Formatting Your Posts: “TL;DR” Isn’t Just a Meme

That means “too long; didn’t read.” I had to ask my niece about that one; she used one of my e-mails as an example.

Our customers know that readers don’t want to deal with huge blocks of text. If a post looks overwhelmingly long, especially when viewed on a smartphone, their eyes will cross and they’ll move on. Format your posts into easy-to-consume, scannable sections.

  • Keep each paragraph to 3-4 sentences.
  • Learn how to use the correct headers.
  • Use a block or two of bullet points, but don’t overdo it.
  • Use captivating introductions that give the reader an idea of what’s in store.
  • Make sure each post has a readable “flow,” with each section transitioning smoothly to the next.
  • Wrap up your post with a conclusion that summarizes the article without being repetitive.
  • Promotional posts with a “Contact Us” insert button above the text editing field usually require a strong call to action (CTA) at the end. (Don’t forget to edit the text of the link to make sure it’s grammatically correct!)

Sometimes, copy formatting is a balancing act between readability and the customer’s preferences. You might have an excellent formatting strategy, but your customer might not be SEO-savvy. When in doubt, refer to the customer’s previously purchased or published posts.

How to Write Blog Headlines That Don’t Suck!

For many of us, headlines are the most aggravating part of writing a solid blog post. They need to score SEO points while snagging the reader’s attention. Headline writing is extra fun (gag!) when the client wants us to include specific keyword strings.

There’s no single formula for writing the perfect headline, but there are lots of great articles on the subject. Hubspot is one of our go-to resources for inbound marketing advice, and Coschedule has a headline analyzer that several of us like to use.

Your target headline word-count should be six to nine words, with the correct capitalization and—hello!—be error-free!

Here are a couple Verblio-approved resources:

By the way… the automatic headline that appears in the text editor is just a suggestion. You’ll need to change it before you save your draft; just add a space or ellipses until you’re ready to replace it with your final title.

Proofreading Like a Pro

Have you ever seen those sports videos where runners faceplant just before the finish line? Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, so if you want to bomb out as a Verblio writer, go ahead and post that article without thoroughly checking it over for errors. 

If you’re all about the follow-through (or the paycheck), here are some tips for “scrubbing” your post for poor grammar, typos, and inappropriate punctuation.

  1. When you’re finished with your draft, take ten minutes or more to clear your head. I call it “breaking the spell.”
  2. Read your copy out loud. Some writers have their computers read back their posts via “text-to-speech” features; this might work for you. I personally haven’t found one that reads with the right cadence.
  3. Run your copy through at least one document checker in addition to the Verblio editor’s “Review” window. Grammarly is the hands-down winner among our writers, followed by the Hemingway Editor. Grammarly’s desktop installation is more thorough, but its Chrome plug-in is very handy.
  4. Make your corrections, then proof your post one last time before submitting it.
  5. Don’t forget to proofread your headlines and headers!

Customers will reject otherwise fantastic posts because of one or two typos or glaring grammatical errors, and many won’t read beyond the first goof they find. After all, if you can’t bother to read your content, why should they? We see this time and time again when we check out the comments on declined posts, and customers are entitled to complain. They expect professional copy.

Writing for Foreign English-Speaking Customers

Verblio has quite a few U.K. and Aussie clients, and you might run across a Canadian or two. While we speak the same language, many words have different spellings north of the border, across the pond and Down Under. (Color=colour, favorite=favourite, Starbucks=Tim Horton’s). Punctuation and grammar may differ, as well. Here are some tips for writing in the Queen’s English:

  • Install and use the Language Tool Chrome extension. It’s clunky, but it works.
  • Use country-specific sources and statistics whenever possible.
  • Become familiar with the country’s vernacular. Read a few blog posts published on the client’s site to glean industry-specific terms, and feel free to look up articles and slang guides written for American travelers. Just don’t write like an American tourist! Take care not to create a post that rivals the Crocodile Dundee script. (Crikey, mate. That would be a fair-dinkum cock-up!)
  • Don’t forget to use the metric system and local currency.

A note on Millennial-speak

We’re seeing a lot of requests for articles targeting the Millennial generation. As far as we know, there aren’t any good plug-ins for translating Millennial-speak. If online cultural websites can’t help you out, we “hundo p” suggest making like Jane Goodall and studying them in their natural environment. Take along plenty of avocado and toast for ease of acceptance.

brenda-godinez-227272-unsplashBrenda Godinez

Completing Edit Requests: Because Love Ain’t Always Unconditional

Verblio recently added a new system by which customers can easily mark passages with requests for changes. When your post receives an edit request, that usually means the customer likes your work and your style well enough to spend the time to help you dial it in.

Some customers go overboard, asking for entire rewrites that are a complete departure from their original topic description. Sometimes, they ask for additional content that surpasses their official word count category. You can choose to decline some or all of the edits, and then the customer can decide whether or not to purchase the final post.

