become available later this month. In the meantime, you could always consider boning up on another aspect of online media. WordPress design? Facebook marketing? Freelancing? Copywriting? Rockable Press [<----- That's an affiliate link, FYI] has you covered.

Related: How To Avoid Social Media Fatigue in 5 Easy Steps, Will An Editor Judge You If You Don’t Have An Online Platform?, Using Twitter To Achieve World Domination (in Your Field), How To Market Yourself: Strengthening Your Web Presence