Real Cost of Web Copy

Human and monkey skeleton Seodaemun Museum Seoul Korea

Forced to Define the Business

The real cost of web copy is driven by the amount of change and activity in a business. A new business will find the real cost of web copy is in the discoveries and meetings. These "moments-of-growth" drive additions and revisions to the copy. A new business is often overly optimistic starting with a big and growing business plan. The new services or products seem hard to contain. The business wants the website to promote it's services to as many people as possible, especially when the new business is evolving.

Changes Tempted by Functionality

Owners can use the process of creating the website (or print materials) can help focus the business plan. The website is the moment of truth where a business owner needs to summarize their products and services. As people (contractor or employees) work on the website, new opinions are injected. These opinions sometimes challenge the business plan.

For example, the web designer and the administrative assistant see that the template allows for a store. The owner is presented with the opportunity to product-ize their services and sell the services online. In essence, this is a change to the business plan driven by web functionality. Is an online store an opportunity -- or a diversion?

Time to Evolve

New businesses are going to evolve the business through the website across two dimensions of time:

  • Duration of time - the start date and true end date
  • Working hours - the actual hours spent on the copy

The real cost of web copy is caused because new businesses cannot accurately estimate the density of the work with stops and starts. Stopping can be good for creativity, but look like a delay and a cost to the web project.

  • Business takes priority before the website is launched
  • People take holidays or personal leave
  • Work is stopped to change the business plan
  • People join or leave the business (or website design)

 

Dinosaurs fighting Seodaemun Museum Seoul Korea

Cost of Evolving a Business

Here is an example of the real time and cost of web copy that I worked on:

Sep 2015 (Start)
.    Proposed a 5-page starter site map and drafted 4 web pages

Oct 2015 (+1 month)
.    Asked to hold as client needed to service a large project

Nov 2015 (+2 months)
.    Office manager hired to organise web designer

Jan 2016 (+4 months)
.    Office manager rewrote copy to match large October project

Feb 2016 (+5 months)
.    Office manager left company, new web design contractor hired

Mar 2016 (+6 months)
.    The business plan and services changed
.    Reassigned to edit current copy & copy did not match current business

Apr 2016 (+7 months)
.    Tense conversation with owner leading to new site map to match current business
.    Took over coordination of web designer allowing business to service another large project

May 2016 (+8 months)
.    Delivered fresh copy to match current business, rather than edit existing copy
.    Loaded copy and images into website alongside web designer
.    Site goes live (finish)

Copy as an Expense

I cannot capture all of the costs of the first version, the new staff member, and the rewriting of the final web copy. But, I can summarize the real cost of web copy. Here are the actual costs for my flat-rate (writing) and my hourly (editing and meetings) work on a real web project. The cost of editing and meetings became a bigger part of the project as it progressed.

Sep-Oct $360

Nov $630

Mar-Apr $1,140

May  $1100

Total $3,230

The point of showing the time and cost of writing copy -- is to set your expectation that creating the website is a time-intensive process. In the middle, I took over coordinating the web designer, the graphic artist, and the set up of the email accounts. The client was out earning revenue. In the final month, we had a flurry of (good) new content. Right before the go-live date, I set up the social media accounts and social media sharing tools.

Be prepared to increase the time to cover staff changes. Think about how you will balance time demands from paying customers and your web work. Understand that the process of creating your website and working with others will change over time.

Can a Website Go Faster?

A website can be developed faster if you have previous experience or when you are migrating an existing business. If you are in the process of a business innovation or applying novel technology to your existing business you will need time (usually several months) to explore, edit, and change.

The fastest that I've taken a website from start to finish is 2 weeks. The website was 10 pages for a construction company. The work was to simplify and rewrite the existing topics, add biographies for the owners and load the pages into a template. The owners were keeping the business model the same and no online functions (no stores, no databases) were needed on their website.

Start Small for Speed

I recommend starting a new website with 5 pages. Add the additional pages and functions in phases after the core site is live. The steps in taking the most basic pages live (the About, Services or Products, and Home pages) is the most conservative way to build a website.

After the main website is live, most businesses find minor edits that they want to make based on feedback from colleagues. Using the input from outsiders is easier to do before the other functions are introduced into the website. Contrast editing a few pages of text to having to edit hundreds of items in an online store after you clarify your tag line!

Red spider lily in Seoul South Korea

Agencies Don't Prevent Delays

Using an agency does not shorten the duration of time from start to finish with your web design, copy, and coding.

A business should choose to use an agency when their company is mature enough that branding (not immediate income) is the priority. In my opinion, a business needs to be ready to spend $10,000 to $15,000 to start with an agency. Agencies don't just do websites. The website is only a small part of a good agency's services.

