This month marks the seventh year Express Writers has existed.
Back in 2011, it was quite the humble beginning for us. I was doing 90% of the work, all the way from writing client blogs to emailing and cold calling to find my next prospect.
In 2011, I quit nursing school to follow my dreams. Literally, one morning I woke up and asked myself, “what do I love doing?” I knew what the answer was, from the bottom of my heart. Writing. So, I took my passion online and started a freelance profile. Within three months I had more clients than I’d dreamed of, and I started a business. With nothing more than $75, Express Writers was born.
7 years later, we’re on our 14,185th project (that doesn’t even include 2,000+ of projects in the years prior to building our e-commerce content platform). If we’re averaging 10,000 words per projects (they vary from 500w – 50,000w per order), that’s 141,850,000 words written! We’ve served over 5,000 clients, and our team is 75 people and growing. We grew 20% in internal support members (QAs and copywriters) to our team, just in the past two months.
Today, we’re celebrating this major milestone of our 7th year in business.
First, we have an awesome brand video to share with you. I’m super excited to feature Hannah, our Content Director: Vicki, our Content Support Specialist, and John, our Content Strategist and Expert Copywriter, inside this video. Bonus: we had a wonderful video producer help out with the production!
If you’ve been a part of our journey thus far: reader, subscriber, client, podcast listener, team member… thank you. It’s 100% true: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” (Michael Jordan)
Plus, we’re announcing something super special. Stay tuned below the video for an important announcement!
Celebrating 7 Years in Business: The Express Writers’ Story
Content Shop Major Change Announcement: We’re Now Taking New Clients By Invitation Only
At Express Writers, one of our highest priorities is focusing on quality, timeliness and creativity when we serve our clients.
We find that less clients means that we can focus on greater results for each one of those clients.
Many clients have been with us for years now, are increasing their order quantity, and we’re staying busier than ever because we’re focused more heavily on client support than simply sales. We greatly, greatly appreciate our clients’ loyalty.
We want to continue this direction: serving our loyal clients with our best.
So, after much deliberation, we’ve decided to make this happen:
I’ve self-published both of my books, and all in all, have invested over 1,000 hours into both of them.
Well, probably much more than that.
The first one by far was the hardest, and the second one, while it took eight months, flowed much more easily after the learning curve of book #1.
But what I’ve found, years later from my first book getting published, is that it was totally worth it. And, that self-publishing is pretty cool. You’re in complete control of every part of your book, from marketing to earning 70% of all the book sales.
Read on for a look at where my books have sold, how many have sold so far, and two major benefits from two books written and published.
The Skinny: Celebrating 1,800 Books Sold! (So You Think You Can Write? and Practical Content Strategy & Marketing)
To celebrate the two-year mark of So You Think You Can Write, and the six-month mark of Practical Content Strategy & Marketing, I counted all my book sales on all channels today. This is as of today (4/30/18).
My books have sold in more than eight different currencies, from Japanese Yen to British pounds. These are the major countries my books have been purchased in:
I’ve spent less than $200 to market both of these books ($100 on a sponsored tweet, another $90-95 on several sponsored Facebook posts).
99.9%of all of my book sales have come organically. I am also not counting the copies I’ve given away (dozens if not hundreds of copies, mailed and signed for free).
Two Amazingly Huge Benefits From Publishing Two Books
#1. I made some amazing connections in the industry through my book.
I chose to invest time and effort into getting a few industry leaders to write my foreword, and asked a group of 10-15 influencers to review my book and give me blurbs for a “Praise” section, before either of my books became published.
This took time, but it was a HUGE benefit to me in getting more eyeballs on the book, and making more connections in my industry.
We’ve even seen some long-term clients come in from the marketing firms of the people who reviewed my books.
Getting influencers to write my foreword was a major benefit for both of my books. My first book’s foreword was written by Sujan Patel, a leading internet marketer who runs multiple SaaS companies and is the co-founder of Web Profits, Australia’s largest marketing company.
I had built up connections with both of these amazing people via social media and by inviting them on my show, The Write Podcast. (Listen to Sujan’s episode and Mark’s episode.) I’d met both of them in person, too. Sujan lives locally to me in Austin, Texas, and I met Mark at CMWorld 2017.
So, building up a relationship prior certainly helped quite a bit. Once I officially “knew” them, it was as simple as asking them — and they both said “yes!”
I also met and connected with other self-published authors after my books came out.
Chris Strub is a self-published author that I had the honor of meeting in Austin, Texas this year.
We did a Facebook Live together outside of the Amazon Bookstore that had just opened up in the Domain in Austin, Texas:
What’s cool is that we connected over our books, and have been able to shout each other out for more exposure.
#2. I’ve built long-term industry authority.
I’ve had new prospects trust and buy 10x quicker just because they read my book before they became a client.
Because my books are very well-written, with much and thought put into them, they are in essence a “conversion vehicle” for my agency.
You read my books, you can tell instantly that I know and care about online writing – these books weren’t an overnight deal – you hire my writing agency.
Simple! It happens over and over again.
(We’ve even had some clients ask if they can have whoever wrote my books, assigned to their content. *cough* Since I actually wrote my books, that’s somewhat impossible. But, I train all of the writers I hire – and I guarantee our expert and authority level writers are just as good as I am! Some of them basically share my brain cells.)
These opportunities would have never come my way without the books, so this truly made my time involved worth it.
(Note: You can’t expect these opportunities overnight, however. Many of the biggest opportunities rolled in with the second book, and others occurred months and months after my first book was out.)
Contribute to the Book Celebration!
You know, authors are basically nothing without readers, no matter how good we are.
If you haven’t, please leave a review on Amazon! It would mean the world, and it would also mean that we reach more people – as you can see from my Facebook Live with Chris Strub, it’s critical to Amazon and how they showcase books to the rest of the world.
If you did leave a review, please tweet/mention me so I can publicly shout you out and thank you! Follow me on Twitter.
Also, did you know? I’m writing a third book! I can’t spill too many of the details, but it’s a memoir about my life, with tragedy, bravery, growth, success and more woven in. As many of you know, I escaped a cult six years ago, and learned to heal from terrible mental abuse along my entrepreneurial journey. I cannot wait to share this book in all its rawness, realness and beauty!
