Improve Product Feedback with 'Suggest a Feature' web-page

What’s the one thing your customers would like to see in your products? Or what’s the one problem they’d like you to fix?
One of the problems in developing any product or service is that you can get into a rut and stop seeing where you need to make changes. Maybe you’re looking at your competitors, seeing what they’re doing and using that for inspiration. But what your customers want may be different. Maybe much simpler.
One way to address this is to add a Make a Suggestion page to your site. The Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) does this very well.

MSDN feature suggestions

Have an idea for how we can improve the overall experience on MSDN? If so, we’d love to hear it. You can submit a new idea or you can upvote and comment on existing ideas. Suggestions, comments, and votes will be reviewed directly by the engineering teams who are responsible for building MSDN.
This site is for feature suggestions and ideas, not for submitting bugs or to get support. To file a bug or get support, visit MSDN troubleshooting and support.

Make a Suggestion page

You can add suggestions on

  • gaps that need addressing
  • errors that need to be corrected
  • ways to improve the existing site

After you enter your idea in the I suggest you… box, it’s added to the list of requests. What’s interesting is that others can vote up your request if they agree. As I write, the add more and more code examples has 819 votes.

  • Hot
  • Top
  • New Idea
  • Category
  • Status
  • My ideas
  • My Comments

In addition to this, you can see the status of the feature request by mousing over the Status drop-down menu, which tells you if a feature is

  • Under review
  • Planned
  • Completed
  • Declined

This filters the list of features and you can vote up each suggestion and, here’s the nice part, add a comment.
For example, this comment suggests:
I’d go further and ask that you include revision dates with links to previous versions as well. As a solutions architect, understanding the direction things move in is just as important as understanding the current state of play.

Where’s the benefit?

As you can see, all of this helps MS improve the quality of their product. More than that, they’re users help clarify and refine what needs to be fixed. As well as this, they are also helping with the testing – at least indirectly – by highlighting errors and omissions.
Could this work for you?
PS – the best book I read last year about getting feedback was Pay Attention!: How to Listen, Respond, and Profit from Customer Feedback.

How To Negotiate Daily Rates When Starting as a Freelance Web Writer

If you decide to start contracting, one of the hardest things to work out is what daily rate to charge. Many of the readers on this site are looking at ways to escape the 9-5 and moving into contracting is one way to start this process.

If you decide to start contracting, one of the hardest things to work out is what daily rate to charge. Many of the readers on this site are looking at ways to escape the 9-5 and moving into contracting is one way to start this process.

How much should I really charge?

I’ve heard people use different approaches to determine what to charge. Some make sense, others are a bit flaky.
For example:
Divide your annual salary by 52 weeks and then add on 20 percent. If you’re on 52k, and divide by 52 weeks, you’d get 1k per week.
Add 20 percent and you’re up to 1200 per week.
Divide this by 5 days and you get 240 per day.
I’m not so sure about this. It doesn’t take into consideration the real world, so to speak, or at least why your peers are charging for their work.

How to Work Out Daily Rates

Here’s an approach that I’d take:

  1. Look at the recruitment websites and find the type of job you want. Make a list of the daily rates across several sites. The ideal is to get an average daily rate and not rely just on one site. If you’re a total beginner to the field, say just out of college, your rates will be more towards the lower end.
  2. Contact the local Recruitment companies, explain the type of positions that you’re after. Ask them what daily rates you can expect to get based on your experience. Let’s say they believe you can get 200 per day. Now, as a rule of thumb, Recruiters add 20 percent to the rates they charge clients. In other words, if they offer you 200 per day, they’ll probably charge the client 240 per day. The extra 40 per day (i.e. 20 percent) is their fee.
  3. Once you know the average daily rates, you can go directly to a company and offer your services from 200 – 240 per day. If you charge 220 per day, then they stand to save 20 per day, 100 per week, and 400 per month. Try to highlight this when talking to them. Otherwise, they may assume that you’re rates are the same as the recruiters.
  4. Contact the HR Dept of the IT companies. Ask if they hire ‘direct’ rather than through recruitment companies. Some companies, especially large multi-nationals, have a policy of using recruitment firms only. It’s mostly for legal reasons and no reflection on your abilities. Smaller companies tend to be more flexible.

