Everything Real Estate Professionals Need to Know About Maximizing Their Internet Presence

I have a confession to make. When I was practicing real estate, my marketing plan consisted of passing out my cards, sending out postcards, doing floor time, cold calling, and praying for referrals. This was in the earliest days of the Internet, a medium which intimidated me but which changed the nature of real estate forever.

Flash forward to my current profession, that of web designer, content creator, and social media marketer. I’m going to give you a few straight facts that pertain to your Internet branding because these are things I wish I had known while I was practicing real estate and that would have made a significant impact on sales.

If you are one of the few top agents who can afford to work by referrals alone, you need not read any further.

Your Internet Presence

Whether your client demographic is the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, or Millenials, the statistics indicate that over 44 % of consumers began their initial search online. That percentage increases drastically among younger generations. All consumers profiled have come to expect photos, detailed property information, interactive maps and neighborhood information to be available in their searches.

Realtors cannot afford to ignore the Internet, so let’s take a look at how to maximize your online presence.

Zillow Group

Love it or hate it, until Google changes their algorithms to favor local over national listings Zillow and its ilk are going to get top ranking in any search. We all know the information Zillow provides is inaccurate and that Premier Agents pay hefty fees to dominate zip codes. So what you should do? If you choose to have anything to do with Zillow, maximize your profile. Your biography needs to stand out above the competition and grab consumer attention. One of the most common complaints I hear from people is that Realtor photos are out of date. It affects your credibility when you are using photos from years ago, so please update them. Clients are going to see you in person eventually, so be upfront and authentic from the start.

Competition

Your website and social media pages are part of your brand. Your brand is what distinguishes you from the competition. It doesn’t matter how knowledgeable, skilled, or great you are if people can’t find you and read about the services you provide.

Websites/ company and personal

Company website

Your brokerage house provides you with a generic page, but what happens if you leave that particular company? Moreover, why would you want to be lumped in with every other agent in your firm? Sadly, I have noticed that many agents don’t even bother to develop their profiles on company pages. When I ask them about it, they claim they work exclusively through referrals. That statement alone makes me wonder how many chances to connect with potential clients (who might otherwise contacted them if more information were available) they have missed.

Personal website

Your own website makes you stand far above the competition. One of the top agents in my town, Evanston, ranks on the front page when I Google ‘Evanston real estate brokers’. I happen to know he is great because I once did a difficult deal with him. Now, imagine you are a stranger looking for homes in Evanston and his very attractive website appears directly underneath the Zillows and local Brokerage houses. He’s not competing against those sites, he’s competing against the other Realtors in our town. How does he achieve rankings, aside from having a numerous listings? I’m certain that consistent blogging over the years has boosted his ranking considerably.

Blogging: by using pertinent keywords and giving valuable information to sellers and buyers in the areas you cover, you can reach that coveted front page ranking over time.

SEO Optimization: again keywords, links, and blogging all contribute to your ranking. See my blog post 8 CRITICALLY IMPORTANT THINGS SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WEBSITES

Who should you hire if you opt for a website:

If you go for a big company that specializes in developing Real Estate sites, this  might happen:

  1. They will make a big deal out of SEO and charge you for it. SEO is not difficult. It doesn’t require a mastermind. It takes a bit of effort to Google what keywords consumers are entering when they look for your business or service and apply them to the back end of your website.
  2. Despite the fact that they are using templates, you will wait in queue for months prior to getting your website.
  3. They will make a big deal about IDX Features. This is a simple plugin that takes a few minutes to install and gives your visitors access to to the MLS and allows them to see your past sales and current listings.
  4. Analytics- this is a tool to measure the effectiveness of your website and how much traffic it gets. For the purposes of real estate, you might simply want to see how many visits your website receives daily, how many page views, which pages get views, and then track how many of those visits convert to calls. Here are also plugins which will make that information visible to you -and easy to understand- on the back end of your website.
  5. Content -Content is everything. You only need to read reviews of the big boys to see how troublesome getting well -written, personalized content can be.
  6. Your website might look generic.