Stay tuned for more details coming on my latest book.
Today for the Write Blog, we interviewed one of our full-time writers, Austin.
Austin first began his career as a pro writer when he left his hometown of Los Angeles, California to travel the world and document his experiences along the way. He has toured with rock bands in Europe, written technical documentation for Australian engineering concerns and executed social media strategies for major international brands across the globe. A talented writer, Austin has been a long-term member of Express Writers for over a year, working full-time as an Authority Writer, Content Strategist and all-around gifted copywriter.
What were your earliest writing memories?
Like many introverted pre-teens, at the age of 10 or 11 I kept a journal where I’d write down my thoughts and occasionally try my hand at poetry.
Shortly thereafter, I migrated to the then-popular LiveJournal platform and share these thoughts with the small handful of close friends who took an interest.
Back then, everyone had a Myspace account, but keeping up a LiveJournal took a bit more effort, and it was a far more convenient way to share opinions and tell stories.
What (or who) were your early influences in writing?
I’ve been an avid science fiction fan since I was first introduced to Isaac Asimov. My father gave me The Foundation Series as a birthday gift. Asimov’s influence is easy to identify in both my creative and practical approaches to writing.
In particular, one quote of his made a huge impact on my creative goal as a writer:
“I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing—to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might get me a Pulitzer prize…”
I’ve also adopted many elements of his famously hyper-productive workflow – Asimov wrote almost 500 books during his lifetime, which calculates to an average of one full novel every two weeks for 25 years. I haven’t quite reached that volume of output, but if I had received George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones that year, this interview would not be online until the year 2050.
What kind of topics get you excited/passionate to write about and why?
I find inspiration in anything new, innovative, or otherwise under-explored. For the most part, this happens in the tech sector, where entrepreneurs and startups are constantly coming up with fresh and exciting challenges to the status quo.
But this can happen anywhere, in any subject. Usually, I try to address this frame of reference in almost everything I write – synthesizing the well-established facts of the past with the new insights of today to create a better perspective of tomorrow.
Do you have any daily/typical writing rituals?
I continuously engineer just about every aspect of my daily writing routine to reduce inefficiencies and keep myself focused. Most of these rituals prevent decision fatigue from tiring me out throughout the day. For instance, I work at home, but always dress to a tee beforehand. Music is almost always playing (loudly) while I write, but only specific albums and playlists on repeat – radio host banter would get in the way and break my concentration. I keep my office immaculately clean for the same reason.
I don’t smoke cigarettes, but I do hold an unlit antique tobacco pipe in my mouth while writing. That’s just a personal idiosyncrasy I suppose stems from popular depictions of writers like Ernest Hemingway or Mark Twain. Somehow, it just feels appropriate.
What books, tools, websites have helped your writing the most?
This is a small list of resources I reference the most:
Google Scholar. I’ve found that more often than not, great sources form the crux of great content. Finding better, more recent, and more complete data about a subject than anyone else practically guarantees that you’ll be able to deliver a clearer and more compelling argument about it.
Practical Content Strategy & Marketing. Can’t go wrong with this one. This book offers a bird’s eye view of content strategy as a discipline and then goes deep into what defines a successful approach, step-by-step.
Buzzsumo. This tool is extraordinarily useful for synthesizing topics and strategies out of already-popular content. Used in the right way, it can be your go-to topic generating tool for almost any industry.
Importantly, these are all technical resources that help get content made. For the creative work of actually writing content, I rely on two philosophical disciplines more than anything else:
Aristotelian Rhetoric. A lot of motivational speakers, speechwriters, and life coaches will claim to teach you the secret of how to convince anyone of anything, but few, if any, do anything more than paraphrase Aristotle. When it comes to persuasion, the definitive work has been written and its about 2,400 years old.
Critical Theory. This one is a little less user-friendly, but it’s incredibly useful when you need to disprove something, or otherwise poke holes in people’s existing prejudices, principles, and belief systems. Handle with care. Don’t try this at home.
What is your favorite article that you wrote?
My favorite project so far was a white paper for a cryptocurrency designed to operate in the healthcare sector. The level of research involved can only be described as legendary – decades of aggregated healthcare spend in multiple countries compared with each nation’s respective changes in fiduciary policy and the effects of those changes, transformed into a projection of future trends and used to argue for the need for a new form of currency to compensate for the discrepancy in inflation rates between fiat currency and healthcare products and services. Psychedelic stuff.
A favorite client that you worked with?
There’s a fellow whom I know only as “Sean”. One of my most memorable projects with this client involved long-form content about space travel, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
Then he comes back around in a month or so and wants in-depth content about golf, or a listicle of the best waterparks in the United States. He’s a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.
What is the oddest writing assignment you’ve ever had?
Probably all that stuff about golf. Product descriptions can get pretty weird, too. Sometimes you’re looking at some everyday item you’ve never thought of as the product of a commercial enterprise – like cable ties or threaded washers – and you have to rack your brain for a few minutes to come up with pain points customers may wish to see addressed.
How does your writing career help you either creatively, personally, or financially?
Creatively, there is something profoundly satisfying about generating value using only one brain, ten fingers, and twenty six letters. Seeing the words you write actually inspire people to take action is a wondrous experience. If my writing career is a means to an end, that’s the one I’m looking for.
Personally, being able to set my own hours and work from anywhere on the planet is hugely empowering. This work environment instills in me a sense of liberty that is hard to find anywhere else.
Financially, writing has been a lifesaver. Initially, it started out as a convenient option for scraping out a living in inconvenient circumstances. It blossomed into a full-fledged career that is now generating enough profit to finance other initiatives – things I’ve always wanted to do but never had the combination of time and money to really dedicate myself towards. It’s a beautiful thing.
Today for the Write Blog, we interviewed one of our full-time writers, Diana.
Diana is a journalism graduate, award-winning filmmaker and online content specialist. She dedicates her work to crafting content that connects people with stories and ideas that matter. When she’s away from the laptop, you can find her navigating through South America’s mountain trails or planning her next large-scale environmental project. Diana joined our team earlier this year and has become an integrated part, training closely with Julia for a course support role, and writing a myriad of content types for our clients.
How did you first find out you liked to write?