An agency works your overall business identity. The real work of an agency is creating the strategy for your brand. They define and plan where your business fits in your market, and how to place your business into your market (print, web, video, ads). The agency may even recommend changes to your signage, uniforms, and interiors (really!). A proper agency has a regular team (employees and contractors) for photography, graphics, web design, ads, analytics, print, signage, video, social media, and the list goes on. Some agencies will handle public relations, too.

Working with an agency is easier after your business has matured. Similar delays will happen when working with an agency. You will get busy with a client and want to delay an expensive exercise (like video production) until your people have the time to participate. And there may be some delays due to staff changes. But more so, you and your agency will take what you discover and work it across multiple "channels" such as public relations and print.

Efficiency through Preparation

Businesses can get a faster, more useful, and cost-controlled website by limiting the size of the website.

Speaking just for the copy, start with no more than 3 products or services, a home page, an about page and a contact page. Create focus and a small scope to prevent cost blowouts. Having a small first phase saves you from solving multiple problems at once.

Accept that the process of creating the website helps evolve the business. Choose your designer, coder, and writer and trust them to do the right work. Be prepared that their estimates are usually based on a best-case scenario and not all costs can be forecasted. Work the lessons you learn from their questions and recommendations back into your business plan. For example, note the time it would take your business to train a new employee to resize photos and update the blog.

Don't "cause costs." Be careful not to overmanage or limit their work before the work is complete as this can cause delays (including de-motivation and resistance to future updates). Since most websites have a 3-to-5-year lifespan, find peace of mind in the opportunity to grow and change the first launch of the website in the future. Don't fret over the first 5 pages being perfect on the first day.

 

Fossil shells at Seodaemun museum Seoul Korea

Time as a Cost and a Risk

Factor your unbillable costs into your decisions. Will the time you spend writing the copy yourself or editing the website prevent you from selling and servicing clients? Look at risks. Will the delays cause the copywriter (and contractors or employees) to leave the project because they need to earn income?

Be willing to accept good-copy, even when the message doesn't explain the details of the business. Taking the site live sooner, and smaller will save you money and get you earning money sooner. In fact, leave some of the detail out. A less-detailed site is less likely to contain fossils of old business offerings that you forgot to edit out. As your business earns money, refine and add detail to fit the services and products your customers are asking for and paying for.

Do I really need a website?

Red Dirt Workwear uses WordPress.com website

The answer is, “Yes, but …”

Do micro-businesses need a website? The answer is, “Yes, but …”

In this article I focus on when a fitness class, a niche startup, or sole trader consumer services need a website. I’ll talk about how to workarounds to custom websites that work, and why these websites work better.

Pauline from Red Dirt Workwear

Pauline runs and R&D company that was starting up the physical production of one of their innovative products (see https://reddirtworkwear.com.au). The product was going into market acceptance testing. She needed a few pages about her company, a page about the product, and a place to share product news.

Steps to a Simple Website

  1. WordPress.com hosted free website with a free template
  2. Purchase an “vanity domain” (custom web address)
  3. Pay WordPress.com to use the vanity domain

Why Use a Free Website

The plan included moving from the direct sales in the market acceptance phase and move into supplying the product to larger distributors. The website would have very few updates until the transition was complete and there was a chance of the brand being completely managed by a single distributor.

The social media pages were not used to sell or market the product. Rather the social media pages were used during the market acceptance testing to listen to and discuss industry activity that would shape the distribution phase of the product.

Advantages of Simple & Free

The advantages of having another online service host your company information, manage your event registrations, or advertise is that you do not need to maintain the technology.

Red Dirt Workwear news and blog

Spend Time or Money

Pauline spends about $42 per year. She only needs to pay her annual bills for her custom vanity domain and connecting it to her free site. She does not need to update the code or manage website security. If she does not visit her site, the website continues to run. If she stops paying her bills, the custom web address continues to run.

Time Priorities

The low-cost, self-sustaining website frees Pauline up to do hands-on research, meet with manufacturers and present her product to distributors. Her suppliers and buyers can validate her business and access her basic company information.

The disadvantage is her website template is used by hundreds of other WordPress.com users. She can spend more to buy a less used paid template from the WordPress.com store but cannot add in custom plugins.

Patty Rojo-Diaz, Zumba Instructor

Patty has been my Zumba fitness instructor for years. I’ve joined her workouts at gyms, community halls, and private dance studios. Does Patty’s business need a website? No, she doesn’t need a custom website. Yes, she needs to be found on websites!

Patty Rojo-Diaz Zumba.com Website

Multiple Websites & Online Services

  1. Zumba.com - the company running fitness certification
  2. Gym websites – each gym she works for promotes her classes and collects fees
  3. Facebook – not a website, but where most of her class activity is promoted
  4. EventBrite – used to sell tickets to Patty’s privately organized events
Patty Rojo-Diaz using EventBrite online ticketing

Franchise Requirements

Her Zumba certification requires her to maintain her class listings on the official Zumba.com website (see http://patriciarojo.zumba.com). Additionally, she works for multiple gyms and teaches her private classes. The gyms use their own websites to promote her classes at their facility, and each gym has their own form of receiving payment – either through memberships or fees collected at the door.

