The Professional Writer

I have been covering the different mindsets necessary for successful activity, first on Paul Davis Solutions, then covering how marketing needs to be as an amateur on Pivotal Marketing Services.

Today, I want to talk about how to build a career through professional end results. No employee, customer or fan is interested in you if you look professional and produce amateur.

As a professional writer, what I look like doesn’t often matter. What you look like doesn’t matter. All that matters are the results: does your writing communicate to your audience and produce desired results?

For some writers, your content needs to convince someone to do something; you are copywriting. For others, your content needs to entertain someone for a period of several hours; congratulations, you are an author. For some, your content needs to educate, entertain, and nurture readers along a journey towards a decision point; you are doing content marketing.

The Professional Writer

In the professional mindset, you analyze your process and your results to look for improvement. This mindset, characterized by Booker T. Washington in Up From Slavery as a “Yankee” woman who “wanted everything kept clean about her, that she wanted things done promptly and systematically, and that at the bottom of everything she wanted absolute honesty and frankness. Nothing must be sloven or slipshod; every door, every fence, must be kept in repair. “

To approach your work as a professional, you need to understand fundamentals of grammar and voice, even if you choose not to use them. I have read many sales pieces with purposeful typos that get people to comment on the ad and introduce a conversation with the business owner.

A professional makes even their mistakes serve a purpose.

Having a professional mindset in writing means that you take time to understand your audience: their voice, their tone, their desired language style and reading medium.

Understanding Your Audience

When people first started writing blogs, they were written as web logs or journals. The first bloggers were mainly talking to themselves and people who identified with the blogger followed them. This is one way to find an audience. If you write to yourself, you will gather like-minded people around your writing.

For most professional writers, we are looking to speak to a specific audience. When you are writing to a specific group of people, you edit your writing, hone your voice, and research your audience (in the reverse order of what I just wrote).

Research Your Audience

If you are writing a fantasy novel, do you read fantasy novels? Have you been to a fantasy convention or even held your own book groups in your home town?

You don’t have to be a member of your audience before you start writing to them, but you will be a member of the audience by the time you have a professionally written product to give to the world.

I know more about IT security services and infrastructure now then I ever wanted to know, being rather laissez faire about the whole idea. But, I have written for many security clients, and to do it I have to think a little like my clients, and a little like their audience.

This is research: learning to think like the person you want to read your content.

Hone Your Voice

One thing I love about ghostwriting so much is it teaches me to change my voice depending on who I am writing for. From that practice, I am now creating 3 different website platforms with 3 unique voices for my 3 audiences. As a professional writer, you need to hone your voice by listening to your audience, practicing writing, and listening to them again.

Edit for Your Audience

Research plus practice means you will be able to edit your pieces to be ideal for your audience.

I need to make a clarification here: the professional mindset in editing only rarely seeks perfect grammatical and error-free writing.

Hop in any online networking group and you are going to see gems of writing like the following: “Did anybot got theirs reenabled and how?”

Surprisingly, it took me 5 minutes on my FB newsfeed to find that gem.

People speak differently to their parents than they do to their friends, your inner circle friends use words that your general peers do not.

This is how people communicate and build relationships. So as a professional writer, your job is to edit your written speech so that it communicates to a specific audience in a way that they relate to a message that you or your clients desire to say.

It’s a complicated job, but somebody’s got to do it. And trust me, there is no danger of automation truly taking away a writer’s job.

Quality Control

The final issue to talk about in the professional mindset is quality control. As a writer, we have to analyze our writing and hone it to be better, to speak clearer, to engage more.

The professional mindset is all about managing your time as efficiently as possible to provide the best quality you can for the value you are charging.

In the mindset of a professional writer, your quality control needs to be consistent and standardized. I will write more on some practical aspects of this later.

So, to have a professional mindset in writing that will advance your career, you need to research your audience, practice writing in the best way to communicate to them, and develop a quality control process to ensure your writing is doing what it needs to do.

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SBR: Becoming

I love memoirs. They challenge me to see the world from someone else’s point of view, to understand a new way of doing things or thinking.

So, when I saw a copy of Michelle Obama’s Becomingat a friends house, I decided to pick it up for the next Saturday Book Review. Politically, I am about as far from President Obama’s administration as you could be. But, a significant reason for reading a memoir like this is to see from someone else’s point of view.

Becomingis a well-written book with insight into the family life of the family of the 44th President of the United States and to much of the periphery of their leadership.

It is also the story of how an African-American from south Chicago met a Kenyan-American from Hawaii and his charm, charisma, and passion for the political process led them both to become our first black Presidential family.

Leadership Lessons Learned

Sometimes We Have to Be Comfortable in the Supporting Role

Michelle Obama had to balance the life of a Princeton and Harvard educated lawyer with a career of her own with the life of the primary household and child manager for the years that Barack was in office.

This is a key lesson that I think anyone looking to grow in life should learn: designating one parent as the at-home parent is key for most larger than life goals.

Yes, Michelle is a strong woman. Yes, she has her own career. But, no, she is not able to have an independent career and remain married to the President of the United States. This isn’t a gender thing, it’s the fact that some positions require so much energy that the entire family gets behind it, even if one member is the figurehead.

The Supporting Role Can Be More Meaningful

After Donald Trump became President, he worked to undo much of President Obama’s signature legislative legacy and executive policies. I was struck while reading Becoming  that some of Michelle Obama’s silent work on the side is more likely to survive partisan pruning.

Will the White House’s Vegetable Garden remain?

Longer than the Iranian nuclear treaty.

Michelle was the First Lady of the United States and she never expressed the desire for power that Hillary Clinton was known for in Bill Clinton’s presidency. But, her quiet determination to do something for America’s children had a measurable and long-term impact in both legislative and private processes.

Be Confident

One of the things that attracted Michelle to Barack was the ease of movement that he had, he always portrayed a sense of confidence. Agree or disagree with him on policy, only a reactionary jerk would say that President Obama did not hold himself with presidential decorum.

If you are going to build a business, advance your career, or run for the most powerful position on the planet, you need to show the world a calm confidence in what you do.

Don’t Give Power to Naysayers

Michelle talks about the pain of being a target for conservative media; being a leader in politics today means that your opponents will throw everything at you.

But, she mentions how the goals and worldview they had going in as a couple were the same as when they left. She also talks about how Obama kept an even keel when hurtful coverage threatened to capsize her.

If you want to be in leadership, understand that naysayers will attack you, no matter what.

Read Lots of Books

One story that really stood out to me was when Michelle mentioned that Barack had to have a room where he could spread out his reading materials.

When they were first friends and she tried setting him up with friends at a happy hour, Barack was annoyed because of the chit-chat. He would rather read a book then talk about the social ladder of Chicago urbanites.

This is now my favorite thing about President Obama, and if I ever were to meet him, the first question I would ask is what is the best book he has read recently.

Understanding The Other

It was interesting to read about a politician who I mostly disagreed with from the viewpoint of his biggest fan. It was also interesting to see the comments Michelle made in the book about the other side in American politics.

If you have lived under a rock as far as social media, news, and modern politics, you might have missed the fact that America is deeply divided. As a conservative constitutionalist-libertarianish-almost-anarchist biblically-submitted white boy from a lower income family in rural Idaho, I tend to fall pretty heavily on the “other side” from the Obamas.

That’s why I love true reading.

Reading gives you a viewpoint you might never have. I am 100% certain that I will never ask the Obamas what they thought about the racism of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, even if I met them.

Why am I so confident?

Because Michelle talked about how a news media put together a timeline of racist sermons and it struck them to see from an outsiders point of view. Everybody puts up with their crazy uncle unless it’s someone else’s crazy uncle.

When I read her comments on that, I put the book down and cried. Why? Because I have felt judged because of my race and never before have I even heard someone acknowledge that my feelings are OK to have. Michelle Obama did in her acknowledgement that some of Rev. Wright’s speeches are vitriolic and racist.

valso helped me understand where I consumed news content, and probably shared, that was not political discourse but prejudiced crap.

