Introducing Maddy Osman
Maddy creates engaging content with SEO best practices for marketing thought leaders, and agencies that have their hands full with clients and projects. Maddy lives in Denver where she tells us she enjoys typical Denver stuff.
Liam: This is Hallway Chats, where we talk with some of the unique people in and around WordPress.
Tara: Together, we meet and chat with folks you may not know about in our community.
Liam: With our guests, we’ll explore stories of living – and of making a living with WordPress.
Tara: And now the conversation begins. This is episode 20.
Liam: Welcome to Hallway Chats. I’m Liam Dempsey.
Tara: And I’m Tara Claeys. Today we have with us Maddy Osman. Maddy lives in Denver where she tells us she enjoys typical Denver stuff. Perhaps she’ll tell us more about that later. When not doing fun Denver stuff, Maddy creates engaging content with SEO best practices for marketing thought leaders and agencies that have their handful with clients and projects.
Liam: Hey, Maddy.
Maddy: Hey there, how’s it going?
Tara: Hi, Maddy. Good to have you on. Tell us more about yourself?
Maddy: Alright. Well, I’m definitely a work hard sort of person but I do like to play hard too and expanding on the Denver stuff that I like to do, it’s kind of funny because I was never outdoorsy before moving here. But I have since accepted the whole, you know, hiking every weekend, skiing in the winter. I just bought my first set of skies, so now I don’t have to rent anymore. And yeah, that’s kind of the gist of what I do outside of work. I also love to read, I’m an audiobook fiend. But besides that, just drawing away and on the job every day.
Tara: What brought you to Denver?
Maddy: My boyfriend’s job changed and I’ve always freelanced. So he was given the opportunity to pick from a bunch of different west coast cities, and ultimately Denver seemed to fit both of our personalities really well. For example, I love that there’s a really awesome startup scene here. In fact, this week we’re doing Denver Startup Week. I went to a couple of sessions yesterday which was really cool. His job changed and we kind of saw it as an opportunity to explore the west and yeah, for me, it wasn’t a big change just because all my work has been remote. So far, we’re not sure if we will move back. Don’t tell my mom. [laughter]
Liam: Well, maybe she doesn’t listen to this show.
Maddy: Yeah, we’ll see.
Liam: Maddy, tell us a little bit about what you do workwise. You have mentioned SEO content and the like, but get into the specifics of that. What does that mean Monday through Friday for you?
Maddy: Sure. A lot of the work that I do fits into this sort of article writing category for different companies, they could be small to medium, and even large-sized companies. I work on either a project or retainer base. For the most part, it’s creating blog content for them but it could also be website copy or even email copy. Things along those lines. And every article that I write serves an SEO purpose, as far as the blog content that I create. For different businesses that are trying to get found in search by their ideal customers, then these things are important to those types of people or these companies. And WordPress fits into most of what I do because most of the clients that I work with use WordPress. I use WordPress for my own websites and I do some web development in my work as well, it’s just not as high quantity when it relates to the other work I do, I would say.
Liam: As a writer working in WordPress, what’s your writing flow? Do you write offline and then bring it into WordPress? Do you start writing in the editor? Have you already switched over to Gutenberg? Tell us a little bit about what you do WordPress-wise when it comes specifically to writing. We’ll talk about development in a bit but let’s talk about writing first.
Maddy: My process, it probably helps to start there, is that I outline my article first, just bullet points, subheadings. And then I go in and I write my draft, then I edit the draft and present it to the client, usually in Google Docs. Some clients then ask me put it on WordPress mostly because they want me to fill out things like Yoast and add categories, upload the pictures and things like that. It really depends on the client as much overruling they want on– what I’m trying to say is how much access they give me, I guess. Some of them just like to do it themselves. For the most part, I’m starting on Google Docs or Microsoft Word, some people like it delivered that way too. But I don’t tend to use the editor, and one of my issues is when I’m transferring the file over to WordPress, and the formatting breaks, which is really annoying. And there’s some workarounds that I’ve found for that but there’s definitely improvements that could be made. But with regards to the topic of Gutenberg, I just wrote an article for Webdesigner Depo about it and it was after attending WordPress Denver this year, where they had a keynote about the topic that’s called ‘A Future of WordPress’ and Gutenberg is the huge focus on that. I think it’s really interesting that they’re essentially trying with the approval of the community to create sort of a page editor that’s built in with, what it seems like will be, more of a distraction-free flow than the current visual editor. I guess I am cautiously curious about how it will work out when it’s actually shipped as part of the core. But again, in this keynote that I was watching, Zach Cats, who’s the guy who gave it, mentioned that with this specific type of page builder functionality, it would be like backward compatible where your blocks of code would turn into HTML if you decide to switch editors or whatever. Obviously, we don’t know what it’s going to look like completely.
