Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: Self promotion?
19 points by DoreenMichele 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments
I suck at this and I can't tell how much is me doing something wrong and how much is stuff I can't control, like sexism or classism. I'm frankly scared to ask again because it so often goes so very badly.

But I need more traffic for my websites, more resume work, more patrons, more tips, more earned income.

And it seems to never matter how I ask or when I ask. But I am not making adequate progress, so I need some help solving this.

Thanks in advance.

Don't assume the worst in people. There are plenty of potential clients who don't care about gender or class when looking for a freelance writer. About those who do? Frankly, screw them. They're not worth your attention.

Visually both your website and your Twitter profile look a bit bland and dreary. You might try to develop a consistent identity, a personal brand if you will. A consistent colour scheme would definitely help in my opinion. Nothing too glaring, just 2-3 bright and warm colours. There are online colour palette generators like http://colormind.io/ or https://coolors.co/ that can help you with that.

In terms of content I'd focus more on the value you provide to your clients rather than very personal matters (such as the last paragraph on your home page). It's good to have a personal, relatable story but it has to connect to what it is you're offering.

Regularly publishing blog articles definitely helps. I wouldn't try to directly monetise those though. Instead use them to attract new clients by providing morsels of information they might find useful.

Perhaps finding a different, narrower (and more lucrative) niche would be beneficial, too.

Thank you for taking the time to look and give me constructive feedback. I will see what I can do with it.

Perhaps your expectations are too high? That's why it's called a hussle and lots of startups go nowhere because promoting yourself (or company) which so much noise, information, distraction is just simply getting harder and harder. I have tried internet marketing things in the past and most of the time it's tumbleweed.

I've learned a lot from:

* Reading lots of books on writing. Probably this (https://www.amazon.com/Writing-Web-Creating-Compelling-Pictu...), definitely this (https://www.amazon.com/Style-Lessons-Clarity-Grace-12th/dp/0...). Got both from local library.

* Reading lots of other books I got from library (on writing and marketing).

* Practice, coupled with observing results on google analytics.

* https://practicaltypography.com/typography-in-ten-minutes.ht... for basic design.

* Free content on https://stackingthebricks.com/ (there's a lot, although it's mostly lead-in to paid content).

The last one in particular motivated me to write based on research, which resulted in massively improved results.

I looked at your site for a few minutes. The quick impression I got was it seems very informal and not super professional. Here's some quick feedback on things you could resolve with not too much extra work:

- It seems like you've done a good amount of work, I think I saw 1000+ docs revised in there, but then the sample work available and testimonials was pretty small / weak. Clear outbound links to your published work would speak volumes. I would rather read your samples than anything else.

- Switch your official email to a non-Gmail address and use your domain proper (even if you forward behind the scenes and use an alias to respond in Gmail which is an easy setup).

- On the resume editing page, I thought it was repetitive to have the price listed 4 separate times. (First thought in my head — did he/she proofread this?)

- I also looked for a way to find more info about you, like an About page, or preferably a link to LinkedIn or something like that, but I didn't find one.

These things are all presentation and ones you can easily resolve without changing much about your core work, but it's the kind of thing a client might pass on services for.

- I also looked for a way to find more info about you, like an About page, or preferably a link to LinkedIn or something like that, but I didn't find one.

What type of information about me are you looking for?

I get told a lot I talk too much about myself and that needs to stop. In this very post someone suggested I redact a "personal anecdote" that they felt was overly personal and not pertinent. It indicates I was a military wife and homeschooling mom for a long time, yet had a high call back rate on my own resume when I did go to job hunt. I feel that is pertinent.

I have lived a very private life. I participated in an educational organization because I was a homeschooling parent. People label that personal info. I was an educator. I ran a small private school under California state law, but my students were my own children.

Tokenadult is also a homeschooling parent. I knew him elsewhere before I joined HN. He ran a homeschooling website for a time, as did I. But he also is a school teacher.

I can seem to find no means to claim my experience and credentials. It all gets dismissed as private, overly personal, anecdotal, etc. No one wants to hear, much less give me credit, for those accomplishments.

It seems like a trap I cannot escape. Having been a homemaker, it is like nothing I do will ever count.

I have six years of college. I have moderating experience. I have run websites for years. Men here who run websites are webmasters and it is respectable. I am dismissed as a mommy blogger for doing the same thing.

So what info about me do you want? Because that is the opposite of what I get told routinely and seems to be a Gordian knot I can find no means to cut. I'm not a man. I haven't lived like a man. Every single thing I have accomplished seems to not count because of it.

Thank you for taking the time to look it over and reply. Some of that is very good info. Please don't take the focus of my question as a negative. I hope you can say something that helps me sort this particular detail out.

Re: more info - Just a brief 1–3 paragraph professional bio and perhaps a link out to more info about how long you've been doing writing / editing, not necessarily a resume, but something like a LinkedIn perhaps. I don't have much opinion about personal anecdotes on a professional site that ties into your professional work; I keep it to a minimum myself, and it's not something I'd discount for a one-person company where their business and their self are somewhat intertwined, but I don't explicitly seek out personal info. I think being a teacher is potentially relevant to the business you're doing now and communicating feedback to your customers. My mom is a teacher as well and that was influential in the way I learn(ed) at a young age (Montessori method) and still today.