 

Google Business Listings

List your business with Google business- go to Google Business and follow the easy steps to list your business locally. You can link to your company page if you don’t have a website, but make  sure your page is developed. Your name, phone number, and address will now show up when a potential client is looking for local Realtors.

 

Social Media

You need to pick a couple of sites you will be active on, so that you don’t over extend yourself. Remember you can link Instagram to Facebook and LinkedIn to Twitter to get more traction for less work. Additionally the posts on your website can be automatically shared to any social media that you choose to be on.

Facebook

Social media has tens of millions of users and you could potentially get in front of consumers easily making use of it. Facebook is dominant and many small business people have created Facebook business pages. However, with the algorithm changes Facebook has rolled out, organic, that is unpaid, reach has fallen to less than 1% of a page’s total fan base. So does it pay to invest your time in creating a page?

I think it does. You needn’t spend hours on it, 3-7 posts a week is sufficient for your purposes.

What you need to know:

Consumers will judge you by the number of fans you have. Never purchase fake fans. There is a way to grow your local fan base quickly and inexpensively. If you go global with your first ad set before switching to local zip codes, you will be getting local fans for much less money per like.

Organic

You can schedule Facebook posts in advance. Posts should be visually attractive and informative with no outbound links. Additionally, you should upload videos directly. Do not link to Youtube. You will probably not get much business from organic posts any more. However, Facebook ads are relatively cheap compared to print media and you can target consumers by special interests or demographics.

Paid Ads

You know Facebook collects our data. Now you can use that information to place inexpensive ads increasing your visibility in the zip codes and to the demographic that you want to target. Keep in mind that advertising is an art, not a science. Don’t get fooled by slick marketers. Just because they succeeded with certain campaigns does not mean that they will know what to do with your ads. Trial and error is key, though there are a few tips you should know about prior to posting an image, such as choosing colors that stand out from the blue feed and human faces that express emotion.

LinkedIn

Here’s where you can go organic. I know hundreds of Realtors. Only one uses LinkedIn to post regularly. Think of it as a moving billboard where your name is seen repeatedly. Don’t just post your listings or tips on how to prepare a house for sale. Anyone can Google those. Look for or write very short informative articles about what is going on in your area. New restaurants, new business, a local ordinance, concerts or social events-the public will love you for being helpful and come to see you as a local expert. Then you can show your listings off, but do it occasionally without bombarding the feed.

 

Funnels

A funnel is what you will use to build up your email/client list. It consists of your ad, then a free offer, such as 10 tips to Winning a Negotiation Every Time. The interested party will have to give you their name and email to get your booklet. You can then follow up and nurture the relationship, for example, with weekly e-blasts or a newsletter giving out more information that is helpful.

 

Reviews

Reviews are critical to the health of your business. Ask your past clients to leave reviews on Yelp, Google Business Pages, your LinkedIn page, or your Facebook Business page. Put those reviews on your website, as well.

Tip: For Yelp reviews to show up and not be grayed out, the reviewer must have left previous reviews.

I hope this has been helpful. If you would like to schedule a meeting with me and get started developing your Internet strategy, please message me or give me a call.

8 Critically Important Things Small Business Owners Need to Know About Websites

As a small business owner you are probably consumed by the demands of your business and have little time to think about your on line presence. If you are like 60% of small business, you do not have a website at all. If you are one of the 40% who do own a website, it is highly likely that your website has outdated features. This is short a non-technical guide to understanding which features are critical to maintaining a competitive edge in today’s marketplace.

MOBILE BROWSING

Mobile browsing, particularly from phones is growing at a phenomenal rate. Over 60% of all consumers are conducting searches from hand held devices. That means your website must function as well on a phone as it does on a laptop or a big screen. If it is configured for mobile devices, it will also rank better on search engines.

You may have heard the terms mobile friendly, mobile optimized and responsive, but what do they mean?