Liam: Stand by for more, right.
Maddy: Right. But I think it’s definitely an interesting topic and something that I’m excited to see how it develops.
Tara: Yeah, it is. And I wonder if that really would change your flow in terms of starting in a Google Doc. You probably would still do that, even if you were using Gutenberg, I would think.
Maddy: It really depends on the client, honestly.
Tara: Yeah. There’s a Google extension that allows you to sync your Google Docs to your WordPress site, you have to have Jetpack installed for that to work, but it does work on websites, and it actually works pretty well. It brings your formatting, it brings your images, it does actually work. Do you do most of your writing directly for the clients or do you go through freelancers or agencies?
Maddy: Most of it’s direct. But what I have found is that working with agencies is a nice little extra income in-flow. Of course, it depends on how the agencies value writers and freelances because a lot of the times they’re looking for people on UpWork or content mill sites where they know that these people can deliver but it might not be the highest quality article. It depends on the agency, and for me, that means a lot of betting. But there are some agencies that I work with right now that white-label what I’m doing for them and it’s a great source of income for me. And I don’t have to do any of the client management stuff, which is really nice.
Tara: Right. Where does the SEO process– you’ve mentioned in your description, you included SEO in that and when you talked about your process. I’ve seen that comes in the beginning and do you do that work or does the client give you the keywords that they want? How do you integrate that?
Maddy: It works both ways. Sometimes they’ll give me a very detailed brief that includes keywords that they’ve already identified that they want to use. And even sometimes they’ll go as far as to say how they want the keywords implemented. Like, in subheadings, this many times, this many internal links, what have you. But for the most part, especially with the smaller businesses that I work with, it’s me doing the keyword research and then implementing them on on-page factors. In some cases, some of the smaller businesses that I work with also then ask me to help optimize their website because, ultimately, if this feed sucks, if it’s not mobile friendly, if there’s any major technical issues, then it doesn’t really matter what I write because it’s on a sinking ship. So it comes full circle most of the time when I’m working with these smaller businesses.
Liam: Can you talk a little bit about how you go about business development? How do you find clients? How do you find agencies and research them as whether or not they’d be a good fit for the kind of work that you want to do?
Maddy: Totally. It’s a mix, definitely, of a lot of different factors. Referrals have always been a very good source of business for me, whether it’s from friends or happy clients. Besides that, I do go to job boards and I’ll pitch for different writing opportunities, ProBlogger, for example, is a great one. Brian Scott’s freelance writing jobs is another one that I look at every day. He sents an email newsletter. But honestly, one of the things that’s been working out really well for me recently as I’ve started to write for higher quality publications with larger subscriber bases is, if I get a bylined article and they let me write my bio and I have a link back to my site or even my Twitter, a lot of people are coming in through inbound means. It’s nice that the job that I have allows me to write about the stuff that I’m interested in and kind of the work I do every day, which helps to identify me as an authority, as an expert, somebody that people trust, because then they just reach out to me directly. That hasn’t been a huge part of my business development efforts until more recently, but I’m starting to see an uptick and it’s really nice because then I can just focus on doing what I really like to do, which is writing.
Liam: Yeah, that ducktails very nicely into what you write about professionally, what you do professionally lends itself to that kind of business development. You were kind enough to tell us about the day job and what you do, and we haven’t really gotten into development just yet. Can you just spend a couple of minutes, if you will, and tell us a little bit about what kind of development you do and how you go about doing that?