Tip: if you’re new to contracting, target local companies with less than 50 employees. These are usually more receptive to independent contractors and, even if they don’t have large 3+ month contracts, may have many smaller pieces of work. This can be a good way to build your portfolio while paying the bills.

Succeeding as a Freelance Contractor

Your success as a freelance contractor depends not only on your ability to do the job but to sell your services to prospective clients.
I can’t emphasize this enough.
Companies won’t come to you offering you work. You have to go to them. Before you do this, prepare everything in advance, from your sales pitch, writing samples, business cards, and of course the answer to their last question: how much do you charge?

Conclusion

If you have done your homework, you’ll feel confident when discussing the rates. If the person refuses you, at least you know its not because of your prices but something else.
Try to find out what that is before you hang up!
Let me know how you increase your daily rates.

How To Write 1,217 Words A Day Every Day

Karen from Sacramento emailed me and asked how to write more blog posts. I write between 1,000 and 3,000 words per day. The way I do this is to have a writing framework that lets me define the topic, write the post and publish it very quickly. Here’s how I do it.

Karen from Sacramento emailed me and asked how to write more blog posts. I write between 1,000 and 3,000 words per day. The way I do this is to have a writing framework that lets me define the topic, write the post and publish it very quickly. Here’s how I do it.

How To Post Every Day On Your Blog

I was thinking about this at the weekend, more to see how I can get more impact and where to focus. A few things about how I write:

  • I use Windows Live Writer to do the publishing, great time saver.
  • I use an Editorial Calendar to plan what’s next. This keeps me focused and give more structure to what I do
  • I use Google Reader to bring all the sites I like to me, rather than chasing them down. Also, I try to stay focused (loyal) to these.
  • I do Emergency email first in the morning. The rest waits.
  • I turn on Facebook for 20-30 min in the morning, do my stuff and then close it. Back to work.
  • I write everything, including emails, in Microsoft Word. And then copy/paste into Outlook etc. I know Microsoft Word inside out and take advantage of things like the auto-correct features. Another timesaver.
  • I don’t answer the phone at work. Ever! Except from my wife.
  • I swim/run every second day to stay sane. This really helps. Otherwise, I get burnt out, cranky, depressed. Swimming helps the most as it gets the tension out of my neck, i.e. from all the PC work. Badminton also helps.

To the blogging…
So, I guess there are three things involved:

  • Finding the time
  • Doing the writing and
  • Getting it published

How To Be More Prolific

Here are a few ‘scenarios’ that work for me. I guess I should structure it a little better, but I hope you get the idea.
When I’m washing the dishes…
When I’m washing the dishes, I think of what I want to write today for the blog. For example, ‘how to write 1000 words per day every day.’
Next, while doing other household stuff, I do this:

  • Problem – what is it? 1 sentence
  • Solution – how to fix it?
  • Break out 5 bullet points

What next? What the reader should do next.
And that’s it. While doing the mundane stuff, I sketch out the article. Then, when I get 5 min, instead of reading the news, checking the sports etc, I get it into Word.
Back to household stuff….
When junior is gone to bed, I put my words around the material and try to get draft ready.
The next day, I spend 10 min on it, and get it into Live Writer. Publish.
I use the same technique when driving, on the metro, shopping, at the mall etc.
At the mall…
We were at a kids party today. 3 hours. The usual. I slipped away for 30 min or so. I have a notepad and did a quick outline in MacDs and also some photos, and a quick video with the camera. About 2 min. Then back to the party, pick up the kids etc.
So, I guess, I’m looking for ways to make 20-30 min here and there, get something started and then work towards completion.
Other things…
On LinkedIn, if I contribute something I usually write:

  • 1 sentence only – but make it count. Something that makes the reader pay attention or
  • 100 words — and then reuse this 100 words for an article elsewhere re: the topic on LinkedIn.

On blogs

  • I do the same thing. I have all the technical writing blogs in Reader and then go thru them in 30 min, adding a sentence here and there.

BUT when commenting:
I almost NEVER give high fives. I try to add one observation that stands out. Just one sentence.
Actually, it’s an interesting exercise in brevity and after a while it become second nature.
The key for me is to do as much prep work as possible.
If I can do the outline while washing the dishes or sweeping the floor, then I just have to type it out on the PC. Without reason, of course. But I rarely sit down cold at the PC and start. It takes forever to get anything out.
Does that help?

How To Structure a Blog Post

Developing a professional writing style is critical if you’re serious about making money from blogging. You can get so far by posting free flowing articles that discuss subjects in a conversational manner. Many such blogs are popular, but if you look at the really successful bloggers, they all use a distinct writing style.

Developing a professional writing style is critical if you’re serious about making money from blogging. You can get so far by posting free flowing articles that discuss subjects in a conversational manner. Many such blogs are popular, but if you look at the really successful bloggers, they all use a distinct writing style.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to develop a professional writing style that can be used for blogging:

Introduce topic

In your first paragraph, introduce the subject. Tell the reader what you’re going to talk about and why they should continue to read the article. Give them a reason to read onwards. Emphasize your credentials, expertise, or research you’ve performed on the subject – you want to establish some rapport with the reader. Quickly!

Use headings

Avoid writing long blocks of text. Break your article into several chucks (i.e. units) of text. Give each chunk a heading. This helps the reader scan the article and zoom in on the sections they’re interested in. Web readers like to scan. So, write to be scanned!

Short sentences

Don’t write as you speak! Use short sentences that drive the reader forward. Talk to the reader as though you were explaining something to a good friend! Help the reader understand the subject better than before they visited your blog. Don’t show off. Remove affected or pretentious sounding words. No-one uses these in the real world. Use key words where necessary (if you want to attract search engines) but avoid writing in a ‘search-engine friendly’ style. Automated robots might like it but humans won’t!

List key points

Use lists to break up long paragraphs. If necessary, number the items in the list, especially if they signify levels of importance. Lists are another way to help readers scan text. Keep them short. One line max.

Add graphics

Balance the text to graphics ratio by using images, diagrams, screenshots to compliment the narrative. Don’t add images just for the sake of it. Use something that emphasizes the main points. If possible, keep the image colors in line with your blog’s color scheme. Remember that search engines index images. For this reason, use keywords when naming your images. Instead of 123.gif, name it google-gmail-screenshot.gif

Direct user to next article

When the reader gets to the end of your article, they should NEVER have this thought, “Where do I go next?”
Direct the reader to the next website that will interest them. This is a type of ‘customer service’ to the reader. You’re helping them enjoy their online web experience. Readers, being human, will appreciate this.
And No, don’t link only to your own blog. If your blog is good enough, they’ll bookmark it and return.

Golden rule

Always write with the reader’s interests in mind. Once you get this right, the rest falls into place.
About the Author: Read more from Gerry McGovern at  www.gerrymcgovern.com

12 little known web writing tips

Want to improve your web writing skills? This short tutorial will 1) help you break old writing habits that don’t work on the web and 2) show you how to develop a writing style that’s more ‘natural’ for blogging.

Breaking bad writing habits

Ok, this is a bit harsh but what I want to do is get you away from how you were taught in school.
Academic writing doesn’t work on the web. Neither does formal business writing.
To write for the web, examine how others use it to search, digest, and share information.
Here’s how to get started:

  • Go to the newsagent
  • Buy a local newspaper, national paper and business magazine
  • Get a yellow marker
  • Start reading

Underline every piece of text you read. Ignore the rest. Do this for five minutes, then stop.

How we scan text offline

What do you notice?
The page will be streaked with yellow lines here and there. There will no logical order.
But lots of underlines where your eye fell on text, read a little, and then moved on.
Why is this important?
Because this is how most of us read. We don’t actually read.

  • We search for text
  • Find what we like
  • Dig deeper for a few minutes (at most) and then
  • Search for the next piece

Of course, you do slow down when you’re reading certain pieces. But, when reading, say the sports section, you skip and bounce over the words looking for scores, quotes and other snippets.
You don’t ‘read’ read if that makes sense.

How we scan text online

Let’s move over to the web.
When you’re reading text on the web, your eye roves over the screen. It doesn’t start at the top and read each and every word.
Why?
You’re in a hurry. Pushed for time, seeking information, scanning blocks of text looking for clues.
So, how can we use this when writing blogs and developing web content.
When I work with clients, I usually start by showing them Before and After writing samples.
This shows them a few things:

  • How difficult it was to read their materials
  • How ineffective it was in getting engagement
  • How it demotivated readers from continuing
  • How it made the sales process almost impossible and
  • How it persuaded customers to leave the site

No sane person wants this.
We all want customers to stay on site, engage, and buy our stuff. Otherwise, what are we doing online?