  • Mobile friendly: A website that displays between devices. However, though Google might deem it friendly, it may not appear so to users. Because it was created to be viewed from desktops it will appear as a miniature version of itself on phones, but the fonts will be too small to read.
  • Mobile optimized: A step up, the site will not just be a tinier version of the desktop site. The site will reformat itself depending on the device, resulting in simplified navigation, larger graphics, single column display, and thumb friendliness. In other words, it won’t look like your desktop site.
  • Responsive: A wonderfully flexible website that completely re-orientates based on the screen size of the device and looks great from all angles. Hence, the term responsive-it responds to the screen size. Ideally, this is what you want to have in order to create a great user experience. And, perhaps, Google will prefer this format in the long run and rank the sites which utilize it higher.

 

GREAT DESIGN

What does that mean? A well-designed website today will be responsive, easy to navigate, will have great content, and will download quickly.

  • Structure: The structure of the website is key. Nowadays, a website page fills the entire screen. As our eye moves from left to right and downward, the website should logically comply with this movement. The site should display your/company name, what you do, and your telephone number at the top. Your pages will also be displayed here, as well. As the user scrolls downward information and visuals –that is- content-is displayed. As we scroll further we get into the footer where business hours, maps/directions, a call to action, social media buttons, and other information can be displayed.
  • Simplicity: Of equal importance is avoiding visual clutter. Remember the 90’s when backgrounds were busy,  there were multiple columns on a page, and white fonts on black backgrounds reigned? Do you remember how hard that content was to read?  Simple, clean design with a lot of empty space is what users want to experience now. As a side-note, splash pages, so beloved by architects, artists and photographers are hated by the public.
  • Images: Studies have shown that people respond better when people’s faces are featured in images. There are multiple ways of using faces to humanize your business, sell your product or services, and direct the flow of content. While you should not use stock photos to represent your office or staff, stock photos can be used to great effect in many instances to enhance the appeal of your website.
  •  Color: There is a whole psychology of color that has been well researched by advertisers, with each color having both a negative and a positive connotation. However, it can be often misused by designers who do not understand the nuances of its application. For example, white connotes purity but can also indicate sterility. Blue is used to connote trustworthiness and stability but can also come across as cold and indifferent. Think of medical practices you have Googled. Do they bring to mind hospitals and frightening procedures or health and healing? Green, on the other hand, is associated with health, vitality, holistic medical approaches, and nature.

 

CONTENT

Consumers are coming to your website for information. Nowadays, they scroll until something catches their eye. This why your content needs to be tightly written, well organized, short, and to the point. To guide consumers, the headlines need to be pertinent, and because we are moving to a post- literate image rich society, the visuals need to enhance the text.

Some key features consumers are looking for:

  • Strong headlines
  • Fast answers
  • Short content
  • Images/Video
  • Personalized content/stories, which will humanize you and your business.
  • Testimonials
  • Contact forms

 

BLOGS

As a small business owner, do you need a blog? You may, depending on your goals:

  • If you are looking to improve your rankings on Google and appear on the coveted first page then great content and regular posts will be a necessary addition to your website.
  • If you desire to build authority and position yourself as the go- to expert in your field and stay ahead of your competition.
  • If you want to engage your customers, attract new ones and gain their business. Statistics show that websites with blogposts attract six times as much business as those without. However, you must have over 400 posts to get to this position.
  • Long tail search queries- We know you are Joe the Chicago Plumber but when people Google- How to unplug a stopped up drain-will they be able to find you among the field of competitors without a helpful blog post or how- to video about unplugging a drain?

Some things to know:

  • Google is phasing out keyword stuffing. Therefore, you won’t need to reiterate that you are a Chicago based plumber in every paragraph.
  • However, you will need to keep abreast of analytics since they are constantly changing. For example, Google is now looking for posts of 1000 words or more, mistakenly equating length with quality, instead of search intent and how well the question is addressed.
  • If you hate writing or don’t have time for it, you can create video content, a podcast, or hire a writer to do it for you.