My dad is a writer and I’ve always been a big fan of him in many ways.
So when I was about nine years old, I decided to submit a story for the Remembrance Day competition at my school. The story ended up winning first place and was announced at the annual ceremony.
If you can remember being nine years old, winning basically anything was the best thing ever.
So clearly, I exploded — and became totally obsessed. Soon after, I got a hold of my dad’s old briefcase, filled it with blank notebooks and begun writing long-winded mystery stories for a good length of time (Nancy Drew was my other hero).
What (or who) were your early influences in writing?
After my long-lived Nancy Drew/Harriet the Spy phase and survived my too-cool-for-school chapter, I was introduced to a handful of influencers in University.
Besides my incredible journalism/writing professors and mentors, there were some other special people I surrounded myself with:
I ABSORBED Kurt Vonnegut. Like I wanted to take his work and inject it into my body somehow.
Douglas Coupland and Rawi Hage were fairly prominent in my life, too.
David Sedaris was pretty much my long-distance, secret mentor for my short story work.
Hunter S. Thompson was my muse.
Charles Bukowski, Leonard Cohen and Sylvia Plath were my sad, soulful weekend mentors.
At this time, I was also regularly writing lyrics for a band I was in.
I think this may have been one of the greatest influences for my writing: The self-disciplined study of lyricism and poetry. It gave my writing a certaindepth and flavour.
Henry David Thoreau was a game-changer, though.
I think I’ve read Walden 4 times.
This, combined with tree planting expeditions and my insatiable love for scriptwriting eventually led me to creating work for a purpose, rather than simply the joy of storytelling.
What kind of topics get you excited/passionate to write about and why?
I love characters. Profile pieces, especially on zany people, make me giddy.
I also love every aspect of writing for environmental topics. I try to learn as much about environmental issues on the side to help my craft in this field.
Honestly though, any topic that has the potential to influence further development in either myself or the world at large has me pretty pumped.
This can include:
– content marketing – social enterprises – psychology and self-development – new cuisine or farming practices – specific technology
Do you have any daily/typical writing rituals?
I go through stints where I don’t do it as often, but it’s clear how it affects my concentration and therefore my writing.
Meditating every morning before looking at screens improves the overall productiveness of my day significantly.
Clear/calm mind + blank paper + coffee = real potential.
What books, tools, websites have helped your writing the most?
I’m kind of old school.
I believe the simple discipline of reading and writing a desired topic/style can boost your abilities.
Currently, I’m trying to improve my content writing, so I’m reading Julia’s book while following various blogs.
I use Feedly to help me stay updated with specific styles of content I’m focusing on — which is actually the most high-tech I’ve ever been in this respect.
What is your favorite article that you wrote?
It was called, “Massacre on Dundas Avenue.”
It was an investigative piece on why there were so many dead squirrels littering the main roads in my town.
The article was a result of a casual observation that led to a broader issue — an approach I feel makes for the best articles.
A favorite client that you worked with?
Dr. Graham’s Homes, which is an orphanage and school in Kalimpong, India. I wrote a number of the graduate’s testimonials for their main site to encourage essential funding.
The stories these students shared were truly inspiring, some of them almost chilling. Being given the chance to take these stories and mould them into something tangible was an honor.
What is the oddest writing assignment you’ve ever had?
I covered a radio story on the inside life of a trailer park, which was actually a few hours away from where the TV show, Trailer Park Boys was shot.
The assignment required me to go door-to-door and interview residents of the area, which proved to be both terrifying and awe-inspiring. The range of characters was vast, but one common theme that carried through was the residents’ ability to effortlessly entertain guests.
How does your writing career help you either creatively, personally, or financially?
My writing career not only pays the bills and my ability to travel (which includes its own benefits), but it encourages me to evolve on a personal level.
I believe that constantly working on a craft, whether it be art, carpentry, music or writing, enhances your ability to expand in a myriad of ways.
It helps you practice humility, and when done well and enjoyably, can be beneficial for your spirit and overall well-being.
The craft of writing helps you connect with people and ideas.
It supports continual learning, curiosity, and encourages open-mindedness.
As the end of July rolls around and the last quarter of 2017 begins (can you believe it already?), we have some exciting new improvements to share that have been in the works internally at Express Writers.
Ready? Let’s delve in!
Why You Can Trust Us to Constantly Improve our Standards and Work Harder than Any Content Services Provider
A word before we get into the details of our July changes and improvements…
Everything you see here—from our website to the last offering in the Content Services area—is maintained by a tight-knit group of people that work hard and, together as one, share a great passion for this industry of content writing and marketing. We don’t have outside funding. We’re bootstrapped: we love what we do, and that motivates us to work hard at it.
I’ve done homework and ordered from many other content providers myself, and I can tell you that it is genuinely rare in this industry when a team of people come together like we do to work this hard to service our clients. Down to our sales manager, project manager, myself as the CEO and my husband as the CTO—we work hard, day in and day out, to change the common reputation in this industry of content creation providers and sell the best content service (in service and written content quality).
– Throughout the last week of July, we spent approximately 30 hours to find and hire eight solid new writers in unique expertise areas. We went through more than 50 interviews and 200+ applicants to find these eight!
– For one given day, our Skype thread looks a lot like this:
Our editing chat is even more lively – the editors help each other out consistently:
Constant updates, constant communication, and quick fixes for any issues. We’re able to do big things because of how much we communicate with each other.
I just want to give my team props for how hard we all work. We don’t cut corners. And you can expect this of us, every single time you order a content service from us. You’re ordering from a company that believes in hard work, and your sale directly correlates to the income that provides for our families.
With that said…
Now, let’s get into the changes for this month!
July Changes: New Management, Writing & Editing Team Additions
Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com and frequently named the “SaaS Father,” said this about hiring:
I believe in this statement, 100%.
That’s why I’m choosing to put more time into finding the right people, more than I ever have.
This month, we added twelve new people to the team in total:
A new content director, Jeremy Kohlenburg
Three new editors: Susan, Christina, Jessica
Eight new writers, in various industry expertise areas and full/part time availability schedules
Jeremy is replacing Katria, our former Content Manager, who quit in July. Jeremy is a perfect fit for the role of Content Director, bringing a great deal of freelance copywriting and blended leadership experience into this position in our team. Not only is he taking over content management, but he has a phone extension and is directly available to our clients, should they need to reach him for any concerns about their writers, revisions, our process, etc.