Patty Rojo-Diaz hosts Zumba Master Class

Advantages of Many Services

The advantages of accessing many systems is Patty does not need to have the technical knowledge or pay for coders to build and maintain new services for her. The different services have incentives to keep up with the latest mobile and social services.

Costs of Running Events

Patty pays $250 - $400 for large privately hosted events. Most of the costs are:

  1. Additional paid Facebook advertising
  2. Credit card processing and bank fees

Her online fees are instead of paying monthly rent for a studio and monthly merchant account fees to the bank. She can work from event to event, with no expenses during non-event months.

Disadvantages

The disadvantages are that she cannot easily do Google or Bing advertising, since she does not own the domains (web addresses) of the services she is using. And, she’s been so successful with this mix of many services, there is no driver to add outside search advertising at this time.

Cost of Doing Business

She works the online costs into her price per ticket. The costs for the credit card processing and bank fees are still less than if she paid the monthly fee for a merchant account with her bank. Her web page with Zumba.com is included and required with her Zumba instructor’s certification.

Yes, You Need a Website

In summary, yes you need a website.

But – you may not need to build a custom website. Look at how your situation shapes where you and your businesses are found on the web. Look at the typical lifetime of a website. Expect your website to be useful for 2 to 3 years with modest updates, such as adding news, listing class dates, or updating your address when you move.

Location, Location, Location

Depending on your certifications or locations, you may be listed on someone else’s website. And, you certainly should boost your connection with customers using formats they use, such as Facebook or a phone call.

Invite People to Call You

Your phone number is very important. A phone call is still the fastest way to validate your business and get information. Don’t forget to make yourself easy to reach. If you work for the local gym, you may be required to list the gym phone number, but on your personal web pages and social media, list your business phone number.

Need Help Writing Text?

If you are a small business and need help on writing your text, contact me at my Perth number (08) 9467-2663 or info@smk-writer.com

I write for engineering, construction, and technology businesses. The rate for writing single pages is $80 per page as of July 2016. I have a flat-rate and discounted rate for a set of pages in a short, fixed amount of time. (See all the hourly and flat-rate services.

My fellow writer, Penny West, writes for travel, retail, and consumer services. Penny quotes rates based on the complexity of the job.

Shauna McGee Kinney and Penny West - Perth Australia

Selling Stuff Online – What’s Fair in Australia?

Winter Lights Perth - interactive light show

What is Fair When Selling Stuff Online in Australia?

I am writing this article to help people who will be selling stuff online. This article discusses some options and the amount of time needed to prepare for selling stuff online in Australia. Over recent years, I have researched and written the office procedures for Australian businesses to sell, ship, and process returns. Writing procedures morphed into helping my clients draft the documents required for selling stuff online. The clients took these draft documents to an Australian lawyer to finalise before the clients opened an online store. I decided to formalise the research and draft writing as a service after working on my 4th project.

DIY Selling Stuff Online

You can take the do-it-yourself approach to online stores. Many stores like Shopify provide the store plus the templates for your Returns Policy, Complaints Policy, and Terms & Conditions. The catch is that these DIY templates are intentionally vague and generalise the policies. In many cases, you need to modify these templates to be specific to:

  • Drop-ship agreements with suppliers to ship directly to your customers
  • Your bank's credit card or PayPal's payment processing agreements
  • Your shipping, cargo or AusPost requirements if you are shipping from your facility

DIY Considerations

You can choose from a number of do-it-yourself sources that work with Australian law. What you need to consider before you commit to one of these services:

  • Can you commit 6-10 hours over 2-3 weeks to do reading and DIY writing?
  • If you have a question, how do you get help -- and how much does it cost?
  • After you have completed the DIY online store policies, where do you legally post the info?
  • Do you have a checklist of steps for each policy ensuring you meet the requirements?

If you get busy or overwhelmed by the amount of work required, know what your alternative options are.

Fire dancers at the Floating Islands in Seoul, South Korea

DIY Options

The DIY Australian services listed here include services I have not used. This list includes services that my clients have been satisfied with when they have written their own terms and conditions. Be prepared to pick up and put down the templates over 2 to 3 weeks. You will likely spend 6 to 10 hours finding information about your business, your payment system, and your shipper, even though you may be paying for service or using a form.