 

BEAUTY AND INDIVIDUALITY

Do you remember those blue and white medical practice websites I mentioned previously? Did you notice that all the medical in your search sites look more or less the same? That is what can happen when you use an agency that exclusively specializes in one field. You often get the same template and a bland design that doesn’t take into account your individualized personality, business, or practice. How can you expect to stand out among the competition when your website looks like everyone else’s?

Your geographic area, user demographics, service, and message needs to be presented with intelligence and purpose. Focusing on what you do and the segment of the population you do it for is critical in creating a stand-out website. Great thought must go into choosing images, tone of voice, colors, and other features that will contribute to achieving your own goals and those of your customer or client.

 

SEO-SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

SEO consists of all the methods you can use to increase the visibility of your website. Some will be written behind the scenes, and some are seen upfront. 60 to 70% of all searches are organic, that is, not from paid ads, which makes SEO important.

What you need to know:

  • Keywords: SEO keywords are the words or phrases describing your product or service.  They make it possible for people to find your site via search engines. Your keywords need to match the phrases that consumers will be using as closely as possible when they conduct searches.
  • Meta descriptions: These are the behind the scenes description that summarize the content of a page for search engines.
  • Content: Content consists of the information you have on your website about yourself, your business, your products/services etc. The key to creating appealing content for users is to make it short, informative and visually attractive. Authenticity is a big buzzword in content. In other words, be who you are and use your authentic voice to help consumers find what they are searching for.
  • Link building:Through links, search engines can analyze the popularity of websites and pages based on the number and popularity of pages linking to them. As a small business owner, you will be aiming for local popularity to elevate your rankings. For example, if you are Joe the Plumber, a link from a respected trade magazine about plumbing matters or home improvement is weightier than a link from a site about hair styling, even though Joe may have done a great job unclogging the drain.

 

BRANDING:

Have you ever seen web designers who offer branding as part of their services? They seem to think that creating a logo for your business amounts to branding. Nothing could be further from the truth. Starbucks did not achieve fame due to its logo, but because of the ambiance of its coffee houses and the way they altered the perception of how coffee should be drunk. Granted having a good logo helps brand recognition eventually, but it’s the way you consistently market your business or product that makes the logo recognizable.

 

MARKETING STRATEGY/ SOCIAL MEDIA

You need to be able to steer consumers toward your website. To that end you need a funnel. Simply put, this is somewhere where consumers will see your brand consistently. Depending on your budget, this could be simple or elaborate. The name of the game these days is giving away valuable content rather than advertising.

What you need to know:

  • Trade magazines, local newsletters, or papers can all function far better and more consistently than referrals for your business.
  • Social media- paid for ads and organic content.
  • Email lists-where you consistently send out helpful content and broadcast specials.
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube videos

 

I hope this has been a helpful, easy to understand walk through the elements that consumers are demanding today, which can help your business thrive.

 

Features Your Website Must Have -Color

The purpose of having a well organized and  beautiful website

Sometimes, when I read articles by web designers my eyes glaze over after a few hundred words. I think they serve as informative guidelines for other designers; however they simply don’t address lay people in easy to understand terms. I’m going to break down some web design principles beginning with aesthetics in a few short posts.

Beauty

The dictionary defines beauty as a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, which pleases the senses, especially sight. I would add proportion to that definition.

Simplicity and Navigability

How do these concepts relate to your website? If you recall, it was the architect, Louis Sullivan, who coined the phrase form follows function. In terms of website design, we now look for several things:

  1. Remember most people are looking at your website on a mobile device, at least at initially. There has to be a certain flow that is logical to human eye as the viewer scrolls downward. You don’t want the viewer to be overwhelmed by busyness,  too many images, or massive amounts of text.
  2. You/your business, what you do/sell/, and contact information should be prominently displayed in the visible area prior to the first fold, that is, the area displayed on your device before you need to scroll.
  3. Pages should be logical, coherent and displayed above the header. I will return to these design fundamentals in a later post.