I’ll let Jeremy share what he brings to the team. In Jeremy’s words:
From our Content Director, Jeremy:
I’m excited to join the Express Writers’ team as the Content Director.
In this role, I will work directly with you, the client, to ensure that your content matches your exact specifications and exceeds your standards. I will be available to discuss your needs via email and phone, and I will take personal responsibility for the quality of every product I deliver to you. Behind the scenes, I will develop and lead the writing staff, closely with Julia, our CEO, and the editing team. I will hold our writers accountable to the highest professional standards, and work closely with them so you can get better products with faster turnaround times at the same competitive rates.
My commitment to customer service and performance is based on years of experience as a copywriter and communications manager. I have led marketing campaigns for business leaders that enhanced public awareness, increased customer engagement, and boosted sales. I believe that the key to my success is open, honest, and transparent communication. This means that I never make excuses, withhold information, or avoid opportunities to talk. I expect the same of everyone who works with me. This results in more productive conversations, higher professional standards, and superior content.
I am dedicated to bringing this philosophy to my new role as Express Writers’ Content Director. Please email me with your questions, thoughts, and ideas about how I can help Express Writers better meet your needs. I look forward to hearing from you, building our relationship, and making your experience with Express Writers extraordinary.
Our new editors and writers join the team in various supportive needs.
For years, we’ve offered two levels at Express Writers to support our clients needs and budgets: and to match a level that was in need but not offered, I created a third level, authority content, last year (after training our best writers on it).
Now, we’ve reinvented our editing process with brand new, rewritten and updated guidelines: new editing control queues in our teamroom, and two levels of editing:
Each have their own specific rule guides. All authority and expert content goes through our upper level of editing, where we do all the average checks (typos, grammar, flow) and we take an indepth look at link quality, facts, and expert/high-quality wording and flow being used. We have different editors assigned to these two different levels.
This ensures two things: higher quality on the expert and authority levels with a dedicated quality review process, and faster turnaround times (more editors, dedicated editing).
New Agency Client Perks & Benefits
Here at Express Writers, we have so much to offer agencies as a content team structured to handle quality and volume. We work hard to save our agency clients time and money with key benefits that include complementary project management, white labeling our content deliverables, services for every need, fast turnarounds, and a diverse team.
If you own or work for a digital marketing agency, I’m sure that you’re well aware of how time consuming writing copy is. The problem is that the copy you provide your clients is also critical to how successful their website is. By outsourcing some (or ALL) of your content to us, we save you enough time that you’ll actually be able to take on more clients at once. We know SEO and will make sure that the stunning website that you’ve built for your client has the content that will make sure people see it! We’ll leave the digital marketing to you, so leave the content to us!
The course was reopened late fall 2017. We’re currently enrolling! Check out the course and the accompanying guidebook, live on Amazon!
The Benefits of Learning Content Strategy Certification from a Real Life, “Hard-Knocks” Teacher (Proof is in the ROI)
Content marketing is an industry that is seriously blowing up.
It’s the “new” marketing of today. In 2019, it will be valued at more than $313 billion.
Yet, the #1 missing piece when most businesses invest in content marketing is their actual strategy.
Yikes! Shouldn’t strategy guide their entire content marketing to obtain better results?
It absolutely should.
But it’s not easy to get to the bottom of what your content strategy should actually look like.
Where do you go to learn the skills involved in creating a content strategy?
I’ve had to learn many of the skills in creating great content through trial-and-error. Many of the courses I looked into taking early in didn’t teach the lifeblood skills I needed to know to “make content work.” And I’m all about ROI, because I’ve made it my full-time, sole focus for 6 years now to build content services and train my writers on how to create content for clients in the best way possible.
As well as create content for myself that works.
It’s eat or not eat.
In the end, it took figuring it out and creating, tinkering with, and building all kinds and formats of content to learn how to execute and implement worthwhile content.
Last year, after publishing a book, launching a podcast, maintaining a blog and Twitter chat, I hit top in the list of 2016 content marketers. I saw my Twitter chat trend at #4 nationwide on Twitter, and I hit bestseller in the top 2 books for my category on Amazon as a self-published author. And the best yet: this year, my organic traffic from blogging hit an all-time high of $57,000/month (what you’d pay in Google’s Adwords for the same traffic results). It accounts for a whopping 99% of our entire marketing and lead generation at Express Writers. That’s a big deal, when you frequently hear that “content marketing usually provides only 30% of the leads in marketing.”
We’re about 3% more visible in Google organically than our competitors, who have millions upon millions in funding (we have none).
And, some of my guest blogs have hit top-read on their respective locations: Search Engine Journal, BuzzSumo, and HuffingtonPost to name a few…
In my agency, I’ve launched, tweaked and created levels of content at Express Writers that can give clients incredible results online too.
After launching my most sophisticated content writing level, authority content, late 2016, I actually sat at my desk…
And thought about how frustrated I was about the lack of content strategy knowledge.
It was killing me.
Sure, my trained writers and I can create great content all day long, but how much does that help you if you don’t have a guiding strategy?
Only 9% of 100% of content marketers like their strategy.
And it shows…so much content is being created, yet only a few pieces truly stand out.
Back to that day.
I sat there and thought about building another, cooler, better agency service to sell.
“How can I launch a new service that fits the industry need better?”
…Then I realized something…
It hit me like a load of bricks.
“What if I sold the knowledge of creating ROI content,instead of just putting together another service?”
I thought about that for a while…
And I decided I’d go for it.
I talked to influencers and experts, wrote blogs, scoured the net, started backtracking my own content success, and began mapping a course out.
Fact: I almost quit on outlining day when I realized how massive it would be to actually do. I cried a little.
But, I also realized that this course, if I focused on a ground-floor practical approach, could be the answer to the industry’s biggest problem:
Creating a content strategy that works.
That simple, and that hard.
I started getting up at 5 a.m. and I committed myself to creating the curriculum.
