Inevitable September

I always have polar-opposite feelings about this time of year in Canada – the end of summer and beginning of fall. Let’s just say that I am not a fan of cold weather. At all. I start wearing sweaters as soon as the thermometer is below 24 degrees Celsius.

So to feel the ten-degree drop around the first week of September and knowing it is only getting colder from here, plunging us into a long dark winter that will make us forget summer even happened, is like a prison sentence.

Summer glory - who wants to see this covered in snow?!

Summer glory in my parents’ raspberry patch – who wants to see this covered in snow?!

But at the same time, I am a geek, and I love getting back on track with life after a refreshing and invigorating summer packed full of adventures and activities. And what a summer it was! I spent four weeks teaching in Rwanda, three travelling in Jordan, left my old job and launched a new freelance career. I come to September eager and refreshed to get my hands dirty.

So now for my news – I got a great project last spring writing content for the website of an amazing young design and media company that friends of mine started a couple of years ago. They gave me the license to experiment and try whatever I wanted on them, so I took full advantage to get to the heart of their vision for their company and how they wanted to present themselves to their audience.

With a beautiful website now polished and in the hands of our programmers (which I will link for you all once it is launched!), I felt more confident than ever about putting myself out there and taking on new assignments – until this same company again called me up and offered me a job! Two jobs actually – one potentially full time, doing both their new creative content side along with client management, or one part time focusing only on content.

I had a decision to make – take a full time job for this amazing little company and enjoy the security of not having to hunt for clients. Or, take the less-lucrative part time option focusing only on what I love and dedicating the rest of my time to developing my skills and pursuing other writing opportunities in parallel. The tricky thing for me was that I knew how closely they in fact were linked – I knew working closely with the clients and the teams would drive content and bring me deeper into the world of the company that I am writing about.

But I also didn’t want to get distracted from my goals to learn about freelance writing, and also not sure if I want to strictly limit my writing career to content marketing at this early stage. So, after weighing all the options and long consultations with my husband, I eagerly accepted the part-time content development job and haven’t looked back. They also hired an amazing manager who will be a joy to work with.

This is my first week, and there is a lot to learn. First up is to prepare for the launch of the new website, which we are hoping will come online in the next two weeks. There are social media accounts to set up, content to develop, and I prospective clients to reach out to.

I also want to keep up my dabbling in photography and coding, these little skills on the side that I feel like help enhance my work as a content developer by giving me perspective for what others bring to the table in the projects we do for our clients.

I’m curious what others think though – do you think I made the right choices for the coming months? And are you someone who dreads the end of summer or looks forward to getting back into things in the fall?

Lessons from my First Website Content Job

It was an exhilarating feeling to deliver my first full web content project to a client last week!

It was the perfect project to start off with – really a labour of love for a cause and a customer that I believe in: a friend of mine has been helping young adults in a neighbouring city to figure out their career and life goals. The challenge was to reach the target market – young people aged 18 to 35 who are looking for a job, particularly newcomers to Canada – yet at the same time convey that this was more than a job search program, as it is really designed to help people think about they wanted in their lives and take steps to get there.

Although the website design was fairly simple, it was content-heavy. It was a lot of work, but working with a great web design team and being surrounded with encouragement and fun made this project special.

Writing for websites is different than any other medium I had experienced so far. I learned a lot in this project, which I am already incorporating into my work with my new clients.

One lesson was how helpful it is to be able to do your own content entry in the site. The first time I saw my content uploaded on the website, I panicked. “It’s all wrong!” I thought – the byline too wordy, the slider text off-center, the columns all different lengths. I grabbed my phone to call the developer and ask him to make little edits, to which he was quite obliging. Twenty minutes later I called him again – I found a typo I needed fixed right away. On the third call he politely told me he would be heading to bed soon, so I should make a list of my corrections for him to work on in the morning. I knew it wasn’t as simple as making a list though – the words would need tweaking until they were just right. He finally gave me access to the backend of the site, which was WordPress-based, and with my limited html knowledge managed to tweak to my heart’s content. (Note: I strongly recommend learning even just a bit of html if you are writing for websites. A great crash course can be found at codeacademy.com).

Another thing I learned as soon as we met with the client to present the first draft of the website, was not to underestimate the impact that the visuals will have on how your content is read. If the design side is not completely up to snuff, it may not be the best idea for the client’s first impression of the content to appear next to the design. At the same time, if you give a client the content simply in a word document, they may not understand how it is going to look on the screen. It is preferable to work closely with the designer and present things together that you are both happy with – of course, that’s a bit of an ideal scenario, and we should always be flexible!

All in all, my client was very happy with what we created together, and made only minor adjustments to the content. And that was the most important part to me – that she is happy with how her website represents her organization and what it can help them do for others.

And on to the next project!

In the meantime, any advice from writers out there about writing web content – especially about how you share drafts of what you’ve developed with the client?