Interestingly, architects are the worst violators of these principles. Google ‘prominent architects’ –and start clicking on the websites of those who are currently in practice.  You’ll be scandalized.  Sometimes their sites are so ‘artistic’ that a viewer can’t figure out how to enter the site from the splash page or how to navigate it once they are in.

Color

Color happens to be my strongest point and the misuse of it drives me crazy. Recall when you have done a search for a medical practice or a physician. Invariably the website is blue and white. I’m sure all these good doctors use a specialized design service aimed at the medical profession. Unfortunately, they all look the same- sterile and impersonal. While white evokes hygiene and cleanliness, and blue supposedly stands for trust, security, competence-there are absolutely no mitigating colors or nuances found in the background fields.  Occasionally, a biotech or a pharmaceutical company with a big budget will insert a few random  colors into the design-but this is rarely done with any skill -we simply see grass green before one fold, sky blue in another, turquoise in the footer etc. One would think they were selling swimming pools.

When I created Refine Medical Spa’s, I decided on a clean, elegant and warm presentation, suited to the urban nature of this aesthetic practice. The tones are warm, complimenting all skin colors. No harsh blacks or whites are used-there is nothing jarring here. The header and the footer are charcoal; the background is a barely perceptible cloud grey, which makes images pop. Subtle touches of tan throughout along with thin gold framing around each photo contribute to the overall feeling of refinement and sophistication. Unlike many websites featuring plastic surgery or medical aesthetics I used photos of mature men and women of all races and shapes.

Another site I created, this time for an integrative medical practice, features pale and dark greens suggesting wholeness and nature based modalities. Since one of the partners exclusively practices Chinese medicine, I used images of Chinese landscapes, of themselves beautiful and peaceful.  No blue or white whatsoever and yet it succeeds in evoking tranquility, health, and serenity.

Lawyers are also notorious for having bad or outmoded websites. Again, with new sites there is a total uniformity throughout. A photo of the lawyer looking personable in the header, three boxes opening to the areas of practices and some text in which the lawyer tries to make himself seem caring-and then more boxes with more verbiage. The worst is when all the information about the lawyer, the practice, their victories, and any legal forms is crammed into blocks of text on the home page. Your eye has no idea where to focus. With all these boxes the designer must add color and it ranges arbitrarily from fully saturated teal to orange –mercifully not on the same site. I’m not sure how anyone expects to stand out with websites like those.

One of the few law practice sites I truly love belongs to my real estate attorney –and unfortunately was not created by me. It couldn’t be any simpler. A sepia photo of the scales of justice and a gavel reside in the header. Then we see one simple line before the fold: ‘We are passionate about providing our clients with the best service possible.’ Directly below, there is a sepia photo of said lawyer speaking to the client. The reason you believe he means it is how he looks-part Yul Brynner, part Gary Copper: engaged, warm, and very confident. His website is timeless and would have looked just as good in 1930-had we the technology -as it will in 2030.

Recently I landed on the website of a famous tennis star. I liked the layout very much. Under the header blocks of text appear next to photos of the said person, then a horizontal band appears with a quote and then more squares before the footer. Each photo is filtered through a different color. Somehow maroon, purple, mustard yellow, charcoal, white, and grey all live together on these pages.  I thought the color selection was hideous and arbitrary until I realized the design and colors were representational of multicolored WWT courts. I then realized the whole website was patterned after a tennis court. I still hate the colors, but I respect the ingeniousness of the designers.

Relevance

Another website that I lit upon this winter had to do with cutting edge home technologies Unfortunately it was designed to look like something from Great Depression. 1930’s graphics with maroon as the predominant background color, highlighted with a few touches of what can only be described as clotted cream has quite the opposite effect of conveying innovation and advancement.

Marketing

There is an entire psychology behind marketing and colors and the values and ideas those colors hold for us. Your website is part of your overall marketing strategy and a critical factor in presenting yourself or your business to the world. People will judge you by it, just as they judge you by your appearance, unfair as that may seem.