I wrote. 150+ pages of content. Then turned it into simpler content. Created materials, diagrams, illustrations, and even came up with simpleconcepts to reflect the toughest parts of brand strategy, so I could help content marketers navigate through industry content creation easier.
I’ve created my course in an effort to teach content marketers – from start to finish – the skills they need know how to build and achieve working, high-ROI content.
And guess what?
My navigational course on these practical points – created from the viewpoint of someone who’s been in the trenches of content marketing – is finally ready.
This course has been my gigantic 2017 goal, and I’ve poured everything – heart, soul, sweat and hard work for three months – into creating this course. I’ve formulated it to be an in-depth, practical, hands-on approach to the problems of this entire industry.
In my course, you’re building the cores of a strategy, and to get your certification your work will be personally graded by my team and I!
Just in time for summer, visuals are hot, hot, hot!
Anyone who’s been paying attention to content marketing trends will tell you that visuals are a big deal right now. Larry Kim said that an estimated 84% of communication will be visual by 2018!
So, how does this fit into your marketing? One fantastic way to boost your engagement online is by integrating beautiful, custom visuals into your social media content. And we’re here with just the product upgrade for you!
Big News for Our Social Media Plans this May!
If your social media is currently handled by the SMEs (Social Media Experts) at Express Writers, or you’re looking for an agency to hand the reins off to, we have exciting news for you.
You may or may not know that all of our monthly social media plans already include images. We have three levels of Social Media Plansto choose from depending on how often you want to interact with your audience, but even our Level 1 package includes three custom images.
So how could we have sweetened the pot even more?
We took a look at the images that our SMEs were creating using Canva, and although they worked, when we realized that we have the resources to do better, we immediately took action.
As of this week, all of our social media images will be created by our in-house graphic designers. That’s right. Now when you have Express Writers taking care of your social media posts, you will now also get professionally designed visuals, pre-sized for Instagram (which translates well to all social platforms) to represent your brand at no extra cost.
That’s a huge added value to our already amazing social media offerings.
How did we do it? Well, we’ve added more staff designers just for this purpose and created a new workflow where our content manager will assign all social media images directly to our designers. The best part? We aren’t even raising our prices one single penny (yet).
We value our clients’ satisfaction and want them to love each product they receive from us, but as content marketing experts it goes beyond that. We aren’t doing our job unless we are providing our customers with the best quality we can to help boost visibility and promote their message. This is just one more way that we can continue to ensure that our products and services are the best you can get!
The best thing – our social media package prices haven’t increased a bit. We want to give our customers added value – at no extra price!
What Our Social Media Levels Include
With each of our levels you receive industry influencer content curation, and you get to choose up to three platforms for us to create posts for. We can even schedule your posts for you using tools like Hootsuite or Buffer at no additional cost.
Level 1 also includes:
One post across all of your platforms every day, M-F
Three custom images/week (perfect for Instagram as well as any other platform)
Level 2 gives you:
Seven or more posts daily spread among your platforms
Four custom images every week
Level 3 allows for maximum brand exposure with:
Fourteen posts on weekdays
Five images each week, including memes
Let Us Help You With Great Social Media Services Today
Having Express Writers handle your social media means consistent engagement across all of your social platforms with your community of followers – as well as an ability to build your network, generate leads, and boost sales.
And now, it also means having professionally designed visuals to illustrate your posts at no additional costs!
At Express Writers, my full-time staff and team of more than 50 work on a completely remote basis.
Yet, we manage to be so effective that our support turnaround times average within the hour, if not minutes after the 50–100 client requests we get daily (that’s across emails, chat, and phone support), and our writer, editorial, and management team work seamlessly together getting our client’s content through the queue on or before deadlines.
Our client happiness rate is 99.9%, and we handle hundreds of pages in any given week and have served over 5,000 clients to date.
Some have asked me, “Have you ever considered opening a local office?”
The truth is, I have! I moved to Austin thinking I’d set up an office space and hire more local staff, two years ago. I thought it would be an interesting and profitable switch after running Express Writers as a remotely staffed company since 2011. But I was wrong. (Ever heard “#brickandmurder” – coined by the GirlBoss founder, Sophia Amoruso? 100% true.) The overhead was tremendously pricey – it would add on an estimated $2,000-3,000/monthly to our expenses, and that was at a “cheap” location in Austin. Downtown, prices ran around $8,000. Our profit level at the time didn’t make that an option. With a self-funded business and a family, I had to watch expenses closely.
[Keep reading for the full story, and to see a “day in the life” from each of our management staff members.]
A Day in the Life of a Remote Team: Express Writers is Run 100% Remotely (& Why We Succeed at It)
Late last year (2016), I started finding the most amazing team members I’ve ever put into place in the staff.
I realized that space and location means nothing when you have the right people – and if I was limited to one city and one office location, I would never have been able to hire these amazing people. After a difficult year where it was extremely hard to find the right people, I spent more time to find experts who had our clients’ best interests and each other’s support at heart.
It took months, but I found them all. When I found the right people for management – everything changed. Drastically. In a move to recreate the team mindset 100% and improve our client support last year, I let our commissioned sales rep go and found a content marketing expert to consult our clients on purchasing from us. Within the first week of our expert in the sales role, I heard from a client that the level of support he now experienced was a hundred times better in quality, from the sales rep. It was music to my ears, and confirmed that we were on the right path.
By the end of that year, I’d assembled a group of incredible women in the management staff that I’m proud to say have nothing but the success and growth of our company as a whole at heart.
We all, also, happen to be women. And our best successes started happening after this management team of amazing ladies was put in place.
It often feels like this to be a woman leading a staff of amazing women. (CBS: Supergirl)
Restructuring Internal Roles that Didn’t Work – and How That Worked Out For Us
In August of 2017, after more than five years of low retention rates and issues with quality in our editor roles, I stood back and restructured our editorial staff, came up with a new role, and hired three new candidates.
Those ladies are in our team today: Maricel, Kate and Kristel, and today, our clients couldn’t be happier with their quality and work output! We’re thrilled to see the attention to detail and content marketing qualities that these new candidates in our new, restructured role at Express Writers are upholding.
