The Sarky Type – content with more bite

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.”

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 your content is hard to find and hard to understand then your UX sucks. If you’d like me to sort that out, click here to see how I can help.

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:

  • You’re open about your lack of experience
  • You exude zero confidence
  • You have no clear business process
  • 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 and guess what, you’ll get even better.

2. An enjoyable job equals unpaid.

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’re a freelancer who’d love some help with marketing, book a one-to-one with me.

If you’re running a drug cartel, honesty in business may not be your biggest priority.

Your entire operation is built on deception.

Telling a few lies might actually keep you from being executed – buying you some much needed time until you can find your way out of a sticky situation.

And being forced to dig your own grave in the heart of the Bolivian jungle is probably the stickiest of situations.

I’ll further caveat this post with more truth about telling porkies: it’s impossible not to tell them.

If someone says they don’t lie, they’re lying.

We use falsehoods to save our own skin and the skin of others. We tell people they look nice when they don’t, and we make promises we know we can’t keep:

“I promise I will never leave you.” (Except when I die, or start seeing Paula from work.)

There are occasions when telling a fib is the right thing to do.

So let’s please try to avoid absolutes and accept that lying is a part of the human condition.

Compulsive liars.

Ok, these are a different breed altogether. Have you ever met one? I have known a few in my time.

Before we go any further, compulsive liars can’t help doing it. And although it isn’t included in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental health disorders, it is often a trait found in several mental health conditions. No, Karen, I’m not a medical professional.

Just like writers, these people are great at telling stories.

Compulsive liars are often the hero of the tales they tell.

It’s interesting how they always seem to be in the right place at the right time and coincidentally, they have a story to match any lived experience you’ve had. Like any work of fiction, their tale is dramatic, full of twists and turns, and utter bullshit.

Take the work colleague who claimed to be a millionaire. He owned a chain of hotels in America, despite working at Sainsbury’s and driving about in a 2008 Citroen Saxo.

Then there’s the guy that always hides £3000 under his mattress “just in case of emergencies” but next month he’s pleading poverty when the gas bill comes in.

There are many of these people walking amongst us so we can presume lots of them are running businesses. Hell, some of these people are running countries (sorry, ruining countries).

What’s the point of deception in business?

Often, it’s to impress.

When a business pretends it’s more successful than it really is, it’s to give the impression they’re a big deal and (hopefully) you’ll wanna work with them.

Avoiding honesty in business.

Honesty in business

When you make a conscious decision to deceive, you’re running the risk of being found out.

You’ll be counting down the days when those unsubstantiated claims get flagged because, hello, the internet. Aside from the ambiguity of this post you really should be honest in business.

There, I said it, be honest.

Trying to impress your prospects with half-truths and embellished ‘facts’ will only hurt your credibility in the long run.

And it will balls up your SEO.

Building authority in your industry is a big thing when you’re trying to drive organic traffic to your place.

Google hates a bullshitter. I’ve talked before about the YMOYL (Your Money Or Your Life) concept. Google assesses how your words and content impact your audience. If you’re selling products and the claims about their benefits aren’t credible, that’s a sure-fire way to fuck up your ranking.

Unethical or unlawful?

You’ve seen those adverts on Facebook: become a millionaire in 3 weeks using this failsafe course.

Often these ‘businesses’ will litter their webcopy with a haul of disclaimers. They do just enough to allow them to work within the parameters of the law.

Scarcity selling tactics aren’t illegal either but we know deep down that for a lot of companies, there is no ‘last chance to buy’ nonsense. Then there’s the hiking up of a product price for a week, only for it to drop to the actual price the following, so it can be seemingly sold as 50% off. Sofa retailers have been doing that shit for years.

Two certainties in life: death, and the DFS sale. Long after humans have perished and the cockroaches take over, there will still be time to grab a Milano 2-seater for £399.

Transparent client process.

If you’re not clear on the way you do things, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically lying about something (you might be terrible at running a business).

But if you have an honest business culture (where possible, remember what I said at the start of this post) then you’ll be open about your process to your potential customers.

Let me tell you a little story (don’t worry, I’m not a compulsive liar – or Max Bygraves)

I get the occasional DM from agencies asking if I’d be interested in doing some work for them.

They often go something like this:

“Sarah, we love your style. Can you send us some info about your rates and the services you offer?”

Sounds plausible, even sounds like my kind of gig. I respond with a link to said services and pricing.

So far, so transparent.

In one particular case, I got this reply:

“Great, I’ll forward this over to our members and we’ll be in touch.”

Are you bored yet, cos I feel like you might be, I know I’m starting to lose the will to live

After a few emails, they realise they can’t afford me.

Actually, they’re not prepared to pay my prices. Fair do’s but it’s annoying because they knew my prices before the emails (assuming they looked at the link in the DM).

During our little game of email tennis, they never mentioned how they hire talent – not a whiff of a price point.

Why not have a template message with that shit in? That’s like 101 of business admin.

The only way I found out was by asking.

How did it end?

Badly, especially when they told me they charged per word.

I know, what’s with creative agencies using that piss-poor model?

I mentioned something about valuing a writer on the quality of their work and not the quantity of it. I’m such a self-righteous arsewipe.

It didn’t curry any favour with the agency. I found this in my mailbox:

“Thanks for the tip! You asked for more info and I’m giving it to you, but now you come at me like this, why you doing me this way? That’s some wild shit!”

Those were not the exact words used but you get the idea 

I’m sure you’re a thoroughly decent human. 

You’re probably honest (where applicable) and your process, transparent. I can quite believe you’re running a business with integrity, a business that values deadlines, communication, and paying people on time. 

And if that is you, and you’d like to work with me, click here to find out how.