The Sarky Type – content with more bite

I don’t get a lot of social media engagement.

Yes, I am a bitter, forty-something woman who yearns to boost her own fragile ego with comments and likes – especially as her physical currency declines.

And there’s nothing quite so terrifying as watching your collagen deplete and hairs grow evermore abundant from your nostrils.

But would all that ego-stroking engagement help to get better leads?

I dunno. You probably need to ask someone that gets a shit-ton of likes and comments. 

It does make mathematical sense

I’m terrible at maths but it’s logical that hoards of humans opining on your posts will bring you new clients.

The burning question is: are they the right kind of clients?

From the hundreds of messages you could potentially receive, some, I guess, might happen to be your perfect business customer.

Filtering through the “Hi Dear” DMs, the sales pitches, and the pitiful dick pics seems like a total pain in the arse to me.

Sounds like most of these ‘potential’ clients should be avoided like you would Jeremy Clarkson’s stylist (or, Jeremy Clarkson). Lemme tell ya – summat ain’t right.

Content that brings the motherload of engagement

Generic social media content works well with the general population. 

Just like broad humour, more people are likely to appreciate it.

When a man dresses as a woman, most of us laugh (especially when Les Dawson does it). But when Stewart Lee performs stand up, a huge chunk of the public has no clue what others are finding funny.

So when you post a cute cat meme or some vague, inspirational quote, most people will lap that shit up.

They’re like, yeah, this is giving me my daily dose of dopamine.

If it’s a dog photo or video, I’m feeling that too but I don’t read the accompanying text, I’m certainly not paying attention to what the person does and whether or not I need what they’re selling.

It’s content for engagements’ sake.

When you spot a lovingly-crafted Canva graphic that says: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” It will nearly always outperform a clever, nuanced, targeted business post.

That makes perfect sense because most people don’t want your gear, not everyone needs it.

And what monster is going to argue with the sentiment of being kind?

Most of us are not rolling our eyes when we read a post like that.

The majority aren’t cringing at the vacuous, regurgitated message that’s wheeled out in a cynical attempt to get a “Great post!” or “THIS!” comment from thousands of strangers.

We’re not analysing what being kind truly means and how a show of kindness can be something different for each person and circumstance. 

Who knows just how kind the person posting that stuff is?

We don’t.

They might knock their partner about, maybe they’re a terrible parent, perhaps they don’t walk their dog, leaving the poor pooch to slowly descend into madness whilst it circles a small backyard.

We don’t give that depth of thought to social media posts. 

What most of us do is like the bloody thing and maybe leave a positive, affirmative comment.

Except me, I’m that arsehole rolling their eyes and cringing.

These posts are the fast food of social media content.

They have no nutritional value. They do not sustain us nor do they help us in our long term business thing. But that’s not the point of them. Short term adoration is their purpose. 

Posting for engagement is not a bad thing

If you have dreams of becoming a celebrity or influencer off the back of your YouTube channel, Linkedin or IG profile, then that’s a business plan of sorts, and for the very few it can work. 

Hey, we liked to be adored.

We want to be wanted by the people we admire, covet, and desire.

That’s no different in a business sense. We’re getting off on the nice words and compliments. Maybe the head doctors might suggest it’s because our inner child seeks the validation we didn’t get from our parents.

(I have no idea if that’s true but it sounds like it might be. It’s probably true for me!)

I post music videos.

And videos of me talking nonsense. Some weirdos like it and they tell me so, so I do it some more.

(It’s like mummy saying, “What a good girl you are, Sarah.” Aw, thanks mum.)

All that back-slapping hasn’t once induced someone to buy my book or hire me to sort out their awful content.

(Or lead to a recording contract / TV series.)

So, how sustainable it is to chase engagement for business is not for me to question, again, I don’t get those kinds of views but I wouldn’t recommend it as a strategy (because it’s not my area of knowledge, yeah).

Back to business

There’s no mystical method to getting leads on social media.

You don’t need to embark on a Middle-earth quest with a leprechaun, a half-woman half-elf being, and Sean Bean (he’ll only die anyway).

Organic marketing is not that exciting. And like Eamonn Holmes, it’s incredibly unsexy.

Stamina is one quality you will need.

Get comfortable posting sales content.

Yes, business posts that actively sell what you do, either way, they will bomb compared to a dog video.

Cultivate a thick skin.

You’ll need a strong stomach for being seen. Some people won’t like your sales content.

Just to add to the ‘fun’ of social media, a few might not like you very much. Learn to genuinely not care about that.

Humans will have an emotional response to your business and the posts you create on behalf of it. Ignore the negative reactions.

They are not from people who will buy from you so they don’t matter.

Once they decide you’re not for them, there’s not much you can do about it.

Nor should you try.

Even if a few are your ideal client – you can’t win them all.

(Now you can see why it’s easier to post cat memes.)

Being liked by most people is a smoother road to travel

Some of us can’t help being a thorn in the side (and some of us quite enjoy it).

Conforming in life and in business always appears to be the easy, comfy option. I view it as a compromise and one I’m not willing to take, especially if it hurts my personal and professional success.

Yes, I bang on about this stuff all the damn time because it’s critical when you write your business content and copy. It’s also very relevant, as we seem to be inundated with bland generic business content across social media.

You won’t win consistent leads by repurposing popular social media content.

Hell, you probably won’t win many, if any friends.

Content for engagement is transitory. It’s like candy floss – tasty and over in seconds. And candy floss is great but you wouldn’t want it every day for dinner.

Want to hire me? Excellent, take a look at what I do.

So, are your customers stupid?

I reckon most aren’t but often marketing people suggest we treat prospects as if they were total dummies. In reality, they’re just really lazy. And once you appreciate that, you’ll unlock some knowledge about how to best serve them.

But before we talk about your stupid (lazy) clients, we need to talk about Google.

Content indexing

Search engines rank your website content based on how relevant it is to those searching your targeted keywords.

The Google Core Update

Google is rolling this arsewipe out in 2021.

There’s so much of it that it’s happening in phases. I’m sorry (ish) to say but your website will be affected. Oh lord who art in heaven, how are we meant to muddle on?

I’m sat here trying to concentrate on the business of writing this whilst the dog rims herself. It’s very distracting. She just loves to come to where I’m at and ‘clean’ her body parts. 

How will the Google update balls up my business?

It won’t.

Google has a lovely little analogy on how you should view it:

“One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015.

A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before.

The list will change, and films previously higher on the list that move down aren’t bad. There are simply more deserving films that are coming before them.”

From the horse’s mouth, Google

Let’s all try to keep calm.

Your site won’t be penalised – it’s not getting a telling off but pages might not rank as well as before, and some might actually do better. But remember, whatever happens now to your site, will likely change again after the final update.

Jesus wept.

If you want to find out more about what Google has to say on the subject, click here.

If you want my take on the update, keep reading.

Lazy customers and the Google update

Are your customers stupid?

Let’s av a look at how you can mitigate any changes. 

Our lazy potential clients are looking on the web. And they’re looking for us (when they can be arsed to lift their heads off the sofa). Because surfing the internet is so exhausting, they want an easy time when they land on your website.

Picture the scene…

When you meet someone new, you make a snap judgement.

First impressions are based on looks, manner, and overall persona. That doesn’t mean your initial judgement is right but unlike humans, websites don’t have time to slowly reveal who they are.

They have seconds to impress the visitor and get them to want to stick around.

Pleading and begging are unattractive traits in people, they’re also off-putting when websites do the same (yes, I’m talking about the 27 pop-ups you insist on installing).

Just like when you met Mike for the first time, you thought he was an utter cock. Maybe he was a bit difficult, and you struggled to understand him.

Over time you begin to like Mike, and if you listen carefully, you can understand what he says.