The story behind the new role is simple. The editor role just wasn’t working: issues got straight through to the client, time after time, and editors never seemed to stick around for long. After some business research and development conversations, I came up with a “Quality Assistant” role. My goal was to integrate location-specific (Asia region) candidates into our team, that had a firm, unbending stance on content quality, as well as some content marketing knowledge and expertise. Requiring knowledge in content marketing was completely new. Prior to August, our editors were quality-focused, and looked for typos, bad grammar, etc. In this new role, I wanted to find candidates that knew the benefit good content could bring to a client – and content marketing knowledge really does get that across best. (For example: if you know content marketing, you know that one blog, oriented to serve the client’s audience and address sales questions around the client’s product or services, can generate thousands of dollars in sales! But you have to know the elements of creating a worthwhile blog for the marketing return to be there.)
So, our new QAs went from looking for “typos only” to asking: “does this content serve the client’s purpose?” Or, “is the CTA overly promotional?” The change in success rate with our clients has been drastic.
Overall, we’ve seen about a 9-9.5% success increase–which is drastic when you consider the thousands of clients we serve in a given month, and where we were prior (already at 89-90% happiness).
Now that you have some of the backstory of why we do so well as a remote team…
Let’s talk about a “day in the life.”
A Day in the Life at Express Writers’ Remote Staff
Tamila, Sales Manager: A Day in My Life
Tamila is based in Newnan, Georgia.
My day starts around 4:15 a.m. with a cup of coffee and reading a few articles about content marketing to sharpen my skills. By 5:30 a.m., I’m answering emails from clients and checking orders. One of my goals is hitting up 10 cold leads from various sources each day which takes quite a bit of time.
I also have a huge list of leads that I send emails to. The rest of my time is spent chatting, calling and working with our staff to ensure our clients are happy. Lunch is whenever I remember to take it, normally 12:00-1:30 p.m.
I am constantly thinking of better ways to help our clients and to offer them amazing content. At the end of the day (5:00 p.m.), I close out ensuring that everyone that contacted me that day has been given the best customer service available.
Hannah, Content Director: A Day in My Life
Hannah is based in Albany, Oregon.
I live on the west coast, so I usually start my day around 6am PST with a big cup of coffee while I get ready for work. I don’t believe that working from home should be an excuse to stay in pajamas all day, and I’m not nearly as productive when I don’t start the day by getting ready as if I was working outside of my home.
I usually check email and Skype right away to see if anything new came up over night. Once I finish responding to emails, I check on our editing queue to see which projects need to be prioritized and I let our QAs know if there are any urgent needs. Next, I check on any new orders that have come in and review which writer would be best for each one. I also check on existing clients to make sure that they aren’t due to renew an ongoing project. Over the course of a day I am answering any questions that QAs or writers have about specific projects as they come up as well as questions that clients have about their orders. I also track any revisions that we are doing and take phone calls from clients about new or existing orders.
Our team communicates all day via Skype which makes it seem as if we’re all in one place most of the time!
Julia, CEO: A Day in My Life
Julia is based in Austin, Texas.
My day starts around 7:30 a.m. with an audiobook, hugs and kisses from my toddler, a daily tonic (a simple combination of warm water, apple cider vinegar, and honey), and making a pot of coffee for the day ahead.
After I drop my daughter off at daycare, around 9:00 a.m., I start plunging into work and all the activities lined up for my day. I schedule most of my meetings on Mondays and Fridays, and I record podcast calls biweekly. If I don’t have meetings, I buckle down with a couple major focuses for the day: a long-term growth goal (right now, that’s my course and a new book I’m writing), content marketing at Express Writers (our blogs, infographics, and guest blog presence), and promotion/meetings around my new course. My day breaks around 1:30 or 2:00 for lunch and a short activity – hike, walk, or chiropractor appointment.
I plunge back in and work till 5:00 p.m. 5:30 – 9:00 is family time, and I’ll end the day by keeping up in my field of expertise, content marketing: reading news and blogs, or a recently published book, or learning about a new tool on the market, and working on our blogs for the next week.
Behind the scenes: here’s a peek of me at my desk. I love the Gaiam Balance Ball chair – seriously so comfortable!
I’m lucky: my home office faces a quiet acre. I get a lot of work done in this spacious room. I like to transition between desk + chair and couch for different tasks.
For some reason, I find that I can think more creatively when sitting on a couch, so I write most of my blogs sitting on that corner couch.
#JuliaFact: I keep my desk super clean. It’s actually like that every day.
Rachel, Social Media Specialist: A Day in My Life
Rachel is based in Prince Frederick, Maryland.
My day starts at 6:30 AM. Before I sit down at my desk, I like to get in a morning yoga session and have breakfast. You can usually find me listening to podcasts while I eat because they serve as a great boost of motivation.
Once it’s time to get started with work, which is usually around 8:30 AM, I begin by making a to-do list. Then, I block off time in my schedule to ensure those things get done promptly. Any tasks I have are always scheduled around one of the main things I do for Express Writers, which is participating in Twitter chats and managing our own #ContentWritingChat.
I join about 13 Twitter chats each week because it’s a large part of growing our Twitter presence and building a community online. These chats are scheduled throughout the day, with them taking place morning, afternoon, and night. In between those chats, I’m usually scheduling social media content or creating the #ContentWritingChat recap. So, it’s safe to say I don’t really work your typical hours! My day ends when the last Twitter chat does!
Kristel, Quality Assistant: A Day in My Life
Kristel is based in Detroit, Michigan.
My day starts at 6:00 AM with making coffee as the first in my to-do list. I usually talk to my friends and family in the Philippines before my shift just to catch up with them and see how they’re doing. This happens simultaneously when I prepare food for the cats.
I start my shift after all the morning preparations have been at 9:00 AM. My tasks involve checking for plagiarism, grammar errors, and content optimization of articles due to our clients. Although I do the same tasks everyday, I like the aspect where I learn about the industries that our clients our in. Deep diving into the flow and information in the article gives me a better view if the article we’ll submit will be helpful to their customers. This goes on until 12:00 PM when I end my shift.
My husband and I have our lunch after my shift just before he goes to work. For the rest of the afternoon, I clean the house and read my favorite blogs on content marketing and personal finance. It’s great that there is no wasted time since I don’t have to commute to and from work everyday.
Maricel, Quality Assistant: A Day in My Life
Maricel is based in the Philippines.