Re: experience and credentials - I feel like the best way to demonstrate it in writing is just to link to a variety of sample work before/after. If you want to build a base under that with past experiences, I think that can be helpful but as you've stated, it can be challenging to convey how seemingly unrelated experiences tie in to current work.

Thank you.

Do you speak in a tone that reflects the more authentic you? Maybe try to write on a personal blog (or even on a notebook) to find your personal style of communication? For me that was the root of my problem to start promoting myself: I wasn't speaking in a style that was authentic to me which did not yield good results :)


I do a lot of blogging. In fact, I am trying to monetize my blogs, but I am open to other things. I even applied for a job recently, which did not pan out. (I am medically handicapped, so I can't do just anything.)

I have tried many approaches to various subjects and things have improved some, but nothing is leading to enough money. I need my income to go up so I can stop living from crisis to crisis.

This advice might not be PC but if you are concerned about sexism or classism impacting your business, you could always make it difficult to discern what your class/gender is. For a web based business like the one you are running.

I'm also not clear on what I would get for $30. If is end you my resume will you send me back notes on? Make modifications? Because its not clearly defined I have to assume that you fully understand what needs to be done to my resume.

I can see a few problems.

I'm not an expert in SEO, so take this all with a grain of salt.

First, you have a number of websites hosted by blogger (*.blogspot.com). It is my impression that blogs with their own domain name get more traffic than those with blogspot as the domain name. If I am serious about my blog, I buy a domain name (a .com) and use it. You can still have blogger host the blog fwiw. Here's advice from namecheap: https://www.namecheap.com/support/knowledgebase/article.aspx...

Even if there's no login, I also host my blogs with an SSL certificate, because google's search algorithm is biased towards "https" sites.

You also want the site to be mobile-friendly - I didn't test your blogs, but they look good in that respect, so I don't think this is a problem for you.

Also, have you got a google analytics account which you can use to see what search terms are leading people to your sites? You want to see what people are searching for, and write more content for those search terms to help build yourself up as an authority in them.

If you need more traffic, you need to write a lot of posts. I can't tell you how many will do it, and there's no guarantee that it will work, but if your site does not look like an authoritative resource to a search engine's algorithms, you aren't going to get much search traffic. I looked at some of your blogs. I see two blog posts on http://1001histories.blogspot.com/ - this will not get you a lot of traffic. There are 3 posts listed in http://cysticfibrosisrevolution.blogspot.com/p/archive.html - again, unlikely to get you much organic search. So when you say you need more traffic for your websites, which one(s) do you expect or want to get more traffic?

Regarding patreon... Your patreon photo looks a little too much like a mugshot (sorry, I'm not trying to be rude or hurtful!). If you look at patreon photos, many successful ones look like they got a professional photog to take the picture. E.g.: https://www.patreon.com/explore/writing . That's expensive and probably not worth doing until patreon income justifies it. My suggestion here is to take a lot of pictures of yourself in different sorts of lighting, and go for the best one, the one that looks most friendly and looks like it belongs on that top 20 list. It looks like you don't have to use a photo of yourself, so you could also go with a photo of something else, or a logo. I don't know if the photo matters much.

I saw one patreon post that mentioned a personal crisis. I would not mention this on patreon, if it were me. I'm not sure if it's a negative, but I'd be afraid that it would turn off some people. I'm curious to hear what other HN people think. If I wanted to discuss personal problems on the web, I'd do it as anonymously as possible. Potential employers might get scared off by what they'd see as a lack of stability.

Speaking for myself, I've never supported anyone using patreon, but I could see myself doing so if the person provided content that I really like and consume frequently. If I used patreon as a creator, any patreon content that I'd add would mostly not be about myself, but about topics of interest for my supporters.

Some of your content seems tailored to an audience that can't afford to give you patreon donations (the homeless). Personally, I'd focus on topics that have a more potentially lucrative audience.

Again, take all this with a grain of salt, but I hope some of it helps!

That was my thought as well, adopt a pen name and persona, and write about your journey with your disease. Accumulate a batch of posts as chapters to an ebook with a compelling story. I don't know, but seems like there'd be a thirst 'out there' for inspirational, and "here's what to expect" type of content from someone who'd been through the same situation. Just thinking out loud here.

It is a nice thought, but, no, no one wants to hear about my journey with my disease. I blog about it for three reasons:

1. Trying to keep my sanity in the face of being unable to talk about it anywhere else while the world tells me I imagined the entire thing.

2. It serves as a useful record for me to look back on and help me with some things.

3. One individual with my condition whose number was up tracked me down after I disappeared off all CF lists. They didn't want to die and were willing to take a gamble on "a crazy lady" on the internet. They have gotten stronger instead of dying. I feel a personal sense of obligation to this individual.

But it might make more sense to remove that blog from my Patreon profile and keep a lower profile on that particular blog. Other than the positive experience of being contacted by this one person, talking about getting myself healthier is nothing but drama and heartache for me. People are routinely dismissive, attacking and ugly.

