The freelance writer’s cheat sheet

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Rumbi Askana Tendaupenyu

by Rumbi Askana Tendaupenyu

There are a few methods on how to achieve an excellent online reader-count. I cannot say which ones are the best but I can write about those that have worked well for me. Welcome to the freelance writer’s cheat sheet.

1. Make people click on your article’s link using the title

Put yourself in the shoes of the reader, both male and female as well as every other sub-demographic you intend on reaching.

Whomsoever they are, you need to be able to be become them and understand what it is that would make them want to open your article. Keep in mind that opening your article is the first step. Reading it is an entirely different thing.

If ordinarily, you would not open your own article based on the title alone, then it is not good enough.

Usually, the best time to come up with a title is after you have completed the article and proofread it a few times. This ensures that you know exactly what is contained in the article so as to provide you with the right creative direction for which you can take, regarding the title.

Another great way to gauge whether or not your title is on the right track is to allow people to read the article without a title, and then make them guess what the title is. If their guesses are similar to what you had prepared as a title, then you are on the right track. If not, you may need to revise the title, the content, or both.

Tip: the simpler and more descriptive the title, the better.

2. Leverage your social media

Let us take it back to basics:

Step 1: Sign up for every social medium you have ever heard of.

Step 2: Join every (relevant) group/page on the social media that you are able to. Note that some groups require you to apply or provide evidence of your work.

NB: relevance is important as plenty of Facebook and Whatsapp groups have rules. If you are a part of a Mom’s-and-tots carpool group, you risk being kicked out for sending an article you wrote on “the top 5 places to order champagne in Champagne.”

Step 3: Post or share one, and only one, short and captivating post with a link to your article on each and every (relevant) group or page. This can only be done once your article has been published.

Step 4: Add the link to your article on your blog and use that as a source of traffic for your published article.

3. Use images

We live in an age where the attention span of a reader is short and their fingers are long. This means that you are at the mercy of the reader. If they do not like your article, they can do many things to ruin your readership. From clicking the dislike button to sharing your article until it trends on twitter for the wrong reasons.

As a result, you need to mitigate this risk by providing them with fun, informative and inoffensive content. This includes images. It is not enough to use just any images. Aside from conforming to the client’s contract as well as the general rules of copyright, your images need to be fresh, relevant and memorable.

A good image to use will be an emotive and visual representation of what the previous paragraph was trying to convey. Another good way to communicate your message is to use a relevant, inoffensive and appropriate meme. While it is true that it is not possible to please everyone, one can at least try.

NB: Do not use too many images. That will make the article seem longer than it actually is. Long articles do not get read all the way through as readers get bored, lazy and/or tired. A good rule of thumb to use is to have one image per every 4 – 5 paragraphs.

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4. Repetition is key

As with the title, you should read the contents of your article a few times and ensure that it conveys the message that you had intended it to.

You may not think that there is an error in your article but taking a break and looking at it with fresh eyes may reveal a typo or grammatical error that in simple terms makes you look bad.

Remember that nobody is obliged to read your whole article, let alone click on the link. Thus, the last thing that you want to do is deter them with mistakes that could have been avoided.

Tip: A shortcut to the repetition game is typing everything in red font. Once you have completed a paragraph, read it over and over again. Then read it after the preceding paragraph. If you are satisfied with the grammar and flow of the paragraph then change the colour of the font to green then you will hardly need to return to it as you’ll know it is already near perfect. Once the entire article is green, you may then convert the font colour to black and do a final read-through of the entire article.

Tip: Use a spellchecker or a grammar-checking app such as Grammarly to ensure that your article is in impeccable condition.

5. Hashtags

Do not misuse or abuse hashtags. A hashtag should be viewed as a strategic means of directing the attention of potential readers to your article. Using common words or phrases, which are also keywords in your article, as hashtags should be the standard. Hashtagging relevant locations, items or phrases is also a great way to direct traffic to your article. Keep in mind that a hashtag such as #SundayFunDay will not be appropriate for an article about Black Friday specials. A hashtag such as #discount would be more appropriate and has a greater click-through rate.

NB: A click-through rate is the number of visitors to a web page who clicked on a hypertext link to that particular site.

There is no money-back-guaranteed method to ensuring a substantial readership. Nevertheless, the above are a few of the tips and tricks that have proven useful to writers of all disciplines and publications, no matter the brief. Otherwise, as with most things in life, “to each their own.