How to write for the web

While I can’t teach you to be professional web writer in one tutorial, you can use these tips to get started.

  1. Get to the point. Immediately.
  2. Identify the main topic. “What you’re going to learn here is…”
  3. Use short headlines. Include one feature and one benefit.
  4. Keep paragraphs under three sentences.
  5. Break up text fast. See how daily newspapers do it. There’s no waffle.
  6. Use short, not long words. Buy instead of procure. Get instead of acquire. Fast instead of rapid.
  7. Use bullet lists to callout takeaways.
  8. If you’re going to use images, add a caption.
  9. Use ragged text. Don’t force the text to align with the right margin.
  10. Use white space to help the page breath.
  11. Use short hyperlinks. Don’t under-link entire sentences.
  12. Use the word ‘you’ everywhere. I’m writing this post for YOU.

Summary

It takes practice to ‘re-learn’ how to write for the web; after all, you’ve spent years writing in a different style, so it’s going to take time to change.
Look at how others do it. See how John structures this post, how Eamonn uses a natural writing style, Gene uses lists to break up text,  and Ryan provides lots of white space to improve readability.
The end result is a confident writing style that draws you in and makes you want to continue. And it’s not difficult to acquire. But you have to decide you want to make it happen.
Over to you.
What blogger has the best writing style? What have you learned from the way they write?
Image Credit

PG Wodehouse Tips on (Web) Writing

PGWodehouse-writing-tipsWhat’s great about this gem from P.G. Wodehouse is that it applies to all types of writing: business, fiction, and web.
“Always get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a big slab of prose at the start.”

Web Writing: Unlearning Bad Habits

One of the difficulties I had when I started to write for the web was that the style I had been taught in school didn’t work online. Maybe you’ve experienced the same thing.
Writing long, flowery prose is fine for essays but, on the web, it’s brevity that wins.
Why?
Because on the web:

  1. We scan for information.
  2. We’re in a hurry.
  3. We’re searching for signposts (keywords) and
  4. We want an ANSWER to a specific problem.

Think about it.
You visit a site with some problem, query, or interest in mind. Then you go searching. Scanning over pages for the words that provide the answer.
This is so different than padding out a 3,000 word essay on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Web Writing Formula

One way I’ve managed to make this transition from academic writing to web writing is to use the following formula:

  1. Give yourself fifteen minutes to write a post. No more.
  2. Use short words only. For example, write get instead of procure.
  3. Remove adjectives unless than are critical. Streamline the waffle.
  4. Use bullets and headings to structure the post.
  5. Read it out loud. Sound pretentious, timid, boring? Go back and revise the text until it rings true.

And that’s really it.
That doesn’t mean everything you write has to be simplistic and shallow. Far from it. Instead, it means you get to the point faster, help the reader identify what they need to understand, and guide them to the next page, post, or site you recommend.
What’s the hardest thing about writing for the web?

The Best of Plum Wodehouse…

  • Sell your work, try to sell your work, don’t hide behind a mask of “individuality” or “creativity”. Good stuff always sells in the end, but you have to keep going until then. The notebooks are full of instructions to himself. They were going to be re-read. “Try this..” crops up time and time again. mtmg.wordpress.com
  • Advice to writers who want to do humorous fiction. I don’t think a man can deliberately sit down to write a funny story unless he has got a sort of slant on life that leads to funny stories. If you take life fairly easily, then you take a humorous view of things. kirstenmortensen.com
  • In his last decade, Wodehouse could still average 1,000 words a day where, as a younger man, he had often written 2,500 words and more. dailyroutines.typepad.com
  • The principle I always go on in writing a novel is to think of the characters in terms of actors in a play – See more at: scribblepreach.com
  • Keep professional notebooks. The entries in Wodehouse’s notebooks and commonplace books are numbered for future reference. garreteer.co.uk
  • “I should think it extremely improbable that anyone ever wrote simply for money. What makes a writer is that he likes writing. Naturally, when he has written something, he wants to get as much for it as he can, but that is a very different thing from writing for money.”laneymcmann.com
  • Are you bored? Snap out of it! Never blog when you’re feeling bored, it comes across in your words. Arouse your enthusiasm. When I feel bored, and know I need to write anyway. angelabooth.com
  • “It is never very difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.” www.badlanguage.net