Maddy: Sure. It’s nothing super complicated. I would consider myself to be more of a front-end developer than a back-end developer. Most of the WordPress sites that I create are– I would describe them as simple, sort of like five-paged, about, service, blog, home, contact, sort of things for small businesses. I would say, more or less customizing themes for them, giving them whatever functionality that they’re looking for. One thing that I’m kind of starting to get into that’s really interesting to me is e-commerce, and I haven’t done it as client work yet but recently launched an e-commerce store that basically ties in with Printful, which is a t-shirt dropshipping app site sort of thing. And it’s built on WordPress and Woocommerce. It’s something I’m still very much experimenting with and figuring out the ins and outs of how that all works. But for me, it’s something that I hoped to one day be able to offer clients based on my own experience. I’ve been playing with things, breaking things, fixing things.
Liam: Well, we’ll have to wait for your blog posts about that process. Let me ask you about your definition of success. How would you define success in either personal or professional, maybe even both?
Maddy: Sure. I would say a lot of people define success by money. And I don’t think that that’s necessarily a bad metric to define your success by, but I think instead of setting out to be a millionaire, billionaire, have ridiculous wads of cash. I think it’s more about having enough to do the things that you enjoy, and just being comfortable, being able to go out here and there for a nice dinner, or go on vacations that you worked so hard to earn. I would say, taking that one step further, really both from a personal and professional standpoint, it’s just doing the work that you love, doing things that make you happy, that make you want to get up in the morning, that you’re excited to do, that you’re not putting off or dreading Mondays, having to leave your weekend. I think with regards to that aspect, for sure, what I’m doing right now, I feel fulfilled in what I’m doing and I feel excited about the possibilities. And I don’t know if I’m exactly where I want to be yet, but I think I’m at least on the right track. For me, that gives me a sense of fulfilment.
Tara: How would you say, how did you find this path? It sounds like a great fit for you and I’m really glad to hear you’re fulfilled and that you have that great definition of success. Can you tell us a little bit about how you chose this and it seems like you made a good choice?
Maddy: Thank you. I would say a lot of it comes down to the support of my family. And even before that, my dad was an entrepreneur so he had never ever since I was alive, he had never had a traditional job because he created his company. And when I was younger, I would go to his office after school, I’d kind of talk to different employees, and that’s when I really developed my love of web design. I was kind of a nerdy kid. I needed a good hobby to keep me busy. People at his work would help me whenever I would get stuck on different concepts, whether that be with coding or even things like Photoshop. From there, it developed into a job in college that kind of cut me in a department that was very interesting. Not like the typical college job, which was more associated with working at a desk or working in food service or something like that. Once I got this job, a boss that I had at the job mentioned that he had a client that he didn’t have time to work with who needed web development help and he recommended me. I took on that project and I think it was then that I really saw that it was possible to work for myself and make money doing it. And the fact that I had this client who was happy with what I did, who paid me. I was like, “I could do this again.” I eventually graduated school and I had two jobs that were in sales, I always saw them as my foot in the door for a marketing job that just never came. And I, call it being an annoying millennial or whatever, but I just couldn’t wait for that job to happen. Life’s too short. It’s just like, you only have so many years on this earth. I mean, I could die tomorrow, but if I did, I think I would be happy that I took this path and just gave it a try. I think that there’s a lot of people who feel that way. And I hope that they can learn from a story like mine and just, obviously, don’t just up and quit your job, make a plan, but know that you can do it. It’s totally possible. If you have skills, make use of them. If you want to learn something, tons of resources out there. This got really motivational but– [laughs]
Liam: Yeah, I love it. Your definition of successes includes a focus on finding a way to do work that you love and to build that in a way that enables you to get out and do all that fun Denver stuff with the resources that you need to do so, right? Walking up the mountain’s a little bit tough, right? It’s better to buy a Lyft ticket. Within that, what is the single most important thing you do every day to continue to achieve that success?
Maddy: Sure. I think for a lot of people in the WordPress community, you’re a freelancer, you’re working from home, and it can be very difficult to build those habits of self-policing yourself to actually do the work and do it on time, give yourself enough time to do it really well. I think that one of my habits that really helps – I can demonstrate it here – is that I write out my to-do list. I try to write the whole week in advance but I at least do a day in advance. And I kind of add to that throughout the week with different things that come up inevitably throughout the course of the week. But just kind of knowing what to expect the next day and are there any missing elements that I can take care of tonight, have somebody help me with, or anything like that.
Liam: So being organized and methodical in your approach?