Each week I will feature a different aspect of website design. Please stay tuned.

 

1000 or More Words per Blog Post to Rank

Hemingway or Victor Hugo?

There’s a word I came to late in life that I simply adore: prolix. It’s sort of a combination of verbose and tedious. You know, it refers to the kind of 19th century author who uses two thousand words when two hundred will do.

Changing reading habits in the 20th century

The leisure class, though it may still have time on its hands, has moved away from spending languid afternoons in the sun reading ponderous tomes. Really, it was the advent of the typewriter that moved us away from those finely wrought, and sometimes, overwrought, sentences that used to span whole pages and that could have been only written with a pen. In contrast, the crispness of journalistic prose seemed like a revelation. American writers particularly pushed the envelope, priding themselves on forsaking ten dollar words and using, I guess, two cent ones, if length is the determiner of value.

The Internet and smart phones affect how you read

In the early days of the Internet, we were still reading full-length articles while peering at the small screens of our gargantuan monitors. However, social media and android phones changed all that. Few actually read anything anymore. They simply scroll, skimming headlines and looking for information that would benefit them. With this in mind, bloggers learned to write big catchy headlines, use visuals and keep  word count between 450-800 words, knowing their readers’ eyes glaze over at about 350.

Changing algorithms-Google and Social Media

All that is about to change since Google has changed its algorithms. Confusing length with quality, Google is now looking for blog posts of over 1000 words. This doesn’t count if you are already famous or Seth Godin, but if you are a small business owner who depends on rankings to get noticed on Google pages, you are being advised to spend more time on what are essentially marketing activities than ever before. So, you will be torquing yourself out of shape, all the while knowing those skimmers will be even more frustrated and click away because they are overwhelmed by the massive amount of sensory input they are exposed to during the course of a day.

So what should you do to diversify your marketing efforts?

First let me remind you that black hat SEO is a no-no and that Google supposedly doesn’t like padding. Professional bloggers, however, are using technologies that allow them to talk-type, thus adding to their verbosity. Some add abstracts to their posts. Others are thrilled that they can stick their keyword into more headings, more pictures and more superfluous text –thus admitting the sole purpose of their blog is not to share information, instruct, or write for pleasure but to rank. On top of that you are advised to entertain your audience with videos, graphs, charts, and all kinds of other nonsense.
Before you get your knickers in a twist over this, there is both good and bad news. Google will be gradually moving into voice searches, phasing out SEO. Your competitors who can pay to show up at the top of the page will be the ones that will be referenced, and all your  efforts to rank will be meaningless. The solution to this, according to Neil Patel is to diversify your marketing efforts. And that won’t be simple either. On Facebook you will have to pay to play, since Pages have been placed in a separate feed, thus reducing their already minuscule organic reach. YouTube has changed the rules as well.

Most internet users are looking for quick advice

The truth is both marketing and writing are arts, honed over time and made better with practice. Neither is easy to do well. Moreover, things get even more difficult when you have to draw out your posts to simply be visible. Search intent should be the real criteria-and how well the problem is addressed, regardless of length.  I, for one, am not going to go there-and I think users will bear me out-those who appreciate short, succinct, informative articles. This one is ending at 641 words.

 

How to Capture a Reader’s Attention

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

 

What catches a reader’s attention? We all have favorite first lines that grabbed us and propelled us into the alternate universes imagined by our favorite authors.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

 

Mesmerizing! Catching your breath, you could hardly wait to see what was going to unfold from that first delicious beginning.  But you’re not a novelist, you say. You write to promote your business. So how can you grab your readers’ attention and hold it?

There are a few ways you can make your product or service stand out.

  1. Personalize the text-you will not be anonymous that way, but someone the reader can relate to.
  2. Tell a story. Why do we tend to tear up at those Hallmark commercials? It’s because they tell a story.
  3. Appeal to emotions.
  4. Solve their problem.