I continue to have a hard time letting go of the idea that what I know could help other people with dreadful health issues. But the reality is that it is mostly downside for me to give a damn about the welfare of others. It routinely bites me in the butt. It never seems to in any way come back to me in a positive way.

I need to quit being someone who cares and become someone who makes an adequate income. Caring about others has helped keep me destitute. It just makes me a chump.

no one wants to hear about my journey with my disease

May I ask why you believe this? I checked Amazon, and found a few books written by people with CF. They aren't best sellers, but all of the ones I've looked at have sold at least some copies, based on the reviews. Your own story would be different, and uniquely interesting.

I realize, as I'm sure you do, that one can't pursue every possible avenue when trying to generate an income; there's only so much time in the day. So maybe writing an ebook about your experience is not the most promising thing to do, in your mind. Then it's a judgment call to decide where to put your efforts.

People are routinely dismissive, attacking and ugly

For this reason, if it were me, I'd keep that content separate and anonymous (I would have done this from the beginning, because I know how these things go). But that doesn't mean you shouldn't write it.

FWIW, earning an income is not necessarily in line with self-promotion. The vast majority of people who support themselves do so in relative obscurity.

TLDR of a much longer, more bitter and angry reply:

I think no one wants to hear because of 17 years of being shit on for trying to talk about it.

My story is not just that I have a form of CF. It is that I am getting well. People straight up tell me I am deluded, I suffer Munchhausen Syndrome, etc.

The degree of ugliness I have been met with is pretty extreme. So I don't really want to tell my story at this point. I am mostly well. I want to get a "normal" life. That was the entire point.

She had a pen name (+ persona?) previously, but now is dropping that.

An ebook seems like a good idea to me!

I have had sites with a lot of content. For various reasons, I have archived a number of them recently and started new projects. This is part of why there isn't much content on the sites you looked at.

Thank you for taking the time to look at so much and give me feedback.

I have followed and enjoyed your contributions to HN from your old username days. Please take this as commentary from a friend who wishes you the best and sincerely wants you to succeed.

I am the kind of person who would hire freelance writers. (Unfortunately the subject matter is arcane tax law so . . . .)

The website does not present an image of a professional writer. You do not need to know how to do web design or what “pro” looks like. Go hit Teh Google, find someone who is writing web content for a living. Be sure it is someone you want to be like, and copy that person’s web design. Sorry web designers. That’s a typo. I misspelled “copy” when I meant “use as inspiration”. This is essential. You website does not mark you as someone to take seriously. From your history, I know you are a serious person.

Writers write. You must write. A lot. You have a blog. Write for your blog. Your potential employers will get their first impressions from the visuals (site design) and from reading what they find on your site. So. Your job is to blog in the dark, all alone, for the most important customer in the world — the HN user formerly known as Mz. The payoff will come.

Ask yourself why people would pay you to write for them. They don’t care about you. They care about themselves. We humans are all alike in that way. People will hire you because they can draw a straight line from giving you money for words to a result: organic search results. It is their job to turn search results into money. So make your website rank. Your own website’s ranking is your proof of concept. Do this by writing about one topic and one topic only on your blog. Might I suggest . . . how to use freelance writers to increase SEO results? If you want to write about anything else at all, do it elsewhere. I personally would not put out anything overtly political, as a side comment. People are not open-minded and tolerant. Especially in tech. And education. And California. Note-I have not seen you be overtly political but I would keep rigorously on target. Business only on the main site, innocuous elsewhere.

Do this a lot. My friend Chris taught me the concept of brute-force SEO. Write about stuff. A lot. The same stuff. Two times a day. Keep it interesting, but the person visiting your site today is not likely to go back two months into the archives and say “Oh, she’s repeating herself!” Actually, that’s a whole series of posts right there, isn’t it? Why repetition is fabulous for SEO. Because a writer is needed to subtly reword the text in order to keep Teh Google happy.

Ditch the Patreon. You are either a business or an object of charity. Be a business. Aim for the explicit exchange of value for value. This is the only way in which you will be able to test what you are doing. The moment of truth is when the person enters a Visa card number on your site and pays you. If that does not happen, you must treat the result as entirely your responsibility. Being an object of charity obfuscates away that clarity. Don’t blame the potential customer who didn’t buy: you selected the wrong target audience, not the buyer is sexist, for example. Or your pricing was wrong. Customers decide value, you decide price. A mismatch in the customer’s head rules against you.

So that’s the best I can do on a Saturday night with a head full of sinus infection and antibiotics.

- steal a design for a website.

- blog religiously about one topic and one topic only.

- that one topic should be proof of concept for what you are selling. Hint: it’s easiest to do when you take the position of trying to make your reader smart. An educated customer is the best customer.

- be a business, and use customer response as a way to fine-tune your product offerings.

This is not a fast way to glory and money. But it worked for me.

I think the fast way to glory and money might involve website redesign and some blog posts (20?) so a visitor sees credibility. Then you will need to do cold calls to potential employers or use the job boards.

Thank you very much.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact