10 quick ways to improve your business writing skills

business writing 2

This week I was going to write about something completely different

It’s been a full-on week and I never quite got to write anything (hey, I’m only human, shit happens).

But Twitter threw me a curveball the other day that totally blew my mind (more about that later).

sara donaldson emoji mindblown

Now, I’ve been in the information business long enough to know that we can’t possibly know everything. We have to pick and choose our knowledge, which is why people tend to niche.

I know my stuff and you know yours.

Which is fundamental to business.

For instance, you may be an absolute genius on the bespoke hat scene but may not be confident in your writing, and I’m a brilliant writer but wouldn’t know where to start making a hat. So we make the perfect combination when we work together. You pay me to check out your brochures, website and marketing material (freeing up your time to make more gorgeous hats), and I make you look even more bloody marvellous than you already are (and I learn a little bit more about hats, so when we work together next we know each other and make it even more fabulous)

We can’t and shouldn’t know everything about everything.

I help businesses get their message across when they don’t know where to turn. I can edit and write for you but, honestly, it can be beneficial for you and your business if you to try to write something yourself if you have the time.

If you don’t have the time or inclination, get someone like me to do it for you (it will free up your time and allow you to do what you do best). But if you do have the time, there are ways you can help yourself write something for your business.

How to improve your business writing skills

  1. Make sure you know what you’re writing. Is it a web page, a flyer, brochure, an email, social media post? They’ll all need a different approach.
  2. Be clear about what you’re saying. Know in advance what you’re actually going to be writing about. Don’t waffle.
  3. Be clear about your audience. Who are you writing for? What is their level of knowledge of your business, product or industry? If in doubt use a persona and write for them in mind.
  4. Write a draft first. Don’t expect your first stab at it to be the finished article. Brainstorm on paper. Use bullet points and make sure you get everything down that you actually want to say. Then write it up properly using the bullet points as a guideline.
  5. Use the active rather than passive voice. For example, ‘it can be seen’ can be changed to ‘you can see’, ‘your requirements can be reviewed’ can be changed to ‘we will review your requirements’ and ‘we can be contacted on …’ can be changed to ‘contact us on …’
  6. Get rid of the dross. Seriously. If it’s not relevant, just get rid of it.
  7. Don’t write 15,000 words when 1,500 will do. There’s no need to pad your writing out just for the sake of it.
  8. Don’t use jargon unless you absolutely have to. If you’re writing for the general public don’t throw jargon at them – it will only either confuse them or hack them off. They will end up leaving your website, deleting your email or throwing your expensive brochure in the bin.
  9. Add a call to action. If you want your readers to do something, make it very clear what you want them to do. But don’t be cheesy about it. Don’t try and use clever wording, leave that to the experts.
  10. Proofread like a boss. Seriously. Proofread on screen. Change the font, font size and colour and proofread again. Print it off and proofread. Hire a proofreader. I cannot over emphasise the importance of proofreading your work.

If you follow these ten simple points you’re going to be able to improve your skills for those times when a professional writer, copyeditor or proofreader isn’t an option.

And what on Twitter got me in such a kerfuffle?

I found out about Aphantasia.

And realised that other people can actually see images in their heads.

If you have these head pictures it’s not news to you, but honestly I just found out that I’m actually a bit weird.

And I was a bit, ever so slightly bizarre, for me to find out that I can’t do what other people do.

Oh, well.

I did have a complete stranger come up to me today in the supermarket and say she ‘just had to tell me’ she ‘thought I was cool’ with my green hair and what I was wearing. Me. Cool. Ahh the poor deluded woman – but she did make my day 😊

Want to know more about Aphantasia? Here’s a rather good article (but I’d ignore the block test, that’s just stupid, I could do it with my eyes closed. oh, hang on, no I can’t!)

And this is the video that Twitter threw at me:

(c) AmyRightMeow
Go check out her other videos!

Oh, and my Call To Action?

If you haven’t got the time or inclination contact me and we’ll talk about your business writing needs and how I can help.

Personas for your business marketing (and a quick how-to or two)

You need to focus

They’re your perfect customer.

You want to talk to them.

You know it’s easier to talk to your one perfect customer than to talk to a whole room full of them, so it’s good to get the idea of Mr Perfect into your head. (I’m using Mister, but it could just as equally be Mrs, Miss, Ms or Mx.)

Knowing your ideal client also makes your information more relevant for your audience. Yes, I’m talking to you, the small business owner in the corner of the room who’s hiding from the rest of the folk because you feel like you’re an outsider. (By the way, you’re not an outsider, you’re perfectly fine.)

If you’ve done any kind of public speaking, you’ll know that in order to get your message across it can be good to concentrate on one person in the audience, right at the back so they don’t realise you’re focussing on them.

Basically, you want to get your message across to your perfect audience, but in order to do it you need a focus.

Personas are an important part of business planning. But they can be so much easier to create when you’re invested in them

You need a persona

In the business world, this perfect being is known as a persona, avatar, pen portrait or archetype, and it’s a big thing. Go look on Google (no, don’t bother, really, they’re everywhere) and you’ll see page after page of advice.

You’ll find downloadable sheets, images, cartoons and more advice than you can fling a stick at.

But I’ve found one problem with all this.

It’s bloody hard to imagine.

Yes, you know who your perfect customer should or could be, but how do you get that person in your head to feel like a real human being?

To create your perfect client persona, you need to dig deep into the kind of person you want to attract to your business. What are their likes, dislikes, things that make them go ‘meh’.

But sitting there with your pen, paper and business knowledge can still make it pretty difficult.

Two ways to build the perfect persona

I have two ways that you can figure out your own avatar that depends, really, on your aesthetic.

1. Use a D&D character sheet

The first is to use a D&D character sheet. Yes, that’s right. A Dungeons and Dragons character sheet.

Now, if you’ve never played D&D, or if you are one of those who pooh pooh it, perhaps it’s time to change your preconceptions. Dungeons and Dragons is not all about spotty, teenage boys in their parents’ basement, it’s a fabulous way to get your imagination working and is the perfect storytelling vehicle.

You can use it for creating a story around your persona, and could even, if you really wanted to, create D&D adventures that are business based. Less Dungeons & Dragons, more Shopping & Service Stories. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

But do play D&D at least once in your life, your imagination will thank you for it.

D&D character who can help you build your persona

So, there’s idea number 1. Use a D&D sheet to create your persona. You’ll find them online. Use a basic level sheet and don’t worry about some of the attributes (don’t worry about hit points and how good your persona is with a battleaxe, unless you’re talking about the mother-in-law).

Note down on the sheet all the character points of your perfect customer. Get a real feel for them and allow the creativity to really get that persona on the page.

2. Use a photo of a real person

The problem with using a cartoon or no image at all, is that it can be difficult to imagine your perfect customer.

Meet Frederick.

Handsome isn’t he?

Now I know what you’re thinking. He’s a bit stiff. A bit old school.

Well he can’t help it, he was around in the 1860s.

Seriously though, Frederick can help you.

I like to take old photos to help me, but you could equally take a modern day photo to provide the inspiration. But for me, because I collect old photos, there’s a mystery to the people that helps me dig deeper into their character.

Take a good look at old Freddy. He’s a bit nervous, look at his eyes, he just isn’t comfortable in that studio. He’s been told to stand still, so that’s just what he’s doing. He’s not what you’d call a rebel.

But he’s artistic. His clothing is that of someone of a more artistic, less formal nature than many gentlemen of his time. So not rebellious, but with an artistic heart.

His hand is resting on a top hat, which may or may not be a prop. But it’s a symbol of status. He’s got a pocket watch, with the chain just peeping out of his waistcoat pocket. His shoes are shiney and his trousers are a fashionable houndstooth. He’s not short of a bob or two.

And the photo was taken at Bethnal Green Road in London – this chap’s a member of the artisanal class that lived in the area in the 1850s and 1860s. Perhaps he had this photo taken as he was on his way up in the world and he wanted to share his good fortune.

it’s easier to talk to your one perfect customer than to talk to a whole room full of them

Where does this help you with your persona?

Well, by taking a photo of a real person you don’t know you can really dig down. That’s why I like old photos, you can really build a story around them. Brendon Urie did it wonderfully in his song ‘Golden Days’ on the 2016 album ‘Death of a Bachelor’. Go listen to it if you haven’t. He’s an amazing storyteller with his music.

If I were to use Frederick as my persona, I would know that he’s uncomfortable in formal situations, he’s on his way up and wants his friends to know. He likes the fashion of his own people and is an artistic soul. His parents are both living, and he wants them also to see that he’s doing well.

His sister, Agatha, is married to the local butcher, and his younger brother is still at school. He lives in a fashionable area and works hard to have a decent, comfortable standard of living, with a reasonable amount of disposable income.

He went to a local fashionable photographer because he doesn’t want to scrimp on the things that are important to him. He loves a fine artisan beer, his favourite meal is a good old-fashioned steak and ale pie, and he will fight to the death for the knobbly aniseed jellies in a bag of liquorice allsorts.

I could go on and really get to the heart of this persona.

But can you see where I’m coming from?

Use these props to get it right

Personas are an important part of business planning. But they can be so much easier to create when you’re invested in them. A good old D&D sheet or an antique photo can be used as props that can really get your imagination flowing.

Why not give it a try and see how your ideal customers come to life the next time you write for them.

Why should my business use a writer?

Why bother hiring a writer?

Writer, copywriter, copy writer, content writer.

Like editors, there are a fair few names for them.

There are subtle distinctions, like a copywriter usually focuses on marketing and advertising and a content writer usually focuses on content, such as blogs, ebooks and the like.

But if you’re not one, you might not know which term to use, or which one you need.

Don’t worry, copywriters are a friendly bunch and are there you help you.

Why should your business use a copywriter?

Why should your business use a copywriter?

If you have advertising and emails you’ll know how difficult it can be to write and sequence everything.

You have to get the words right, the tone right, the voice right and the branding right. Everything has to show your business in the best light. It just has to be ‘you’.

But being you takes time. Writing takes a lot of time.

Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s easy. It’s not.

Getting it wrong is easy. Getting it right takes time, skill and sometimes a lot of research.

By hiring a copywriter, you’ll be getting a fresh pair of eyes. Someone who can help you get your message out there, without the hassle of you doing it yourself. You can free up your precious time and get on with what you’re good at.

A copywriter can help you with your advertising, writing persuasive copy that can increase your revenue stream.

Why should your business use a content writer?

Why should your business use a content writer?

If you have a blog, or need to create white papers, brochures, flyers, ebooks etc. then a content writer is a good choice.

Like with your advertising, you have to get the words right, the tone right, the voice right and the branding right. Everything has to show your business in the best light. Again it just has to be ‘you’.

But being you takes time. And content writing takes a lot of time.

Again, it’s not easy.

Getting it right takes time, skill and research.

By hiring a content writer, as with hiring a copywriter, you’ll be getting a fresh pair of eyes. Someone who can help you get your message out there, freeing up your precious time and letting you get on with what you’re good at.

A content writer can increase your revenue stream by informing and educating your customers and employees.

Why bother hiring a writer?

So, why bother hiring a writer?

We’ve all been there. We have something that needs writing, so we’ll sit down with a pad and pen, or grab the laptop and start writing. You might ask other team members, or you might just get on with it.

Then, before you know it, half the day has gone and you have about 200 words, a lot of really fine doodles, eye strain and a headache.

And you don’t even know if the words are any good. You can’t ask Kevin in accounts because he really doesn’t have a clue, and Deirdre in reception just agrees with everything you say.

So you give it the once over, decide it’s fine and send it to the website, printer or pop it into the email account.

If you’re lucky no one comes back to tell you you’ve misspelled ‘your’, you’ve spelled your address wrong or you’ve repeated yourself a few times.

If you’re unlucky all hell breaks loose because you’ve got your facts wrong, the writing makes no sense or Alan comes through from the office to break your kneecaps because what you’ve written was a word-by-word retelling of the confidential story he was told by the chairman that needed to ‘go no further’.

You see. It really isn’t easy.

And there’s a middle ground. The one where nothing happens.

No one notices your writing.

The tumbleweed floats around the office and you’re getting no interest and no sales.

A writer can help you because they know what they’re doing.

When you hire a professional writer, you’re getting:

  • A fresh pair of eyes.
    We all know that you can become too close to your writing. You can miss spelling mistakes, repetitions, and things in the wrong place. You see what you think you’re going to see, and it can be so, so difficult to see what’s actually there on the page or screen. A professional copywriter or content writer is setting out with a clean slate. They will write to your brief, so will set out on the right track from the start.
  • The knowledge.
    A professional writer knows how to write. They know how to research, how to set out the page, what to write and what to leave out. They will work to the brief you give them, or if you really don’t know what you need they can talk to you and find out.
  • SEO.
    Search Engine Optimisation is a thing. It’s an ever changing monster that needs feeding the finest of morsels very gently. Gone are the days when you stuff all the keywords in and the search engines will be kind. These days you have to be clever, and a professional writer can help you.
  • Innocence.
    Ok, well, perhaps not. But they see things from the perspective of your customers and clients. A good copy or content writer will be able to work in the way your clients need. They can ditch the jargon that you take for granted and make sure all levels of customer understand what you’re getting at. They’re often going into this without the ingrained knowledge that can actually hinder your best attempts at getting it right.
  • Your time back.
    Don’t underestimate the value of your time. Outsourcing your writing is an excellent, cost effective way to get your business stuff written. Yes, it’s going to put a dent in your wallet, but it’ll be so worth it. You get a professionally written piece, and you get to carry on with your life while it’s happening. It’s no different from hiring a VA, or a receptionist, or another valued member of your team.

So, if you need to get something written, what are you going to do? You can take a few days or so out of your schedule and knock something out. It might be good.

Or you could save yourself time, headaches and overwhelm and hire a professional writer.

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