Websites don’t have that luxury.

If you’re not hitting the right tone with the people likely to buy from you, you’re pissing against the wind. 

Just thinking now of a man, having a wee, in a gale, and it gets blown back onto him. Gross.

User Experience (UX)

What the hell?

Do not be alarmed, this isn’t about to get boring/difficult.

You’re probably already bored.

UX means exactly what it says. Google will be placing more emphasis on how easy a website is to navigate. Your potentials are lazy, remember, they don’t want to spend their time having to root through pages of content to find what they need. 

If your site is like the home of a hoarder after 20 years, collecting tat, users won’t stay. They’re not going to make the effort to look through out-of-date bean cans, cat shit, and old newspapers to find the stuff they want.

And why would you make it that bloody difficult?

Stop keeping stuff on your site because you like it. If it doesn’t get you paying clients, it’s taking up valuable space

Make it easy to find stuff.

Make your copy clear and get to the point. Your site should have a logical structure that guides the user each step of the way. You decide what you want them to do and what you want them to make a decision on.

This should be obvious but many fuck this up.

Having a logical flow with clear destinations aren’t the only elements that impact user experience. If, for example, your website doesn’t adapt to mobile view, you’re losing customers. Nearly everyone is looking at websites on those handy devices. If you’re only concern is how it behaves on desktop, you’re a pilchard.

Slow loading times will also bugger things up. If you have high-resolution images – please compress those bastards down but there are plenty of back-end elements that could be affecting your sites’ overall performance.

Like what?

Well, things like unused CSS, Javascript issues, dodgy code, too many ads… is your head hurting? Hire a proper technical SEO to sort it out.

Content is still a big deal

And it always will be.

That’s why I bang on about blogging. It’s the one, glorious place you can keep adding regular content to your website.

Helpful, high-quality, useful, unique-to-you information for your people. Some of you might continue to underestimate how valuable words on a page are, and those individuals ought to be placed in stocks and have badger shit thrown at them.

If you’re prioritising everything else, above your online content, you’re worse than those people who don’t change the loo roll when it’s done

I’m bored now, let’s finish up

Things to keep in mind: prospects are lazy so make your website easy to use, and don’t neglect your content.

BUT

Getting your site bang on means looking at all its components.

Content, site architecture, and technical elements all play a part. Find yourself a technical SEO and book an audit to identify some quick wins. Monitor your website’s performance with Google Console and track the content that performs well. Then you can figure out why certain pages rank better and apply those principles to all your site.

If you’d like to read more about the Google update, click here.

If you’d like help with your overall website health, book a review with me.

I very rarely get people asking me to work for nothing. When I do, all I hear is someone telling me fibs.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Personally, I think hindsight is useless. Having to wait until after a thing has happened to then realise it was a bad idea, is no way to live your life.

“In hindsight, having that 15th JD and coke probably lead to me falling down the stairs and severing my spinal cord.”

In hindsight, I wish I’d never worked those few times for free.

We all make mistakes, right, but I don’t want you to waste your literal time doing the same.

So read on for 3 lies about working for free.

1. You will gain experience

When you start your freelance career, you’re excited but you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.

Keen to learn your craft by accepting offers of free work, seems, on the face of it, like a great idea. I’m going to now, make an assumption about you. And that is you lack the confidence that comes with experience. So, when someone wants what you offer, you’re stoked – you cannot believe they like your stuff. So you do it for free because it would be great practice, right?

Bollocks.

The person asking you to give your services away for nothing might sense that you’re inexperienced and they’re using that knowledge to their own advantage. Maybe you’re doing certain things that reveal you’re a novice, and here are some of those things:

  1. You’re open about your lack of experience
  2. You exude zero confidence
  3. You have no clear business process
  4. You don’t set boundaries

It’s more than likely you’re lying to yourself, convinced no one will pay you a decent rate until you’ve been slogging in your industry for 20 some years. That’s another lie. Don’t listen to yourself or anyone else who tells you that bullshit.