My day with Express Writers starts at 9:00 PM PHT, which is equivalent to 8:00 AM CST.
Maricel’s workstation. She doesn’t like to be in the photo, so you’ll have to settle for this. 😉
(Yes, I work nights – in case you’re wondering.) My shift starts at 9:00 AM CST, so I have exactly an hour to have supper, prepare some coffee, check if the kids are all in bed, and do a little stretching.
My work involves editing submitted assignments: catching grammar errors and typos, simplifying complex sentences if needed, and giving writers feedback to help them strengthen their writing. I also make sure the submissions follow client specifications and adhere to prevailing content marketing best practices. Client satisfaction, after all, is a top priority for Express Writers.
Aside from editing, I help our Content Director, Hannah, in assigning assignments to writers and delivering completed projects to clients.
My shift usually ends at 3:00 PM CST, which is 4:00 AM local time. By then, I’m ready to head to bed and call it a day.
Kate, Quality Assistant: A Day in My Life
Kate is based in the Philippines.
My day starts at 6:00 AM (Philippine Time) with a “me time” where I say out my daily affirmations, a great way to gear me up for the long day. I also write down all the things I’m grateful for during the day in my gratitude journal.
Then I’d prepare breakfast and drive my 11-year-old son to school. We’d play some upbeat music and dance to it like how James Corden does it on his Carpool Karaoke.
Next stop: I’d drive straight away to my favorite coffee shop (or rush back home) and set everything up as I get started with my 8-11 AM shift at Express Writers.
I typically break down these three hours into editing submitted articles, sending some back for revision, answering questions from writers, collaborating with our editor, Hannah, and my co-QA’s, posting stuff on WordPress, and other related work. I like how I can easily connect with Julia and Hannah on Skype whenever I have some questions and clarifications that need to be answered.
Right after shift, I alternate my days either teaching yoga and hitting the gym for some weights. Then I’d go back to doing mommy duties, picking up my kid at school. and preparing dinner.
Tools We Use to Work Remotely
We have several main apps to help us manage conversations, activities and the things we do on a daily basis. Here are a few:
1. Custom Developed Solutions:Our teamroom and Content Shop are custom built platforms, led by our CTO, Josh McCoy. We’re in the middle of redeveloping it (happening as we speak). Development is a beast, and funding is completely bootstrapped – but progress is happening!
2. Skype: This is the “virtual office” of our entire management staff. We keep each other updated on breaks, ask for support, and even have multiple Skype threads that address the different communications we need to have internally every day.
3. Zoho: Email, internal client-focused communications (the streams function and “comment-on/share-emails” functionality is amazing), and collaborative documents.
4. Drift: This is our live chat on-site, where we handle client and new prospect questions. The Live View feature, where you can start chats with anyone on your site, is awesome:
Here’s a look at the home screen of Drift.
5. MeetEdgar: We’re about to switch to this program from Buffer to get more traction out of all the social media content we create.
6. Nextiva: This is our client and staff phone system of choice. We love the capabilities that Nextiva has, including custom extensions, phone recordings we can grab anytime – this is hugely helpful to client accounts where writers need to hear additional information. The Nextiva app makes it easy for remote team members to be available on phone anytime, but not have to worry about it interfering with their personal cell number or client numbers getting lost in their own private number lists.
A Day in the Life: Summed Up
There you go…
A #dayinthelife of our remote team!
We’re always progressing, working hard to stay on top of the industry, and rock out at what we do – full service content creation. We all love what we do, and one of our best competitive edges is the ability we have to grow and progress together in creating great content!
Questions about our daily workflow? Leave a note in the comments!
When you place an order for that important piece of content, you’re trusting Express Writers to pick the perfect writer that will craft exactly the copy that you need.
We don’t take that responsibility lightly.
In fact, there’s a lot that we take into consideration when making that selection, which is what keeps our customers coming back for more, time and time again.
Topic: we know which writers will work best for specific topics based on experience and feedback from our editors.
Industry: if you have a niche industry, chances are that we have a writer with firsthand experience to write your content.
Content Level: we have writing levels to meet any need and our team can help you decide which one is right for you.
Okay, so now that you’ve received your order, and you love it, it’s time to reorder… which can seem daunting.
Your previous writer already understands you and knows what you need. You don’t want to start over again with someone new… and we get it.
That’s why when you check out from now on, you may notice that there’s a new question to answer in our input forms! Keep reading to find out.
How the Process Works
After you check out on our website,
you can enter your project details by entering a project title and clicking on “Start Project” in My Account:
This is where you supply information, answer questions relevant to the product that you just ordered, and upload any supporting documents. Anything a writer needs to complete your project should be covered here.
It’s also where you will now find the newest (optional) addition to our questionnaire, “Do you want to request a previous writer again on this project?”
If so, all you need to do is include the order ID from a completed project with that writer or the writer’s initials (usually found on the file name for that project).
That’s right, you can now request a writer from one of your previous projects—right from the comfort of our details form!
If your newest order is unrelated to previous projects, or you just want us to pick a new writer for you, that’s no problem! Having a dedicated writer for your projects is completely up to you.
Frankly, it’s also a win-win. When you’re happy, we’re happy!
You’ve spoken, and we’ve listened. Customer satisfaction is our top priority, and we’ve been fielding questions about requesting a particular writer for awhile now… and it’s only fair. If you’ve found your editorial forever after bliss with one of our writers, we don’t want to keep you apart! We love crafting quality content and this is just one more way to achieve that.
Familiarity is one of the biggest hurdles you face when outsourcing content, which is why we really want our writers to understand the projects that they work on before they even start. It saves times on both sides when that step is already complete for a new project.
Especially with particularly detailed, repeating orders, having a dedicated writer can be a life saver. You won’t need to explain your project, company, or goals to someone new—just update the details of your current project and you’re on your way to content designed just for you that we already know you’ll approve of!
Staying True to Our Values
Here at Express Writers, any changes or decisions must align with our values.
We believe in delivering greatness which means tailoring our services to fit the unique needs of our clients in order to get results. We know that there is a constant learning curve in order to stay up with market trends and current demands.
