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Geeky and Not So Geeky Tasks to Start Now
by Beth Fowler
You're the creative type. All that technical stuff is, well, too
technical. Even so, some of your capacity to earn money depends
on your computer. You have a bunch of software programs, Internet
access, email and a Web site. If something goes haywire with any
of those, running your writing business would be like plowing a
field without a mule. Slow going.
Earning income from writing entails handling technology-related
tasks. Most of these tasks can be accomplished by the least geek-like
1. Track Web site visitor behavior
In the 1990s, tracking "hits" was cutting-edge data,
but the information was incomplete and misleading. An author's site
might rack up hundreds of hits a month, but very few of the virtual
visitors converted into actual buyers.
Nowadays, Web analytics, or the study of site visitors' behavior,
provides a mother lode of statistics to mine to help guide business
decisions. Among other intelligence, you want to know where your
Web visitors come from and how they engage your site. Web analytics
software can determine if hits represent first-time or return visitors,
which pages they respond to and which pages they hit and bounce
right out of.
With this data, writers can fine tune marketing campaigns and hone
Web site content. To find out about tracking systems, type "Web
analytics" in your search engine.
2. Create and use a PM plan
According to Charles Kozierok, preventative maintenance (PM) saves
time, saves money, safeguards data and improves system performance.
With a little technical know-how – that means the ability
to click purposefully and regularly – you can keep your hardworking
beast the computer running smoothly and prevent major glitches.
Install and then update antivirus, anti-spyware and anti-spam software.
Clean temporary files out of the hard disk and check it for errors
weekly. Run the defrag program monthly.
Find PM instructions at Kozierok's site (www.pcguide.com)
and read "Put Your PC Maintenance Routine on Autopilot"
3. Back up!
Several years ago my computer was stolen, so I now back up, back
up, back up! No matter what the cause of data loss — virus,
power surge, theft — business shuts down when email addresses,
manuscripts and every other document and photo stored since you
launched this writing gig are gone. Recreating files from scratch
robs time from handling current projects and searching for new markets.
Copy or "burn" files onto CDs, DVDs or ZIP disks or copy
files onto USB flash drives. These external backup methods are fine
if the amount of data isn't huge. Store backup files away from the
computer and safe from hazards. (I keep backups at mom and dad's.)
Backing up files over the Internet is an option that can hold larger
amounts of data. Read about the pros and cons of backup storage
systems at www.microsoft.com.
4. Pop up on searches
In the old days, a "black hat" copywriter typed popular
(but irrelevant) search terms in the Web content hoping the site
would pop up near the top of results lists when unsuspecting surfers
had searched for grammar rules or whatever.
Proprietary algorithms, spiders and robots have stymied the effect
of sprinkling Web sites with irrelevant keywords.
Search engine optimization (SEO) boosts the odds of a Web site
appearing high in Yahoo! AOL Search, Google, MSN and other results
lists. Appropriate keywords are important as is submitting your
site to search engines and online directories. Some search engine
operators offer a paid submission service. Wikipedia provides a
summary of SEOs.
5. Un-hype the copywriting
Internet users want what they want ASAP, minus the hype. "Don't
make your Web site look like an ad," says Marie Veloso, director
of Web Copywriting University.
Delete many first person pronouns from Web wordage. Address visitors
directly as "you." Write titles and descriptions that
are clear, factual and free of superlatives.
For instance, "I guarantee my writing workshop is the best
ever!" turns Web visitors off. "Are you tired of sitting
in boring writing workshops?" is customer-focused and recognizes
that people go online to find what they need, not what someone wants
6. Be precise, be concise
Delete annoying flashing, blinking images. Delete audio messages
that blast surfers when they open the site. Shorten sentences and
paragraphs. Use lists in lieu of dense paragraphs. Invite visitors
to click for in depth information rather than scroll through fluff.
Visitors should be able to find what they want in no more than three
intuitive clicks. Include basic info — phone number, email
address, publishing credits. Don't rely on spell check to catch
7. Call a consultant
Hiring a pro to solve technical problems or maximize your computer's
performance makes sense. Write a list of your problems and requirements
then search for a consultant who understands your needs and can
explain things without jargon so you can understand what's she's
recommending and can perform tasks yourself, within reason. Ask
writers to recommend someone or search for consultants at www.icaa.org,
the Independent Computer Consultants Association's Web site.
8. Network the old fashioned way
"All things being equal, people will do business with, and
refer business to, those people they know, like and trust,"
Bob Burg wrote in "Endless Referrals." People feel they
know a writer better after they've met in person or even over the
Without both parties being present, nuances of body language and
voice can make the phrase, "Good luck with that!" sound
sarcastic or supportive. Brainstorming a seminar, negotiating terms
and prospecting for new customers are activities best done in person.
Geeky or not, writers need to turn off the computer and meet current
and potential customers in the flesh and blood. After successful
treks into the real world writers have an even greater need for
computer systems that're up and running like a trusty ol' mule.
© Copyright 2008, Beth Fowler
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