6 Differences Between Web Writing and Blogging

She said she was a web writer and not a blogger. What’s the difference, I asked.
Way to ZigZag Path

  1. Web writing is structured. Has a start, middle, and end. Blogging is often snippets, fragments, and less formal.
  2. Web writing is part of a larger process. For example, she writes a series of online articles that will feed into a hardback publication that appears later in the year.
  3. Web writing has long-term goals. I think she meant evergreen type content, ie materials that will be of use in five, ten, or fifteen years. Blogging is of the moment, ie more reactive.
  4. Web writing is stricter, ie web writers know the rules of grammar and when to apply them. Many bloggers are more relaxed in their spelling, verb constructions, and knowledge of split infinitives 🙂
  5. Web writing has greater depth. Blogging is slightly superficial. There is less analysis, research, and statistics.
  6. Web writing is created by professionals. Bloggers are (mostly) amateurs. And those who succeed soon morph into mainstream publishers, eg writing books that sell in the high street.

Is this fair?
I know what she’s getting at. This is a woman who’s very educated, qualified, and dedicated her career to journalism. Blogging seems (or feels) to be undermining the publishing industry she’s grown up in.

Web Writing v Blogging

In some ways, she’s right.
Blogging is meant to be less formal, more in the moment, and social. You can’t have a blog post go through editorial reviews and get it online within minutes. It’s one or the other. Or is that an excuse?
The Daily Mail online is a good example of less format web publishing, generating oodles of content every day. Not all of it gets proofed or sanity checked. But the model seems to be working.
Do you see a difference in blogging and web writing or have the boundaries merged?
What would you suggest to someone who has ‘traditional’ writing skills (ie degree in English) and is now possibly under threat from waves of bloggers?
Should they stick or twist?

How to Write Microcontent

What’s the difference between writing for the web and writing for a magazine? There’s at least five main differences. Two of the most critical relate to scanning and heatmaps.
Eye Tracking - Develop web content based on how readers scan pages

Why readers scan (not read) webpages?

On the web, we scan pages, posts, and tweets.
We don’t read every line word by word, unless the writer is clever and breaks up the text fast – like I’m going to do:)
We scan text for three reasons:

  • Find what’s we’re after
  • See if it’s interesting
  • Decide where to go next

Let’s take a second look at this, because it’s worth examining.
When people come to your webpage, what do they want to do?
I’d say they want to:

  • Scan the main sections, (e.g. hierarchy, menus, images etc) and determine what it’s about
  • Research shows they stay for as little as three seconds before deciding where to go next. In other words, you have less than a heartbeat to persuade them to stay and continue browing.
  • If they decide to stay, it’s the content on the top (usually left) part of the screen they read first.

Why?
Because westerners (people, not the movies) are trained to read from…

  • …left to right and
  • top to bottom

Designing content to be scanned and read

So, how can you encourage readers to stay on your site that little bit longer?
Here’s a tactic that works:

  • Write headlines that combines a benefit with an emotional response. Don’t focus on either heart or heart. Try to appeal to both.
  • Keep the headline under six words.
  • Add a summary under the headline. This helps the reader understand the context of the article, i.e. where am i?, and hopefully to read onwards.
  • Use transitions to carry the reader from the summary into the body of the article. How? Ask questions, make a statement, suggest what’s next or create a little controversy.

Developing Content based on Heatmaps

This brings us to ‘heatmaps’. In simple english, this refers to a ‘map’ which shows where readers look most on pages.
The areas they read most appear in Red.
For you, when developing web content, this means placing the most critical pieces of content…

  • Call to Actions
  • Primary Links
  • Adverts

…in the red zones of the heat map.
Why?
If 90% of your readers are focussed here, why place these links elsewhere? You’ll get no clicks anyway.
Content placed…

  • In sidebars, e.g. banner ads
  • In large blocks of text and
  • Below the fold, i.e. you have to scroll down to see it

…are rarely examined.

The Two Second Eye Tracking Test

The good news is that you don’t need expensive software to test your site’s content. Here’s a low tech way to see your content the way new visitors to your site do:

  • Open your website on a laptop, not a large monitor.
  • Sit back (don’t lean in, they don’t).
  • Squint your eyes and look at the page.

What do you see?
If you’re honest, you’ll see a banner, your logo, and maybe the title of today’s article.
Now, keep squinting… and find the most important call to acton on the page.