I see edit requests as an opportunity to better understand the customer’s preferences, and to let them know how well I translate their ideas into the “perfect” (for them, anyway) content. And an edit request is always better than a flat-out decline.

Handling Rejection: Sometimes It’s You, Sometimes It’s Them

If you haven’t read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” you really should. Not only will you become a better writer, you’ll feel a lot better when a customer declines your work. King nearly suffocated under piles of rejection letters before he struck gold with “Carrie.”

You’re going to get rejections. Period. Once you’re really up and running here on Verblio, you’ll probably have a rejection rate of six to ten percent. That number will probably be higher when you’re just starting out.

Don’t worry about it, though. Unless your rejections come with negative comments or your percentage skyrockets out of the stratosphere, you’re actually on the right track if you get a few declines now and then. Here’s why:

Uncharted territory: If you’re unsure about the tone and preferences of a customer that’s new to Verblio, you’re taking a risk when you submit their first post. Good for you for being brave!

Competition makes us better writers: Someone else submitted a post on the same topic, and the customer chose theirs over yours. No problem; study the style and tone of the “winning” post, and try again with the same customer later.

Topic No Longer Needed: Customers change their minds. It doesn’t happen that often, but it’s frustrating when it does. It has nothing to do with your writing.

The Rebound: Recycling Your Posts

If your article expires or is declined, you can find a new home for it with another Verblio customer. If you press the “recycle” symbol next to your post on your dashboard, a suggested customer will appear.

Don’t automatically submit your post to that customer! Personally, I’m always amused by the random pairings. I usually open up a new window and search for customers by industry, then submit the rejected post. Your submission likely won’t match up with their open topics, but with a little finesse, you can make it work.

  • Make sure you’ve removed any links or references to the previous customer.
  • Make any adjustments necessary to better suit the new customer’s listed preferences.
  • Verify that your article’s word count meets or exceeds that of the new customer.
  • Take one last shot at proofreading.

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Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place? Contact Staff!

If you’ve ever written for other platforms and attempted to seek staff guidance, you likely felt as if you fell into a canyon where nobody could hear you scream. Before you reach for that flimsy Leatherman knock-off and start hacking away at your writing hand, take heart; Verblio has a team of enthusiastic staff members ready to help. Here’s when it’s appropriate (and encouraged) to reach out to writers@blogmutt.com:

  • You haven’t found a solution in the Help section, or by posting your question to (or searching) the forum (where at least one staff member checks in throughout the day).
  • It’s either not appropriate to ask on the forum, or too client-specific.
  • The customer’s topic description is too vague, and you need staff to request more information or clarification.
  • The customer is requesting a word count outside their account range (The staff might negotiate a one-time word count adjustment or a two-part series).

Sometimes we get tired of staring at a customer’s page, wondering if and when they’ll pull the trigger and buy our posts. We might attempt to telepathically persuade the customers to log on, use their credits, and clear their mile-long queues. What we shouldn’t do is request that the staff pesters our customers to make a move.

Verblio account managers have a system for maintaining customer engagement, but they have no control over when a client will decide to use or renew their credits… no matter how many chickens they sacrifice in Hoodoo rituals. But eventually, most posts sell. If they expire, there’s a good chance you can find another home for yours.

You Won’t Win If You Don’t Play the Game: Tips for Success

Once you’ve read the help pages, become acquainted with Verblio’s platform features, and waded into the forums, the best advice we writers can give you is to set goals and write as much as you can. Read up on inbound marketing and refine your blogging skills. Read other writers’ work and cultivate new clients.

Hearts

Once you earn “preferred writer” status with a few clients, take advantage of the topic proposal feature to give yourself more breathing room to write on your favorite subjects. The exclusive three-day period lets us write without the pressure some of us feel when we’re trying to compete with simultaneous submissions.

Writer’s queue

Try to build up a solid queue, especially if you’re writing for customers with varying credit refresh dates. When articles sell, top off that “future earnings” number. When you have a stockpile of pending articles, you’ll have a more stable income and you’re less anxious about selling articles tomorrow that you only wrote today.

Leveling up

Once you hit Level 4, things really start rolling. Even those of us who are eligible for 1500-word topics rely on 600-word posts for our bread and butter. And just because you’re still at Level 3 doesn’t mean you’re any less talented and skilled than those who are in the double-digits.

Find your own rhythm

Everyone has their own goals, and we all write at our own pace. Don’t be too rough on yourself if you’re not cranking out 5000 words a day, or if it takes a while to master the system. You’ll get the hang of it.

We’ve All Been There…And We’re Here for You! Each of us was new here at one point, and every one of us still needs encouragement and advice now and again. I can’t stress enough the importance of the Verblio community for platform writing success. Use it to your personal and professional advantage. The truth is, if you’ve read this far, you already have; most of what I’ve learned and shared here, as well as my success on this platform, is thanks to my fellow Verblio writers. I’m just paying it forward!