Maddy: Right, being organized and having that mindset of knowing what’s next is very helpful.
Liam: Yeah, that’s helpful. It takes away some of the fear in the guesswork if we know. You mentioned the WordPress community, and let’s just circle back to that. We kind of skipped over it today. Tell us a little bit how you first heard about the WordPress community and how you got involved with it and how you stay involved?
Maddy: Sure. It comes back again to that college job, and my boss at the time was obsessed with this CMS called Silverstripe, which is like an Australian CMS, I don’t know. But eventually different clients had different needs and Silverstripe didn’t work for everybody, so we also experimented with Joomla and Drupal, and eventually, WordPress became a part of that mix. When I coded that first very simple WordPress site, that’s where it all kind of came together for me. I knew this was my CMS. It was so much easier to use than Silverstripe and the other ones too. But as far as staying in touch with the WordPress community, when I moved to Chicago as more of a full-time residence in the suburbs, I eventually got involved with some individuals who were part of the WordPress community in different little events. And then eventually, as a part of WordCamp Chicago, I spoke there, it was really cool, but then shortly after I moved to Denver where I kind of had to rebuild my network, my local business connections. Eventually, what ended up happening was I reached out to the people who were organizing WordCamp Denver. As it turned out, they needed some help with organizing. I got involved with them in terms of just helping them make sure that the website content was up to date, speakers, announcements, tickets, stuff like that. And then also, eventually, pitched a speaking session and did that this year.
Liam: Excellent, that’s awesome. That’s super awesome.
Maddy: Those were the main ways, I would say.
Tara: Congratulations. I follow you on Twitter and I’ve seen a lot of activity out there so that’s great.
Maddy: I’m a busy bee on Twitter.
Tara: Yeah. How do you find the speaking experience? Is that something that you have studied how to do that? Because I know that’s a whole another area of expertise, something else to learn how to do, especially if you’re a coder or a writer. Standing up in front of people and speaking is a whole different thing. How have you found that to be?
Maddy: Well, I’m kind of weird in terms of being a coder, being a writer, and being a very loud person in general. For me, of course, the first time is scary as hell, and you go too fast, you stumble on your words, you want to die, all those things. But I’ve found that by just trying to do it regularly, both seeking out opportunities and having opportunities brought in front of me, I just never say no, I just always if I can do it I will. That part of what I’m doing helps align credibility to myself, which is one of the main reasons why I do it, is most of the speaking gigs that I’ve taken have not been paid. Especially WordCamps, they’re not for profit sort of events. All organized and spoken by volunteers. But all that said, some of my more recent involvements have landed me paid gigs, and I’m hoping it’s the beginning of a trend because that would be an exciting new thing to add to my business.
Tara: Absolutely. I’d like to ask you a little bit about your writing. I’m curious. Not being a writer but working with writers and knowing the kind of things you do for blogs, I would imagine there’s a wide variety of topics that you cover and that you have to write about. Just curious if you want to share with us maybe some of the most interesting things that you’ve written about or how you enjoy and approach that process? I know I had a writer at work for me for a blog for a hair salon and they had to learn about a certain hair coloring technique, and then the next week they were writing about concrete. Talk about that a little bit?
Maddy: It’s definitely interesting as a writer when different types of businesses come forward asking for help. For example, I’m creating content right now for a custom padio company that does things like building firepits and outdoor kitchens and patios, obviously. It’s like, obviously, that’s not something I have experience in but I just try to become the student of the internet and look at competitors for kind of, how they’re presenting that information, what are the most important things to present, digging a little bit into the industry and just searching different concepts and trying to pick things out from there. Sometimes, it’s just interviewing with a client and saying, “I know this, this, and this, but can you fill in the gaps about this and what are the most important things about that? What would somebody want to know about this to make a decision? What are the major selling points?” Things like that. As far as topics that I write about, WordPress is one that’s becoming really big for me. I write for WPMU DEV, I’ve been writing for Pagely, and then one of my newer clients is GoDaddy in terms of the WordPress type of subject matter. Digital marketing is huge and I think, in some way, there’s overlap between the WordPress and digital marketing topics I talk about. What else? Freelancing is another one that’s really fun for me to write. There’s not always a whole lot of money in writing about it, which is kind of just typical of freelancing in general, but one that I really love to share my experience on. I’m always looking for new opportunities, especially in those top three categories.