  • Can you see it?
  • Does it stand out?
  • Do you feel like clicking on it?

How to write content reader want to click

That’s the bottom line, right?
Ok, here’s how to do it.

  • Write short headlines.
  • Use plain english. Avoid puns.
  • Lead with a benefit, such as How To Reduce…
  • Include a short summary.
  • Use bullet lists to break up the text.
  • Use sub heads, e.g. H2, to format the page.
  • Use images sparingly. If so, add a caption.
  • White space helps text breath.
  • Avoid cool fonts – use industry standard fonts
  • Use slightly larger than normal font sizes.
  • Use a limited color palate.

Conclusion

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Developing web content looks easy until you test its performance. Try and optimize it by 1%. Tricky, isn’t it.
The key to developing clickable web content is to 1) first understand how people read on the web and 2) develop scannable content based on these behaviors.
What have you found?
Have you noticed that readers scan pages faster than they used to? What type of content gets the most clicks? Where do you position images?

How Much Should You Pay For a 500 Word Article?

I’m curious. How much would you pay me to write a 500 word article for you?
Ok. I don’t do freelance work at the moment. But, if I did, how would you go about it?One way to scale your internet business is to outsource writing tasks to Virtual Assistants and Freelancers. The upfront cost (payment) is offset by the extra sales you’ll make (returns) on the time you save.

typewriter keys
Creative Commons License photo credit: Joelk75
I’m curious. How much would you pay me to write a 500 word article for you?
Ok. I don’t do freelance work at the moment. But, if I did, how would you go about it?One way to scale your internet business is to outsource writing tasks to Virtual Assistants and Freelancers. The upfront cost (payment) is offset by the extra sales you’ll make (returns) on the time you save.
That’s how it works if you do it right. Let’s take a look.

How to outsource your articles

You can use sites like ODesk.com to post your project and get freelancers to bid. Here’s how it works:

  • Write out the specifications for the work you want done, say 5 articles on your business niche.
  • Be as precise as possible. The more details you can give, the better a response you’ll get.
  • Submit the work request.
  • Freelancers will contact you and outline their rates, offer samples, and should be able to provide references. Many sites let you see references and recommendations from satisfied customers in the freelancers profile. Yes, it can be rigged, but in general it works very well.
  • Look at the reference work and make a decision.
  • Don’t choose the cheapest option. Look for the best VA/Freelancer and build a long-term relationship.
  • Consider offering bonuses or other incentives if they deliver the material ahead of time. In the long run, it’s more economical to work with 1 or 2 trusted VAs than having to search for new ones all the time.
  • Pay as agreed. Usually I pay a percentage upfront if the person has been recommended to me or pay on receipt if it’s a new VA.
  • I use PayPal and have a verified business account.

How I Write

The other option is to write the material yourself. I do this is the subject matter is very specialized and I can’t find freelance writers with relevant experience.
Here’s how I do it:

  • Choose a topic, for example, Mobile Commerce.
  • Identify ten questions around the subject. How do I setup a Mobile Shop? How do I take payments over the phone etc.
  • Write skeletons for each of the questions; these are a series of headings that I’ll use to flesh out the articles in more detail.
  • Write in batches, for example, for three hours at a time. That lets me build up a head of steam and really get into the subject.
  • Turn off everything and just write.
  • Stop.
  • Leave it for a day.
  • Return to the material and complete it.

My aim would be to write 5000 words minimum.
That works out at 500 words per article, usually more. In some cases, you can cut/paste material that applies to different articles.

Typing Skills

One reason I can do this is I type very fast. Very fast.
I learnt to use a typewriter as a teenager and have fairly good touch typing skills.
If your income is based on how many words you can type, learn to touch type.
It’s a no-brainer.

Pay By The Hour

If you do choose to go with the freelancer, you have two options.
If you pay by the hour:

  • Look at the going rates.
  • See what others charge first.
  • Get a few quotes.
  • Weight up the options.

Some writers prefer this arrangement.
For me it doesn’t work. I don’t charge others by the hour – unless they want to! – as I prefer to be paid/rewarded on performance.
I prefer to pay by output. How long it takes… I don’t care.