Some folks just have the raw attributes that make them good at what they do from the get-go.

2. You enjoy your job

Maybe you get to use crayons or flash a camera about.

Perhaps now you’re self-employed, you no longer have to deal with a handsy boss. You can take fridge breaks whenever you damn well please and never have to hide the fact you spend most of your day surfing the internet. 

So why should you expect to get paid too?

Creatives are especially prone to cheeky bastards asking them to work for free because it’s seemingly a joy to paint / take photographs / design websites / write stuff.

That’s a myth.

This is not a hobby, this is your occupation. Doing a favour for family and friends is one thing, it’s quite another when a stranger expects you to do it because you’re ‘living the dream’.

3. It will be great exposure

Do you remember that time you called a plumber and said:

“Hello, I wonder if you can fix a leak in my bathroom? I won’t be able to pay you but I will tell all my friends about your services.”

No, you don’t remember because you wouldn’t dare ask your local tradesperson for free graft. It’s rude and insulting.

If you keep saying yes to working for free you probably need to seek the advice of a professional to figure out why you think it’s ok for people to treat you like shit. You might be under the misguided impression that it will attract paying customers. The bottom line is this: it isn’t just the person who’s asking the favour that doesn’t value your work – you don’t either.

Creative found DEAD trying to live off exposure.

You can’t use it to heat your home. It doesn’t put food on your table. And if I had a pair of Christian Louboutins for every time I heard that line “you’ll get lots of exposure”, I’d be Imelda Marcos.

Hold the press: exposure isn’t currency or luxury goods

At no point did my performing an acoustic set to an audience of old farts, did I ever secure a paid gig. Nor did it lead to a recording contract because A&R people didn’t hang out in the venues I played. 

If the audience is not your audience people won’t buy from you.

The same applies when I write a free article for a market that will likely, never buy from me. Generic business types usually don’t want what I’m offering.

And another thing: if the brand in question has no influence or reputation, it will do nothing to boost your position within your industry. All you’ve done is invest time and talent into gaining absolutely nothing for your business.

Conclusion

Freelancers: 3 lies about working for free

Stop buying these lies about working for free.

People who ask for freebies know how good you are, otherwise, they wouldn’t entertain getting in touch. They just don’t value it enough to pay cash.

They’ve probably been consuming all your content. They’ll say nice things and tell you what a great [INSERT CREATIVE JOB TITLE HERE] they think you are. That’s sweet but take it as a compliment and move on with your life.

Sure, people might ask for your services based on some charitable purpose, and it’s your choice if you wish to give up your time for some good cause. You’re still not obliged to do so.

But Sarah, you don’t get anything if you don’t ask.

That’s very true, and if people are brave enough to ask me for free work, they probably deserve something for nothing but some copy isn’t what I had in mind.

What you have will benefit them, way more than it does you.

And they know that. So don’t be blinded by flattery, and don’t think you’re damaging a future relationship that might/maybe/possibly lead to paid work. 

Focus on the people that not only love what you do but who are more than willing to pay the asking price. Because getting paid for your actual job should be the bare minimum requirement for any occupation.

Think about this when you next get a begging email/DM:

  • Is it furthering my career?
  • Is it boosting my profile?
  • Is it opening up influential doors?

If it isn’t doing any of that, just say no.

If you keep attracting terrible people who think you should provide them work for nothing (or very little in return) it’s all your fault.

If your online spaces aren’t geared to proper paying clients, what do you expect? If your target customer is a little hazy, your pricing structure, a disaster, and your buying process, non-existent, that’s all on you.

If your business copy isn’t actively discouraging the time-wasters, this shit will continue.

If you don’t start believing you’re worth cold hard cash, it might be time to throw in the self-employment towel.

If you want a free piece of long-form from me, check out my blog. Please contact me if you’d like to feature one of those posts.