LegalVision - Australian templates with minimal instructions and a paid service if you get stuck or want the work done for you https://legalvision.com.au

LawLive - Australian templates with no explanation. You take the document you drafted to a lawyer of your choosing to get the final legal revisions. https://lawlive.com.au

Shopify - Register for an Australian online store and use wizards to generate your policies, and terms & conditions. Be careful! Do not register for the US or other countries because you will get the wrong templates. Take your documents to a lawyer of your choosing before taking the online store live. https://www.shopify.com/

Best Full Service Option

I feel the best full-service option is my lawyer, James Irving. He and I spent a year in a coworking space together. He was generous with sharing his knowledge and encouragement with me and my fellow businesses.

James Irving, Perth Lawyer
+61 8 6460 5460
http://irvinglaw.com.au/

James revised my Terms & Conditions and has worked with me on 3 other clients T&C projects. He's best because he's licensed to practice contract law in Western Australia, and he has experience working with online businesses. He's one of the better options if you have a novel online service (you aren't a stock-standard online store) or you have high-value items you are selling online.

I like working with James, because he cares about my understanding the legal topics we are working with. He saves me money and educates me in topics by emailing me information and links I can read on my own time about my questions.

About Online Contests

Online contests in Australia are bound by each state's lotteries and gaming commission. The retail value of the prize and how the prize is awarded (by a judged competition or drawing) change the requirements of your Terms & Conditions. Additionally, online fundraisers versus retail promotion activities require forms and proof of identity. I recommend Connor James' Permitz Group.

Permitz Group
http://www.permitzgroup.com.au/
(02) 8324 7406

His group is knowledgeable in the overlapping requirements when presenting these contests or fundraising on social media (like Facebook or Twitter).

 

Shauna McGee Kinney at Brighton Beach (Scarborough) Perth - Western Australia

Outsource the Research & Draft

Call me to outsource the research and draft writing for you. I have a flat-rate service for $480 (as of July 2016). The service includes 1 hour of James Irving's legal time that I have pre-purchase from him. 

I cannot give legal advice, so working with a lawyer ensures your online store promises and handles your sales, returns, and complaints within the current boundaries of the Australian law. 

James Irving and I happened upon this hybrid solution outsourcing the research & draft Terms & Conditions and Policies this past year. I spend about 6 hours over 2 to 3 weeks with the online store owner to find the details needed to complete the documents. I research and draft text for unique situations, say for an innovative business.

Why don't we just copy someone else's Terms & Conditions?

Even if we look at an established Australian company's Terms & Conditions, we still need to customise the actions to fit how your store operates, your bank, and your shipper. And, James finds many of these documents are out of date with current laws, especially recent changes at the ACCC. Finally, copying text is unethical. Understandably, a lawyer lets us know when the law requires a very exact set of words to be used.

South Perth viewed from Kings Park winter 2016

Time, Money, and Expertise

Weigh these options against your time and expertise. You will gain valuable experience by doing some of the work yourself, but you also increase the risk by doing your own documents. In contrast, you will reduce your risk and free up your time if you hire a reputable, reliable service to complete the legal documents for you.

Balance the time for these legal documents with the time you need. Give yourself a time and budget for the other parts of selling stuff online, like setting up your inventory and bookkeeping systems, preparing your graphics and online catalog, and setting up the marketing and advertising.

Call me for a free estimate - Perth (08) 9467-2663.

I also offer up to 30 minutes of discussion about issues that took up my clients' time on previous research and drafts. I cannot provide legal advice, but I am happy to point you to easy to read explanations to help you start your documents and chat with your lawyer.

Why Change My Trading Name?

SMK Writer logo Shauna McGee Kinney Writer

On 1 July 2016, I chose to change my trading name to my Australian trading name SMK Writer instead of using my PerthWrite brand.

Why did I change my trading name? This year I worked with James Irving a Perth lawyer on aligning my Terms & Conditions with Australian Law. He suggested to me that I use an easy-to-spell, easy-to-remember trading name closer to my legal business name. I'm a sole trader and my legal business name is also my given name. After some thought, I chose SMK Writer to be true to my sole trader business name, Shauna McGee Kinney.

Does a Web Address Matter?

A web address does matter. The PerthWrite.com and Perth-Write.com web addresses will redirect to my new SMK-Writer.com address. When I first chose my domain name, I was working with the early stages of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). The formula was to get some combination of location + industry to be easier to find in Google or Bing. As search engines have evolved, the need to have a literal domain name has become less important.

When does a domain name matter?

However, there is a time that a domain name matters. Australian banks and wholesalers have been requiring businesses to have a web address that matches their legal business name. The web address needs to be registered to the business and sometimes require the address to be registered to an address inside Australia. These requirements are to cut down on online fraud. For example, some Australian banks do not want to issue an IMF (Internet Merchant Facility) until they can match the address, ABN and owner of the website.

There were other reasons, too

There were other reasons to change my trading name and my web address. In 2015, I was hacked 3 times by infected sites that shared my web server with me. 2 of the 3 times, my site went down, the 3rd time, my site was infected with adware that was embedded at the shared-server admin level - a level I could not reach.

My final push, was when a fraudster in Ecuador started spoofing my email address. I was receiving virus attachments from me, to me. I hired Jimmy Huang to move my website to my own IP and secure my website. I setup my email security on my own (setting up SPF, DKIM and DMARC authentication is not easy). I manually requested my domain be removed from security software blacklists, but the damage was done.

Perth Phone Same and Different

I continue to serve my existing clients located in Perth whilst I'm in Seoul for the next year and a half. My fellow copywriter, Penny West, will be working closely with me to cover Australian writing deadlines. Look for me to return to Perth in a year and a half (January 2018) and for several trips in between.

Reach me at my Perth local number (08) 9467-2663 and your call will be forwarded to me -- at no extra charge to you. I am in GMT +9, similar to Darwin's time zone. My mobile number will be offline whilst I'm overseas. (The international mobile service rates are prohibitively expensive.) And, I am always available by email. 

And a new email address

My email is changing, too. My new email is info@smk-writer.com and I will continue to receive messages at the old email address. You will notice when I reply that the new email will be the reply-to address.

James Ashworth from Ashby's Web Design helped me with the final domain and website migration. I only trust my domain settings to a select few people - and James is the 1st of 2 people I would allow to edit my settings and change my databases.

The follow-on effect is new social media accounts. You will notice by August that many of my social media accounts are following suite. I've found that making a new social media page with the new domain is an easier, cleaner break, than trying to change the existing sites. This change hurts my "Klout score" and impact of social posts. I don't recommend starting over with new social media accounts for high-traffic sites. High-traffic sites should tough-out changing the old email to the new email.

What's Next?

The 2016-2017 fiscal year is underway, and I've returned the fixed-rate pricing for popular writing services. My clients mentioned they wanted the final product 'done and delivered.' The flat-rate price includes the cost of the services needed to get to the finished product. The most requested writing services that fit the flat-rate format have been added:

  • 5 Search Engine Optimised Web Pages
  • Drafting Terms & Conditions including 1 hour of WA Legal Review
  • 1 Double-Sided Flyer including Graphic Artist's Work

More information on the flat-rate and hourly writing services is available on my SMK Writer Pricing page.

Moving at Life-Speed

The Perth economy has been in a state of change. As our business and lives change, we need different types of services. Feel free to contact me with requests or suggestions. If I cannot assist you directly, I likely know someone who can. Introductions are always free.

 

5 Cost Controls for Outsourced Writing

2 lemons and a yellow plate

Feeling Squeezed Like a Lemon?

The real costs of outsourcing work, especially freelance writing work, is in the edits (revisions).

Both a client and a freelancer need to understand they share the risk of controlling cost. That risk comes with the responsibility to communicate and clarify expectations throughout a job (no matter how small.) Often the job is both squeezed for time and for money at the end, during the revisions.

Sweeten the Deal

What steps can be taken at each stage of the freelance job to sweeten the deal and control the cost? Communication and commitment at each step in the job makes

1. Samples

Cost risk: Engaging the wrong type of freelancer, or not knowing the realistic time needed for the work costs money.

The Writer: showcases a portfolio or produce a partial writing sample. The samples should include an explanation date ranges (but may not include cost).

The Client: reviews and accepts or rejects this Freelancer based on how the work will fit their needs and their timing. Only accept work that fits, not just Freelancers who do work.

2. Briefs

Cost risk: Developing a brief (a job description) costs time and money

The Writer: mocks up an ideal brief based on previous experience. The freelancer needs to follow up by voice or in-person to verify the brief has been approved (not just received).

The Client: reviews and accepts or modifies the brief. If the brief cannot be corrected, the job should be stopped. Revisions can rarely correct a bad brief.

3. Drafts

Cost risk: There isn’t enough time to review and edit drafts. Be clear about which party is going to edit and when

The Writer: does not accept a job that goes straight to publication, unless the job is at the end of a series of successful publications that went through draft

The Client: understands that some jobs need to be canceled when there is not enough time to draft and review work before publication

4. Revisions

The Cost: The work goes through too many revisions or the revisions are requested too close to the publication date

The Writer: Sets a deadline for when the revisions can be requested and states the limit of how many revisions can be requested before that deadline

The Client: Commits to the dates and plans to review the draft before the revision date. The revisions are organised and communicated in a single activity in writing, in-person or on the phone

5. Very Good Not Perfect

The Cost: The client or the freelancer wants to work to be a little bit better ending in an unhappy, unachievable cycle of small changes.

The Writer: Takes responsibility for using his or her talent to write at a level that fits the audience. The writer is responsible for choosing the simplicity or complexity of the topics, setting the readers' expectations and focusing the copy around an action or purpose.

The Client: Edits the copy for correct terminology, but resists the urge to rewrite the writer's work. In such a case where the Client is not satisfied with the focus or the purpose of the copy, the job should be canceled and the work to date paid.

Shenton Park Western Australia

A Special Note for Working with Agencies

The Writer needs to be prepared that “The Client” may be the combination an agency and an end-customer. All people involved need to be ready to discuss and harmonize their expectations.

Controlling costs with clear, short communication. In person is the most ideal for maintaining a strong project relationship. But where the in-person time adds cost, use video or phone. Follow up the video or phone with a short, bullet point email summarizing the dates and deliverables.

Controlling the costs does not mean the agency or the Writer needs to disclose their rates. Controlling costs means that the end-customer can push the Writer to deliver work beyond a lean budget. And, the Writer doesn’t have the right to stop working because he or she has reached the negotiated budget.

Starting with regular communication is the key to Controlling the Cost of outsourced writing. Setting the right expectations and being ready to accept the Writer's output prevent a cost blowout.

Thinking about your own industry, what do your clients do that cost them money? What tips from your experience can you add to the 5 steps for controlling costs?

20 Most Common Items in Terms & Conditions

20 common items in terms and conditions like field of pansies

Who Asks for Terms & Conditions?

Banks and third-party online services are asking for Terms & Conditions before allowing businesses to use their online services. Additionally, Terms & Conditions may be required for promotional giveaways or fundraisers. Here are some of the most common items in Terms & Conditions that my clients have needed to organize.

Source of Common Items in Terms and Conditions

Shauna McGee Kinney has worked for Perth-based ad agencies and their clients to prepare the information for online business, contests and fundraisers. The client takes this information to a lawyer to create a Terms & Conditions or Terms of Use document.

The 20 most common types of information requested by a lawyer when creating a Terms & Conditions documents fall roughly into 4 groups. If you have a novel product or innovative service, you can save yourself time by talking to a lawyer before starting. Inventive new products may require details beyond what is discussed here.

Business Information

Six business identity items typically collected for a lawyer:

1.) ABN and/or ACN

2.) GST status of the business

3.) Registered business address

4.) Names of legal owners of the business

5.) Email and phone numbers for customer service

6.) The 'WhoIs' identity of the domain name owner

20 common items in terms and conditions

Online Purchase Processes

Five online processes to research and summarise for your lawyer:

7.) The process a customer goes through to find and purchase your product or service

8.) The process a customer goes through to complain or request a refund

9.) Refund, cancellation and dispute resolution procedures

10.) A list of the products or services and prices

11.) List of marketing plans for discounts or promotions

online purchase process that one thing

Technical Information

Six technical points to discuss with the lawyer:

12.) Payment gateway and Internet Banking Facility security, fraud and privacy requirements

13.) Any special liability issues, e.g. for content posted by website visitors

14.) Third-party services’ privacy or security requirements you need to list and meet

15.) The software and plugins running your website, online store and security

16.) Users’ Internet connectivity, data usage, OS / mobile / software version requirements

17.) How your office staff access the data and where the data is stored

online purchase process like going down stairs

If You Are Running a Contest or Promotion

Three optional groups of contest or promotion details can be collected for your lawyer:

18.) Finding each Australian State Lotteries Commissions' forms & rules

19.) Organise the data required by the State Lotteries Commissions rules

20.) Notes on how the tool (social media, software or third-party service) effects how your contest is run

bright red crabs in a tank

Organise Your T&C Info

The above list is my opinion and not legal advice. This list of common items in Terms and Conditions is an editorial opinion based on her experience working with digital agencies, online businesses and lawyers. My list is reasonable preparation before you talk to your lawyer. In other words - you can save money by not paying your lawyer to do admin work. Use your lawyer's time for legal services!

Shauna McGee Kinney at Soyosan near Seoul, South Korea

Save Money & Save Time

Shauna provides a hybrid service helping you research and organise the common items in terms and conditions. She will work with you by phone and email to gather and write summaries of the common items you need for a Terms & Conditions document.

If you are an Australian business and don't have an attorney, Shauna recommends James Irving (http://irvinglaw.com.au/). James has helped several of Shauna’s Perth-based clients with their business law and personal legal services. Through Shauna, you can engage James for a fixed-price review of your T&Cs and other policies. He and I are streamlining the process and building a system to keep the time and costs down. Give Shauna a call or drop me an email for more information.

How Your Terms and Conditions Can Protect Your Business

Terms and conditions for sales and business - Shutterstock

Do your terms & conditions protect your business model and profits?

Do your terms & conditions protect your customers while supporting your business model and profits? Your Terms and Conditions (T&C) document is an important legal protection for your business. In Australia, an effective and professional T&C document is a key to growing a potential customer’s confidence. To ensure you meet your industry’s legal compliance requirements, it is best to ask a lawyer to help you finalise your T&C rather than simply use a generic document.

Optional Information

You can create clarity and trust with your customers by including details about shipping methods and delivery times, payment terms and your cancellation policy. Your lawyer can advise you on any rules that apply to your industry, product or type of buyer, such as:

  • The limitations of liability for potential claims by your customers
  • Including references to your privacy policy and data collection policy
  • Asserting copyright of your website content and the fair use of your ideas (intellectual property)
  • What to say about third-party services you use to manage email marketing, payments, subscriptions or collection of contact data

Clearly defining your liability is extremely important. Any dispute with a client that ends up in court will be very costly. It makes sense to set up clear rules about liability, and to restrict your liability as much as the law allows, before any dispute arises.

Confused terms and conditions (with a lifejacket) - Shutterstock

Additional Considerations

  • Australian Banks will ask to see your terms and conditions before granting you an Internet Merchant Facility (IMF)
  • We strongly recommend that you do not copy the T&C from another site. Your terms and conditions need to reflect your unique business

If you need more advice about terms and conditions for your online business or traditional business you can check out the Australian Consumer Law site. Doing your homework before meeting with your lawyer will save you time and money. Setting your customer’s expectations with your T&C gives your customer confidence to do business with you.

Your Terms and Conditions

Your terms and conditions may need to include the following details:

  • Clauses that help you comply with Australian Consumer Law
  • An explanation of how you will provide a refund, repair or replacement, if necessary
  • Details of any guarantees that you provide

Your lawyer can explain what you must offer your customers by law. And, your lawyer can help you choose how to handle details that are not strictly limited by law. You want to reach a good balance between protecting your company and doing the right thing by your customers.

Australian Privacy Act Cheat Sheet

Privacy Act and the cyber thief - Shutterstock

Could a breach of your customers’ data cheat you out of credibility and cost you thousands of dollars in fines? The two most important privacy issues you need to understand in Australia are:

  1. How to protect the privacy of your customers’ data
  2. How to secure your computer systems and software

Protecting Privacy is More than Publishing a Policy

Introduction from Shauna: My fellow writer, Penny West, has been researching Privacy Policies with me. She discovered that most of the Australian government cases are around issues of personal data not being properly protected. I urge your to not only prepare a data privacy policy, but to follow the steps to protect the data you collect from your customers. Back to Penny's article.

Your customers need to know their personal information and bank details are secure.
Publishing a clear Privacy Policy on your website builds confidence and trust. Find easy-to-understand information directly from the government on Australian Privacy Laws at:

Perth Australia with winter flowers in foreground

Information Security Checklist

The Privacy Act governs how businesses GATHER, STORE, USE and DISCLOSE the “PERSONAL INFORMATION” that they collect. It is great to have a privacy policy that complies with the law. You need to go beyond that and implement a security strategy that ensures faultless compliance. We recommend that your strategy should address these issues:

  1. Are your computer operating systems, browsers and anti-virus protections up-to-date?
  2. Do you have a risk management plan in case of a security breach where your customers’ details are accessed?
  3. If you have an e-commerce site do you have a valid https:// padlock icon?
  4. Do you retain sensitive information which requires a special level of security, such as customer credit card numbers and bank account details?
Penny West at Kings Park in Perth Western Australia

Going Beyond the Privacy Policy

Ensure your customers’ are confident with the privacy policy you publish. Follow through on the promises in your privacy policy:

 

  • Carefully consider which staff have access to your customers’ data
  • Train your staff where to store data and how to secure data
  • Avoid copying customer data to laptops or transportable storage devices, unless necessary

Relax with the peace of mind that you’ve covered your compliance obligations under the Australian Privacy Act. Protect your customers’ data by implementing good information security practices.

Get the big picture

SEO Keywords & DIY Copy

Time to DIY SEO copy - Perth sun clock

SEO Keywords are Your Topics

Is it your time to put SEO keywords into your web pages? 

The tricks to good DIY copy are to know which SEO keywords work in your industry and know where to put the keywords. The best place to learn about Search Engine Optimised copy and web pages are to look at larger companies. Find out how the professionals combine appropriate language with topics that buyers (consumers or leads) recognise.

Even if you do not plan to write your own SEO copy, having the knowledge of "on-page SEO" will prevent you from being taken by SEO scams.

The idea of SEO keywords have become more sophisticated over the years. If you place the words your customer uses into the correct locations in your web page, your page will be sorted into the correct categories. For those of us old enough to remember libraries with card catalogs, you are doing the same cataloging but in an online format.

Years ago, I saw an excellent example of on-page Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) on Westpac Bank's website. Look at how this Australian bank makes information on self managed super funds (self managed retirement investments) easy for an ideal customer to find.