Pay By Words

What I do is say, ‘I need 5,000 words on this subject. How much would it cost? Have you any samples of writing similar material.’
I don’t want freelancers cutting and pasting material from the web. I prefer to see if they have written about the subject before and then proceed.
I ask to see samples and get references if necessary.
When they start to write, I ask for a draft to be sent over. Again, I don’t want to wait until the end and find the material is sub-standard.
If the quality is really good, I might commission more work and…

Bonus

I offer bonuses to the really good writers. I want to lock in with them and keep them onside. This is a cost cutting measure if you think about it.
The less time you spend looking for freelancers, the more time you have for more important activities.
Another no-brainer!

How much for 500 words?

I’ve spoken to others who use VAs and Freelancers. And, it depends…

  • If the writer knows the subject matter, they should be able to write about 1000 words in an hour. This article took 45 minutes.
  • If the writer is new to the subject, it will take more depending on the amount of research.

Most professional writers can touch type. If they can type 60 words per minute, then do the math.
It shouldn’t take long if they know the subject matter.
Therefore…
If the time it takes them to come up to speed takes too long, you may as well write it yourself. I outsource to trusted writers that I know can turn it around super quick.
And I pay above the going rate.
I don’t want to waste time (i.e. money) looking for status updates, answering queries, listening to ‘the dog ate my homework’ stories.
PS – this article is 909 words and took 41 minutes to write.

The Jeff Bezos Regret Minimization Framework

I preferred to avoid risks, especially big ones, until I saw this short video by Jeff Bezos. In less than four minutes he changed my perspective on how to take risks and have more confidence in your decisions.

I preferred to avoid risks, especially big ones, until I saw this short video by Jeff Bezos. In less than four minutes he changed my perspective on how to take risks and have more confidence in your decisions.
He describes the framework he uses to deal with risk-taking and gives examples of how you can apply this approach to your life.

[Video] Jeff Bezos & Risks Assessment

How to use the Regret Minimization Framework?

Like most great things, it’s very simple. If you have trouble making a decision, for example, leaving a high paid job with all the nice perks to start up a business, then you can use this framework.
After all, this is the way he justified his decision to himself when starting Amazon.
We’ll come back to justification later on but, for now, keep it in mind.

Regret Minimization Framework

To reduce the fear you have of taking a risk, try this:

  • Imagine you are now at the end of your life, about 80.
  • You look back on all you have done and all you have NOT done.
  • You regret certain things you did, for example, hurting others and causing them pain.
  • BUT you deeply regret NOT doing things when you had the time, energy, and opportunity to do so.

As we age, it’s what we COULD have done but did not that hurts the most. Other things we accept as they were part of growing up, maturing or things beyond our control.
Think about this…
Ask yourself, at the end of my life, would I regret not taking the chance to setup the business (when you really felt it would work)?
Chances are you’d regret it deeply. You won’t regret that you didn’t make enough money, or had a bigger car, or wore fancy clothes but you would regret not doing what you felt was part of your calling.
Others might call this your destiny, vocation, fate, talent… it doesn’t matter what you label it as. It was something you felt you could achieve and you let the opportunity go. That will hurt if you don’t take it.
Bezos assessed his life and decided that he could forgive himself for many things but this business (Amazon.com) had to happen. He didn’t want to meet himself later in life and have to justify his (lack of) decision.
and…
Taking a long-term view allows us to stop thinking about the mundane daily worries that clog our thinking.
By reviewing our lives from a future place (eg as an 80 year old looking looking backwards), we’re removed from the little things that distract us.
The other side of this is how we justify this decision to ourselves.

How We Justify Things

Another way of looking at this is how we justify our decisions.
Look at how you justify things you buy.

I often disguise my true motives with loftier aims. For example, I bought an iPad because I wanted to be in the loop. Like a small child, everyone else had one, so I wanted one.

The justification was… this is an education tool/I can learn how to monetize my business with this/my kids will learn things with it.

When I go on expensive holidays, I can justify it be pointing to all the hard work I put in over the year. But, at the back of my mind, I simply feel that I deserved it. Explaining that to other can be tricky, awkward, and embarrassing depending on who you’re talking to.

Conclusion

Emotions often drive our decisions: we use logical arguments to justify the outcomes.
We can reduce our fear of Risks if we fast forward to the end of our days and revise these decisions. From that place, what seems like a risk to us now, appears almost irrelevant.
Why would you not take the risk?
I would urge you to watch the video and see if you agree with what Mr Bezos has to say. His arguments are very compelling.
Let me know what you think.