The best marketing copywriters understand those basic principles and use them to their advantage.

You can do the same. Grab the reader’s attention and then wow them with what comes next. Speak to their desires. Show them that you have the perfect solution to their problem. Remember you need to establish their trust by offering them something valuable and setting yourself up as the expert who can help them or get them to where they want to be.

Whether you are going to help them lose weight, make and save money, have better relationships or make their work easier, you hold the solution in your hands. Make them want it so badly that they will press that buy now button and call for your service, make an appointment, or come in to your shop.

If you find it difficult to promote yourself, hire a professional writer. They have the experience necessary to understand how to best promote you and your business and get YOU where you want to be.

Is Your Bio A Hazard?

Is Your Bio a Hazard?  I can fix it for you!

While I was writing this article, I received a message from one of my clients, a respected photographer. This is a direct quote from her client, a bride, whom she met for the first time yesterday:

‘First I was intrigued by your images. They spoke to me. Then I read your bio and it felt right. Then I went onto your blog posts and I was sold!’

Since I wrote several versions of that biography and many of the longer blog posts, I was encouraged to move forward and publish this article.

The importance of having a great biography

Whether you are looking for a job, clients, or need to establish your credentials, the importance of a well written biography cannot be overestimated. Your biography is the first view people who are online will have of you.  Most studies indicate you have less than three minutes to make an impression, so your biography needs to convey your unique qualities and qualifications in a tightly written and inspiring way.

When do you need to hire a professional writer?

  • You know your field, and you know how good you are, but writing isn’t your strong point. You begin, but you’re not sure what to emphasize, and you find yourself rambling and going off course. You don’t want to bore your reader or have them think less of you due to your choice of words.
  • You need to stand out in your field, but what distinguishes you? Often, it’s not our actual skills but effective marketing that marks the difference between success and failure.
  • You are new to your field and uncertain how to leverage your education or previous experience.
  • You are too modest to blow your own horn. Unfortunately, most of us were taught to not overplay our strengths and to take a self-effacing approach. Even when we know our value, we are afraid to be perceived as arrogant or unpleasant.
  • You are not a native English speaker. I’m a Slav. I have worked for many Slavic professionals who, despite their high levels of education, commonly misplace articles since they don’t exist in our languages. Whether it involves spelling, sentence structure, or phrasing, English is a difficult language. Many natives don’t get it right.
  • You’re busy. You know you need to take care of social media and have a website, but you can’t do it all yourself.
  • You’re not objective. Sometimes we need a second pair of eyes to point out strengths that may not be obvious to us.

It’s all about them

The thing to remember is your skills are commodities in a competitive market place, unless you can sell yourself as an expert who can solve others’ problems. Your biography needs to be about what you can deliver to your clients or your prospective employers, and yet, it needs to be unique to you.

And lastly, often you will need one or more biographies depending on your purpose.

 

To see examples:

Biographies

If you want to be recognized as a leader in your profession call, contact, or message me to discuss your needs.

Contact

Keep Your Mojo Working?

For the past year and a half I have been looking for an agent for my latest novel. I’ve had two requests in that time from important agents, one who is considered a top London agent, the other, a well -known and respected New Yorker. Both asked for full manuscripts, neither followed up.

Rejection letters from other agents who have seen samples are highly complementary and respectful of the writing but invariably end with, ‘I’m not passionate enough…’, which I understand to be a euphemism for, ‘It’s not bankable.’

Eight books ago, my first novel made it to Little Brown, where it spent a summer and was considered, quote: ‘Important’, but rejected for being, ‘…too high-brow for our commercial lists’. Since, I have self -published idiosyncratic books that gave me great satisfaction to write and which were praised by the few who read my work.

The dilemma now is not even what to do with the current book-I suppose if all else fails I can self-publish again and knock myself out trying to market it, but whether to continue to write fiction at all.