Where to Put SEO Keywords

Before you start writing, use 1 to 3 of your SEO keywords in an outline. Find 1 to 2 pictures that fit your topic. Put your keywords into the:

  1. Web page title and subtitles (formatted as Heading 1 and Heading 2)
  2. First 1 to 5 sentences on your page
  3. In the URL (web address for your page)
  4. In the Meta Description (170 character summary of your page)
  5. In the file name of the pictures on your page 

Think about why your ideal customer buys from you. When he or she lands on your page, what do you ask for? Write phases, questions and sentences to:

  1. Explain why that ideal customer wants your product or service
  2. Asks him or her to take the next step to get your product or service (Call To Action or CTA)
  3. Provides 2 to 3 links to more information related to your product or service (internal links)

1. SEO Keyword in the Titles & 2. First Sentences

Format SEO keywords as headings

3. Web Address (URL) & 4. Summary (Meta Description)

Include SEO keywords in the URL and description

5. SEO Keyword in Image File Name

Add SEO keywords to image file names

Your Ideal Customer's Words

Choose keywords that your customer uses, even if the keywords are not accurate. If you are particularly bothered that your customer uses the wrong terminology, use this page as a chance to educate your customer. Using both the customer's words and your corrected words may help you get indexed for both terms.

Google and Bing are machines. They tend to pattern match starting with the most literal spellings (and misspellings). Take a look at the repeating words on Westpac's page

  • DIY Super
  • DIY SMSF
  • Self Managed Super Fund

Ideal customers are the people you gain the best business from. Either they are the most profitable type of customer, the quickest to buy your product or the highest volume of people you work with. If you have multiple types of ideal customers and they have different reasons why they buy from you - learn each group's "lingo" and "why." Choose the words and pictures that fit a single customer and write separate pages for other customers.

Asking a Customer for a Sale

Writing the SEO keywords too many times in the copy looks creepy or childish. Notice how Westpac's web page transitions between the reasons why a customer wants a SMSF, related topics like fees and gently asking the customer to buy?

Sit down with a thesaurus and pick action words. Start statements (not full sentences) with these verbs. Notice how the copy implies "you" before the verb? These are "Calls To Action" (referred to by marketers as CTA).

  • Self manage ...
  • Take control ...
  • Call us ...
  • Open a ...

Think about your ideal customer's next questions like, "How much does it cost?" Customers will likely want to know what their other options are or how to compare your product to other products. Use these questions to write supporting pages around these related topics.

The SEO keyword does not need to be embedded in your CTA or your supporting pages. In fact, you gain additional readers by setting up your related pages around SEO keywords that are not the focus of this page.

1. Your Ideal Customer's "Why"

Combine SEO keywords with the reader's why

2. Call to Action

Combine SEO keywords with a call to action

3. Sharing Related Information (Internal Links)

Include internal links to topics related to the SEO keywords
Scale of Cottesloe (Perth Australia) sundial

Learn SEO Copywriting

Many people can write the best copy for their own business. The SEO copywriting is not difficult, but parts of the work are detailed. You might wonder how to find your customer's keywords. Or, you might want to combine your SEO web pages with an advertisement or social media campaign.

There are lots of "experts" selling self-lead courses and instructor-led webinars. I recommend and online, instructor-led webinar. Here's why - most people don't finish the self-led courses and the interaction with the instructor helps motivate you. The instructor can customise explanations to fit your industry, too.

If you want to ensure you finish the self-led course, I urge you to partner up with 1-3 people and do the course together. Keep each other committed and accountable (like a Mastermind Group).

SEO Copywriting Courses

Copywriting Master Class
Online by Belinda Weaver
http://copywritematters.com/learn-copywriting-course/

ProBlogger Events
In-person in Australia
http://probloggerevents.com/

The Clever Copywriting School
Online by Kate Toon
http://www.copywritingschool.com.au/shop/the-clever-copywriting-school-membership/

Content Marketing Institute
Online by multiple instructors
http://www.contentmarketinguniversity.com/

Don't have time?

Don't have time to take a SEO copywriting course? Busy and need a few pages written with your SEO keywords?

Penny West

Recently published SEO writing for travel and consumer services. Also writes copy on Australian industrial and management topics. Penny has a worked with business development, HR and mining jobs.
Australia: +61 411 220 592 / (08) 6102 5141
http://au.linkedin.com/in/pennywest
http://SailingTravelBlog.com
penelopewest@yahoo.com.au

Liz Sonter

Agency copywriter who will introduce you to a full-service digital agency. Get Liz's on-page SEO combined with agency ads, landing pages, email marketing, blogs, graphics and code.
https://au.linkedin.com/in/elizabeth-sonter-9145686a
http://erasonter.wix.com/copywriter
erasonter@gmail.com

Shauna McGee Kinney

I write Search Engine Optimised web pages for engineering, construction and software companies. Work in collaboration with me, edit my SEO copy or ask me to train you to edit your existing website. My contact details are at the top right and bottom.