editing

What kind of book editor do you need?

So you’ve written a book. Or, most of a book. Or, well, it isn’t exactly written, but you have it mostly outlined and you definitely know how you want it to end. Maybe.

Whatever stage your book is in, it’s going to need some extra sets of eyes on it before you publish it. That’s where editors come in.

What does a book editor do?

A book editor does more than just check for spelling and grammar errors (though that’s certainly part of it). Depending on where you are in the process, a book editor can help you with everything from getting all the ideas that are in your head down on paper to doing a final proofread to polish it up.

Here’s a breakdown of the different types of book editors and when to use them. They are listed in order from the most involved to the least involved in the process of your book writing.

Developmental editors

Developmental editing takes your book from concept to finished product. They can work with you if you have some of your book drafted or if you haven’t written a single word yet. Developmental editors help you develop the overall flow of your book, including organizing the book and determining the book’s pace.

Developmental editors are heavily involved in your book writing process, so this type of editor costs more than a copyeditor. But it can be well worth it to have someone working by your side to make sure your ideas are presented in a way that makes the most sense (and is the most fun) for your reader.

Copyeditors

Copyeditors aren’t involved in the book writing process. They get the book after it’s finished and edit for syntax and grammar clarity. They’ll also fact check, when necessary, and check for consistency in tone and voice throughout the book. A copyeditor will make some changes to the copy when changes are necessary to improve clarity for the reader.

Hire a copyeditor when your book is fully written. In general, your copyeditor should be someone other than your developmental editor.

Proofreader 

A proofreader performs basic checks for grammar and spelling errors. They aren’t worried about clarity and are laser-focused on making sure your book doesn’t have any errors.

Bring in a proofreader at the very end of your editing to do a final polish. Your proofreader should ideally be someone other than your copyeditor.

How much does an editor cost?

Professional editors tend to follow guidelines set by the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) and charge roughly $35-$60 per hour. There are a lot of other factors to consider, though, like your timeline, the specific level of expertise required to edit your work, and the project itself. These guidelines help editors determine the total cost and will vary from editor to editor.

Are you ready to have another set of eyes on your book? Write us a note! Let’s see if we’re a good match to help you with developmental editing, copyediting, or proofreading.

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Content strategy

Should you hire a freelancer or a content agency?

You know content is crucial for building your website, generating traffic, and ranking in SERPs. You might also need writers for just a few projects here and there throughout the year. But how do you get from where you are now to where you want to be, without hiring a staff of full-time writers?

A lot of entrepreneurs, and even larger businesses and corporations, outsource their content to online freelancers. While this seems like a reasonable solution, there are some risks with hiring freelancers directly instead of working with a content agency.

Pros of hiring freelancers

1. Freelancers are cheap

In general, you can hire freelancers directly for a lot less than it will cost you to hire a content agency. However, the old saying “you get what you pay for” rings true here. Freelancers who take a job for less than market value will deliver a product that will probably need some additional work on your end. Freelancers on average make anywhere from $15-$75/hour. The ones at the top end are worth it. Hire them if you need consistent quality content and don’t want to hire an in-house writer.

If you’re looking for somebody to deliver a very good draft that you can drive to completion, then a freelancer could be the route to go. If you want someone to deliver a polished final product and don’t want to hire in-house, then an agency or a top-end freelancer is the way to go.

2. Expertise

Finding someone who can write about niche topics to hire in-house can be difficult, especially if you write about several niche topics. Freelancers have a wide range of expertise, which means you can find expert writers to cover a wide range of topics.

The downsides of freelancers

1. Most freelancers aren’t full-time

Freelance work is a great way to make extra cash when you need it. Most freelancers only write part-time (less than 20 hours per week). Hours can be sporadic. It’s not uncommon for college students to freelance a lot in the summer to save up some spending cash for fall and winter.

The downside for businesses is that you might find a fantastic freelancer only to discover that they’re only available to work during certain times of the year.

2. You aren’t their only client

Freelancers generally work with several clients at a time, which means they aren’t always able to work exactly to your timeline. Depending on the project, you might be OK with getting things turned in a little late. But if your project depends on a specific delivery date, working with a freelancer can be risky.

To make sure you’re at the top of your freelancer’s priority list, pay a good wage and take steps to ensure you’re communicating effectively.

3. They don’t “get” your brand the way someone close to the company can

If you work with a freelancer for a long time and give them consistent work, they’ll start to get to know the company and understand your brand. If you hire freelancers inconsistently, though, they won’t have a chance to really get your brand. In-house writers will understand the nuances of your brand in a way that doesn’t translate outside the company. A content agency will also take the time to meet with you and understand your brand, which they can convey directly to their own in-house team of writers.

Why you should hire a content agency instead

Here at People First Content, we know how freelancing works because we’ve done it. We know that it’s easy to drop a project for a client when something better comes along or when it’s not convenient. We understand the value of good content and know exactly how to find the best writers for specific projects.

Here are some ways a content agency can work better than hiring your own freelancers.

1. An agency will understand your business

When you hire an agency, you get to tell them exactly what you need and how your content fits into your overall business strategy. The agency will take the time to understand your brand, your business, and your people. Your agency will only deliver content that meets your goals. They become your partner and have as much a vested interest in your company as if they were employed there in-house, but without the additional overhead of hiring a whole content team.

2. An agency has a host of tools at their disposal

We intensely understand SEO, and we also know that we need tools to track how our SEO strategies are working. That’s why agencies like People First Content pay for tools to track traffic and determine what content will work best to meet your business goals.

3. Agencies provide a reliable means of getting quality content

Agencies are businesses too, so they run just like your business. Unlike freelancers who might work part-time, this is our full-time gig. We’re committed to delivering quality content on your timeline.

4. An agency is a one-time hire

Hire an agency once and let them take care of the rest. If we need to outsource content to a freelancer, we’ll handle that. If we can handle the writing in-house, we’ll get it done on your timeline. We operate as an extension of your company, but without the hassle of HR. Hire us once and trust us to get the job done.

Does your business need content? Whether you have a one-off project or need a consistent stream of content, we want to work with you! Contact us today to see what we can do for your business.

Content strategy, SEO

How content impacts your business and why it should be your top priority

Too many business owners make the mistake of thinking content is just for the marketing department to worry about. They look at content as a means to an end-a necessary evil to rank higher in Google.

The truth is, in this day and age where Google rankings rule and can make or break you as a company, content just might be the most important aspect of your business. Here’s why:

1. Google isn’t just a numbers game

Google doesn’t favor websites based on the number of words on their site but rather by the quality of the content the site produces. Businesses that focus on generating content for the sake of generating content aren’t providing value for their customers. They aren’t figuring out what their clients (or potential clients) need help with and how they can help solve their problems.

Online readers are savvy. They know when a website is giving them real information and when a company is just trying to rank for a specific keyword query. They’ll bounce once they recognize your content is doing the latter.

2. Everybody looks you up online

Every potential client, customer, or partner looks your business up online before they decide whether or not to contact you. How your business presents itself can make or break you when it comes to getting new clients onboard. If your content is sloppy, poorly written, confusing, or just plain hard to find, people will go elsewhere.

3. Your content promotes your company’s voice

Voice and tone are perhaps the most important aspects writers consider when they generate a piece of content. But a lot of businesses don’t seem to have figured that out. Are you funny? Strict? Governmental? Polished? The voice and tone of your content should be consistent across all of your pages and posts. This is how potential clients decide whether or not they want to work with you.

Are you making content a priority in your business? If not, maybe it’s time to talk to someone who knows how to rank in Google while also providing meaningful content for your audience. We can come up with a content strategy that will boost your SERPs rankings and deliver the quality content your audience needs.

 

 

Content strategy, SEO

Why you should care about SEO

Tablet with Google search page showing

The term “SEO” gets thrown around a lot in the world of web content creation, but many business owners don’t know, or care, what it means or how it can impact their business. Too many make the mistake of thinking it only matters for tech companies or e-commerce sites. But the truth is, if you have a website, you should care about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) because that’s the best way to get your website seen, so you can drive traffic to your business.

Here are the basic things you need to know. If you prefer to hire someone to care about SEO for you, let’s chat.

1. It’s all about what’s best for users

The main thing to know about SEO is that content that is useful for users wins. If your website is clear about who you are, what your business does, and why readers should care, you’re ahead in the SEO game. Websites get penalized when their message isn’t clear, particularly if it is intentionally misleading. Give your customers and site visitors the information they need. That’s it.

2. SEO is backwards-looking

Sure, SEO matters when you’re competing for search rankings, but it can only help you decide what to write based on what people have already searched for. If you’re in the business of developing new forms of content, you can use SEO best practices to make sure your content will be seen by the people who are interested in it, but you shouldn’t hesitate to do something new just because a query doesn’t have any search volume.

3. Local searches are hot right now

Local searches are bigger than national searches in Google land right now. What that means for your website is that your location needs to be part of your content.

4. Featured snippets are pretty hot too

Google’s featured snippets show up on high volume queries, and they’re in either a list or paragraph form. (To figure out if the query you’re writing about. For instance, the title of this blog post has a featured snippet from another website). What’s cool about ranking for a featured snippet is that these show up first in search results — if you rank for a featured snippet, chances are people are going to click your URL to read more. So you don’t even need to rank in the first spot to get all that organic traffic to your page.

5. Someone can do SEO for you

Knowing what keywords to use and where, along with how to code it and what to promote, is time-consuming. If you want to use SEO to improve your search rankings but don’t want to do the dirty work, contact us to see how we can help your business rank higher in Google and deliver quality content to your site users.

Writing process

How to become a better writer

Whether or not you like it, writing is a major part of most jobs these days. And while some of us opt to spend a solid third of our lives going to graduate school to learn how to become better writers by pursuing a Ph.D. in English, most people have different, more practical career ambitions and spend their time doing other things and letting their writing skills fall by the wayside.

Fortunately, you don’t need to have a graduate degree in writing to write clear, concise, thoughtful, and comprehensive blog posts, emails, presentations, e-books, or reports. All you need is some time and some determination. Our writing tips are fairly straightforward and will have you writing more directly in no time.

How to write better

  1. Expand your vocabulary: Every word has a specific meaning, and in some cases, one word’s meaning is more to the point of your argument than another. The best way to communicate exactly what you want to say is by using the exact words you need to convey your meaning. The best way to expand your vocabulary is to read more. Simple as that.
  2. Figure out your process: Do you work better when you have an outline? A lot of people do. But some people work better by writing first and organizing later. Don’t assume that one person’s process is the right process for you. Try a few different ways to see what works best and is most efficient for you.
  3. Condense your draft*: It’s easier to write long than short, but nobody likes to get a 7 paragraph email. Nobody. That doesn’t mean your first draft can’t be 7 paragraphs. It just means that once you have a draft, you need to go back and figure out where to make cuts. See where you repeat yourself, choose the best phrasing you have and get rid of the rest. A lot of the writing process is getting rid of the words you wrote. Know it. Accept it. Embrace it. And start deleting.

*Important caveat: Word count standards vary widely depending on what you’re writing. So, while you don’t necessarily want a 7 paragraph email to announce a company-wide event, you  might need to write 7 paragraphs (or more) to thoroughly explain a concept or process. The key to conciseness is to use only as many words as you need to get your point across. We’ll talk about this next.

Get rid of unnecessary words

Finally, a short cut to learn how to write better-getting rid of unnecessary word and phrases. While every situation is different and there can be an argument to keep any of these words/phrases in particular instances, in most cases they are unnecessary and are just adding words for the sake of adding words. Eliminating them will make your reading more clear and to the point.

Try it! Go through something you recently wrote and get rid of any of these words/phrases and see if your writing is stronger.

  • Really, truly, ultimately: These are unnecessary modifiers that don’t add anything to a sentence. “I truly believe” is an overused phrase that is meaningless. Same thing with “ultimately.” “Ultimately, what we want to do is” can be deleted from your writing completely. Just tell us what you want to do. Start at the point.
  • If you happen to: This is passive. “If you happen to have time, I’d love to know what you think of my idea.” Getting rid of “If you happen to” forces you to write a much stronger sentence. “I’d love to know what you think of my idea. Let’s get together tomorrow at 2:00.”
  • It is important to: Again, this phrase detracts from the point of your sentence. “It is important to use spell check so you don’t make silly errors.” Take out that phrase and you have a strong, active sentence “Use spell check so you don’t make silly errors.”
  • Think, believe, consider: Usually, these are used in the context of a soft argument: “I think we should consider hiring an intern.” Get rid of “I think” and “consider,” and what you have is the beginning of a stronger argument “We should hire an intern because [insert well-thought out argument here].”
  • Just: “I just wanted to see if you have time” is a weak way to tell somebody you need something. Take out “just” to instantly sound more authoritative.

What other words do you think are overused and can be eliminated from most writing? Do you have any tips for writing better? We’d love to hear them! And if you’d rather get someone else to do your writing for you, drop us a line to see how we can help!

Writing process

Do you need a web content editor?

If you’re new to the world of writing and publishing content, you might also be new to how the process of web content editing works.

It sounds simple enough. A writer drafts a post, an editor reads it to make sure there aren’t any errors, it gets published. Simple, right?

Not so fast.

One thing that’s key to understand is that there are multiple types of editing. For the purposes of writing web content, we’ll stick to understanding what copy editing and proofreading are and where they fit into the overall publishing schedule

What is copy editing?

Copy editing is the first part of the editing process. During this stage, your draft, or “copy,” is read and edited for big-picture things, like organization, coherency, sentence structure and clarity. Copy editors get the copy ready to go to the designers, which, in addition to the above list, includes checking for things like grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure. However, they aren’t the final eyes on the project.

You need to have your posts copy edited before making final decisions on design, such as what images to include and where to put them.

What is proofreading?

Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process, and it happens right before you hit “publish.” Proofreading basically is quality checking your post before it gets sent out for publishing. Proofreaders are checking to make sure the copy editors didn’t miss anything (spoiler: they usually do).

Do you need to hire a web content editor?

Ideally, yes, you’ll have someone else copy edit and proofread your work for you.  When we write, we know what we want to say, and our brains tend to trick our eyes into believing all the words we want to say are actually there on the page. More often than not, though, we miss words and make other typographical errors. We also tend to gloss over explanations since we know what we’re talking about.

Having a copy editor who isn’t as familiar with the subject as you are can be extremely helpful for pointing out areas where you could be more clear or add more information to make sure the reader fully understands what you’re trying to say. To get this type of feedback, you don’t necessarily need someone with a strong writing background. Anyone who is willing to read your drafts and tell you honestly what doesn’t make sense can be your stand-in copy editor.

If you happen to have someone who is well-versed in grammar, typography and punctuation on hand, let him or her be the final set of eyes on your document.

If you’re trying to rank for SEO and make money from your blog, it could be worth your money to hire a content agency to edit and proofread your posts before they go live. A professional copy editor and proofreader will also save you a lot of time. Consider that it can take anywhere from 2-10 hours, or even longer, to copy edit and proofread an article to get it to that perfectly polished stage-do you really have time for that?

If you don’t have anyone on hand, and you don’t want to hire anyone for this task, then at least take breaks between writing, copy editing, designing and proofreading your post. This will give your brain a chance to catch those mistakes and lessen the likelihood that your readers will find glaring errors.

Click here for a free copy editing checklist.

Click here for a free proofreading checklist.

If you would rather have an expert copy editor and proofreader on hand than do it yourself, contact us!

Writing process

Copy editor check list

Copy editing can take awhile. Unlike proofreading, which is more of a final polishing of your piece of content, copy editing is done early in the writing process and can lead to a complete overhaul or reorganization of your content.

There are a lot of things copy editors need to review, which means they will need to read through the copy several times before sending it back to the writer for revisions.

When you’re first starting out, you might find that you go back and forth between writing and copy editing multiple times. As you get better and more experienced, you’ll know what mistakes you frequently make, which you’ll start avoiding altogether.

Pro tip: Read through the entire piece of content once before you start making notes. This way, you’ll understand how the writer is framing the piece of content so you can make more informed decisions about organization and sentence structure.

Copy editor checklist

  • Check organization
    • Does each paragraph transition well into the next?
    • Are like ideas in the same section of the content?
    • Are headers and sub-headers descriptive?
  • Tighten up sentences
    • If you need to read a sentence twice to figure out what it’s saying, it needs to be revised
    • Break up long sentences into two or more sentences
  • Check for language consistency
    • Does the tone stay the same throughout the piece of content?
    • Does the writing switch between first, second and/or third person?
  • Check for clear language
    • Look for redundancy in sentences and paragraphs and get rid of the weakest one(s)
    • Check for unnecessary words that clutter the content and obscure the writer’s intent
    • Read out loud for clunky words, phrases and sentences
  • Run the paper through a grammar/spell checker, like Grammarly, for obvious grammar and spelling errors.