Liam: That’s certainly a wide range of topics. That makes it fun though, doesn’t it?
Maddy: It does.
Liam: Having that diversity. Let me ask you this then. I’m going to change it up a little bit here. What is the single most valuable piece of advice, personal or professional, maybe both, that you’ve received and incorporated into your life?
Maddy: Uh, that’s a good one. One of my best friends once told me, “He who swears first loses.” Whenever you get into a fight with someone, try to curve your mouth, especially if you want to win that battle, even if it doesn’t seem like you want it. [laughter]
Liam: That’s hilarious.
Tara: Oh my goodness, I’m trying to think about whether I would lose all the time or not. [laughter] I’m not sure.
Maddy: I mean, if they swear first, then you’re allowed to swear after that but you don’t want to be the first one. And you also don’t want to get the last word in the fight because you want people to be thinking about what you would be saying. If you were to respond and just waiting indefinitely for that answer that never comes. Mind trick.
Tara: How would you say that applies to your professional life, that advice? Do you find yourself often in the situation where you want to have the last word?
Maddy: Do I want to swear at people? Going back to freelancing, every once in a while you have a client who doesn’t want to pay their invoices and I’ve been very blessed in that that hasn’t happened too often, I could probably count on one hand where there have been situations where people just have not paid their bills, and usually for one blog which I can probably spin and turn around for another client. But in situations like that, I very much would like to just lose my head at them and publicly shame them and just give them a piece of my mind. But I know that ultimately that’s not a good business practice. I think most of the time when people complain it reflects more badly on them than whoever they’re complaining about. Yeah, things like that I try to keep in mind whenever I’m about to lose it over a situation because it’s not worth my business, it’s not worth my reputation. Even if it feels good, I’d rather just let other person mouth off if they want to.
Liam: That mantra is really about maintaining control, isn’t it? Being mindful of what we say, and when we say it, and how we say it. It’s a funny way to say it, I like it a lot but being mindful is a great way to go about it. We have just a few minutes left and I want to circle back about writing because I actually am a writer and I do a lot for our clients. If you start in an offline mode like a Google Doc or a Word Doc, how do you deal with SEO type of things like Yoast, which just provides really nice checklist? And then, do you ever get into the, “Well, I wrote it this way, then it popped and then I had to make a number of edits for SEO.” How do you work that?
Maddy: I think it comes down to having sort of an internal checklist of what on-page elements I’m trying to optimize for. And, really, in the outline stage, I’m including the– both within the outline itself and at the bottom of the outline, I’m listing out what internal links I want to include and figuring out how I’m going to write that in the natural way, what external links I want to use for sources and credibility. I put the keyword at the top of the document for easy reference, and then just keep track of how many times I’m using it, is it in the subheader, have I weaved that into the title in a compelling way. Sometimes through some clients, it’s a matter of writing out the meta title and the meta description on that Google Doc so they can just plug and play NTOs.
Liam: That’s pretty comprehensive.
Maddy: Yeah. For the most part, by the time I’m putting it into WordPress, I’ve pretty much finished that process and Yoast is just my double checklist basically.
Liam: Exactly. Maddy, thank you so much for your time and insight today. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Before we let you got and say goodbye to you, tell us where people can find you and connect with you online?
Maddy: Sure. Most active on Twitter as far as social media goes, which is @maddyosman, website and portfolio is The-blogsmith.com, and if you want to check out my new tank top t-shirt dropshipping project it’s, Tanksthatgetaround.com.
Tara: That sounds great.
Maddy: Check it out.
Liam: Tanks that get around. Suitable for wearing in all sorts of fun outdoor Denver activities.
Tara: Very cool.
Liam: Thanks, Maddy, it was a real pleasure to meet you.
Tara: Thank you so much.
Maddy: Thank you, likewise.
Tara: Take care.
Liam: Thanks for the listening to the show. We sure hope you enjoyed it much as we did.
Tara: If you like what we’re doing here – meeting new people in our WordPress community – we invite you to tell others about it. We’re on iTunes and at hallwaychats.com.
Liam: Better yet, ask your WordPress friends and colleagues to join us on the show. Encourage them to complete the “Be on the show” form on our site, to tell us about themselves.