I have to ask myself, if the market doesn’t want my work, am I just indulging in an expensive and time consuming hobby? Am I deluding myself that this novel, or the next, will be the one which will allow me to write professionally?

I suppose there are those who have starved for their art, but I am not made of such stern stuff. And yet there’s an idea that’s been hovering at the edge of my consciousness as I’ve denied it, refusing to begin anything new until the last book pays off. It’s taking shape in two versions, and maybe it will amount to two books. But I can see the opening now: A woman in a khaki raincoat riding a bicycle down an allee of trees, headed for a small country house. There’s her absent and cheerfully unaware art historian husband, and there is the dark painter who intrigues her, but is he someone who is threatening her equilibrium now or is he from the distant past –his story waiting to be uncovered? What will she find out about herself, and more importantly what will I discover as I plummet the inner world of my own psyche?

So the final question remains: Should one keep indulging oneself? Is the satisfaction of producing alternate realities on the computer screen worth sacrificing time that could be spent more lucratively elsewhere?

I don’t know the answer to that question or what I intend to do about it, yet.

Writing for a Specific Audience

 Visuals

The first point that we have to acknowledge is that postmodern society has moved away from the written word towards visual mediums. We see evidence of this everywhere on social media. On Facebook we post and like animal videos. People have made or enhanced their careers with helpful videos on YouTube. Our blog posts are often peppered with photographs, since we know these posts get more views and more shares.

From this we can conclude that it would be wise to add visuals to our material, whether we are bloggers or those making a corporate presentation or formal paper. Illustrations, charts, graphs, videos and photographs help clarify and enhance the experience of our audience and keep them from becoming bored.

Time and Technology

The next thing we have to consider is that our reading habits have changed since the advent of the Internet. With smart phones we are primarily engaged in scrolling and skimming. The leisure of the 19th century is over for the reading class, and the pressures of modern life give us little time to indulge.  We know that Hemingway on his typewriter wrote in a very different style than did Dickens or Tolstoy.  Keep that in mind when you consider your presentation or blog post.  Succinct is always preferable to long winded and wordy. Catchy headlines are also important to engage reader interest.  Sadly, often it’s the only part of the article people will read.

Voice

Should your tone be formal or informal?  First, you must determine who your audience is. We don’t speak to our employers the way we do to our friends. A blog about the joys and travails of being a working mother will read far differently than a white paper. Choose your tone accordingly. This blog post would read far differently if I were to change from addressing it directly to You to writing things such as:

‘When one writes for the board of directors, one should remember to …’

Are you writing a short story or a novel and don’t know who the audience will be?  I can guarantee it will be someone like yourself who will share your outlook and interests and will be enthused to discover your in- depth insights. That is unless you write for children, which is a whole other topic.

Depth and language

Is your audience expert in their field or are you going to be explaining a topic for the general reader? If the latter is true you will have to explain your topic in depth minus the familiar jargon. In truth, few scientific and tech writers can overcome this hurtle and resort to a convoluted academic style which is impenetrable for the most part, and is deadly dull. Remember, explain your topic or paper as you would to an intelligent high school student. You’ll be a standout and your colleagues will actually read what you have written with interest.

Problem solution

Most online readers are searching for a solution to their problems-and they want quick solutions. Make the content easy to understand and bullet or number it. Use large catchy titles, small paragraphs and illustrations. Your audience will be engaged and receptive resulting in recognition of your product and your expertise.

Your audience

In truth, you know who your audience is whether it is a board, shareholders, laymen, colleagues, or the general public. Pick the audience and you will be able to choose the proper voice. I’ve never cared for the advice that you need to imagine your ideal reader and write to them. Most of us are too constrained and self-conscious to begin with and further censoring ourselves with a potential inner critic is overwhelming. Imagine a broad audience and tailor your writing to them instead. If you get stuck, google! Don’t plagiarize, of course. Simply getting ideas from those who have tackled your topic before is extremely helpful before you begin to think about how you will structure your own work.  Above all, keep practicing. In time, all this will come easily to you.