We are excited to offer this new addition to our already amazing list of products and services, and we are confident that we have the quintessential writer for your next project. The good news is that now, the fun doesn’t have to end there because you can keep requesting them for future projects too!
Note from Julia: Ed, our Senior Editor, assisted me in rewriting our 15+ page Web Writing Guidelines for our team of 60 writers this week. One change we just implemented was teaching all our writers how to use Word’s Style menu to auto-format H2s and H3s. All of our blog content will now include this. I asked him Ed to write a post detailing why we did this change, and he kindly obliged.
Let’s face it:
People don’t read any more.
Especially online (or, more accurately, on-screen, when you consider ubiquitous the use of smart phones and mobile tablets have become), where such factors as screen size, resolution, visual cues as to page length, and eye strain play a part in our ability to focus deeply on the written word.
So what do people do online if they’re not reading?
They scan – or skim, glance, browse, graze…whatever you want to call it, it’s not the same as pure reading.
That’s why formatting for the web is so important. Everything from eye-catching headlines, to smaller-than-usual paragraphs, to bulleted or numbered lists plays a part in making an article, story, column post – any piece of content that’s predominantly text – more appealing to people.
And headings – more accurately, subheadings – are a big part of that.
What is a Subheading, Anyway?
According to the dictionary definition (thanks, Merriam-Webster), a subheading is:
“an additional headline or title that comes immediately after the main headline or title,” as well as a “title given to one of the parts or divisions of a piece of writing.”
It’s this latter definition that we’re focusing on.
Put another way, it’s the bold, stand-out text just above the preceding paragraph that says “What is a subheading anyway?”
Subheadings help break up large blocks of text. They can also break down a longer piece of writing into different parts or sections, serving almost the same role in an article that a chapter does in a book. Which, in turn, can help convince potential readers to keep reading…
For instance, what looks better to you in the example below:
The same text with and without subheadings.
It’s obvious which looks better, right?
Why Else are Subheadings Important?
Subheadings break up articles into different sections, which allows for easier scanning of the sections of an article. And it’s a lot easier on the eyes than large, uninterrupted blocks of text – especially when reading on a screen. All of that’s well and good, but there’s a more important reason to use subheadings in your articles and blog posts: Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Search engines – we’re looking at you, Google (with some side-eye at Bing) – respond to subheadings because not only does it divide content into scannable blocks of copy, it also clues in the search engine as to the relevancy of the article, page, and section.
Only if you’re writing and using them correctly, of course (hint: they should contain your keywords and/or variations of those keywords).
Put another way, an H2 heading is a way of telling Google “pay attention, this is important.”
Most articles – and all blog posts – should have a subheading (H2) after the introductory paragraph(s).
They should also have a closing subheading before the final paragraph(s).
And they should use a subheading before numbered or bulleted lists (with some copy between the subheading and the list).
Additionally, numbered lists should NOT be auto-formatted as numbered lists by Word (more on turning Word’s auto-formatting feature off below). Instead, each numbered item should be its own subheading – but in this instance you should use an H3 heading.
Essentially, it will look like this:
H1: Headline of the Blog Post
Paragraph text (1-3 paragraphs, depending)
H2: Subheading for first major section
Paragraph text (1-3 paragraphs, depending)
H2: Subheading for second major section
H3: Sub-subheading for the first item in a numbered list, if applicable
Paragraph text for the first numbered item
H3: Sub-subheading for the second item in a numbered list, if applicable
Paragraph text for the second numbered item
H2: Subheading for conclusion
Paragraph text (usually 1 paragraph)
Longer is usually better for subheadings: they should be at least 6 words long. Don’t forget to use your keywords and keyword variants (synonyms, etc.)!
How to Tag a Heading as H2, H3
We recommend using Microsoft Word’s built-in “Style” menu for subheading text that you want to format as Heading 2 (H2) and Heading 3 (H3). The Quick Style Gallery is prominently displayed at the top of most modern versions of Word:
MS Word’s Quick Style Gallery makes it easy to format H2 and H3 subheadings.
We began using Word to format our H2 and H3 subheadings for blog posts in part because it streamlines the physical blog posting process. Believe me, we’re well aware that there was a time that posting into WordPress from Word generated a lot of invisible code that was not only unnecessary, and that added to the “weight” (and hence the load time) of a page, but would sometimes even break how a browser rendered a web page.
In short, pasting from Word used to be considered a big no-no.
For H2 and H3 subheadings at least, that’s not the case anymore – believe me, before we began doing it this way because it was easier and saved time, we verified in a number of our client’s WordPress and other CMS installations that the code pasted from Word generated proper, ready-to-go H2, H3 headings, and not strings of gobbledygook formatting code…without having to use WordPress’ clunky pulldown menu:
The text formatting menu in WordPress certainly gets the job done, but it’s a bit clunky, IMHO.
What About all that Messy HTML Code Word Produces that I Keep Hearing About?
It’s true that if your Word document contains a lot of heavy formatting – such as tables, multi-column lists, custom style changes – it most likely will not be reproduced when pasting into the WordPress (or other web-based CMS) visual editor.
There are other variables that will affect how documents will look once pasted into WordPress, such as the version of either Word or WordPress you happen to be running. Suffice it to say that with older versions of either software, all bets are off.
But simple, straightforward articles composed in most modern versions of MS Word, and pasted into most up-to-date installations of WordPress, the results should be just fine.
Our New Blog Writing Standard: Implementing the Word Titles
One change we just implemented was making a standard rule for all of our writers to now use Word’s Style menu to auto-format H2s and H3s. It looks like this, in Word:
So when you receive your next blog, this header in your finished document (which Word automatically colors to a light blue), it will automatically translate to an H2 when copied to your WordPress blog or page, like so:
How cool is that?
It will save our clients a lot of time – ready-to-go, optimized H2s and H3s once you plug in your blog! All of our blog orders will now include this formatting, by default.
Saving Time = Saving Money
And if you happen to be managing a large volume of blog posts, the time savings from being able to paste from Word and NOT have to go back and manually reformat the blog post in WordPress – especially the crucial H2 and H3 headers – can be significant.
Take it from us: in addition to writing tons of blog posts for clients, we also manage the physical blog posting into WordPress and other popular CMS posting for many of our clients! See our blog plans here.