Understanding the other requires that we listen, and books are one of the best ways to listen, and take the time to truly see where we can come together and where our disagreements can be made with politeness but firmness.

Understanding the other requires that we don’t give up our principles, but relish the discussion.

Whether you loved the Obamas and want a fun look back at their ascendency and time in office or you think almost all of Obama’s laws should be repealed, I highly recommend that you read this book, apply some of President Obama’s habits to your own public presence, and engage in the process of Becoming.

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SBR – Jack: Straight from the Gut

Jack: Straight from the Gut is the memoir of Jack Welch, the CEO of the General Electric Corporation from 1981 to 2001. During his tenure as CEO, General Electric was included in the 1990’s business book Built to Last as a visionary company.

5 Lessons I Learned from Jack

Jack Welch had an amazing career in a period of intense change. When he started his career at GE, it was at the tail end of the Mad Men years, in 1960.

His first break came as a leader for a small plastics research team in GE. His team was able to drastically improve the quality of GE’s plastics manufacturing and keep them competitive in a technological revolution many people do not know happened. The advancements in plastics that have happened since 1960 are incredible, and Jack Welch was at the forefront of the research for it when he started his career.

Be Willing to Experiment

The first lesson I learned from Jack Welch’s autobiography was that we need to embrace learning while realizing that principles continue working even in major technological shifts. Jack Welch was so frustrated with the bureaucracy at GE when he started that he nearly quit.

It was only the intervention of a manager over him who ensured that he would have freedom to work and experiment that convinced him to stay at GE.

When he was the CEO, he kept an agile focus even while growing one of the largest corporations in the world.

Business Leaders Build People

The second lesson I learned from Jack:Straight from the Gut was that to be a great business leader, you have to focus your creativity in building people and culture. Although he received bad press in the 1980’s for hundreds of thousands of layoffs, the book really communicated that he did not want to do layoffs but saw it as the only way to keep GE competitive and enable better paying jobs.

Throughout the entire book, he discussed the people that he worked with, the people he promoted, the people who left GE to lead other companies. Another issue, that I disagree with him on, was his review and reward process. He fired the bottom 10% of managers in every business in GE every year!

Even though he made choices many people do not agree with, I found it very educational to read how the choices impacted the culture of GE during his 20 years as chairman. I was also interested to discover how much the culture he built impacted growth in manufacturing, expanding into services, and globalization.

The Importance of Family

I always read biographies of rich or famous people with an eye towards their families. It is incredibly difficult to be successful at work and successful in your family. Although this book was mostly about his time as CEO at GE, there was some information about how his lower income mom and dad impacted him, especially how his mother gave him a competitive spirit.

Also, he talked briefly about his divorce from his first wife and subsequent remarriage. He mentioned that when he got remarried he purposefully looked for a woman who would be able to spend time with him in traditional business settings like golf. I think this is a key part of any type of leadership and familial success. Bring your family with you.

Think Long Term

This book focused on the period of Jack’s life from 1960, when he started at GE until he retired in 2001, 41 years. During that time, he built businesses within the company, patented new technologies, succeeded one president and brought in another to replace himself.

He oversaw the growth of GE capital, the globalization of the company and using quality control to keep competitive in a more competitive world. It is so easy for people starting a business or career in the fast-paced online world and we forget that the most successful people always take time to build culture, to cultivate the process, and to become experts in what they do.

Careers are Not That Bad

If you have ever read or heard about Robert Kiyosaki’s Cash-Flow Quadrant, you have probably heard that you want to be an investor or business owner in order to be wealthy.

Jack Welch spent his entire life as an employee. He had to learn how to balance career and family life, he had to learn how to manage people and time. And, at the end of that amazing career, he retired with 100’s of millions of dollars.

You don’t have to be a business owner to retire with incredible wealth in this country, and that was one of the inspiring things I read in the book.

Jack, In Conclusion

Although you can read some of the heated debates that have and continue to surround this man, his autobiography is an interesting look at one of America’s most memorable careers. It is highly worth reading if you are interested in leadership, in building a business, or in the history of American business.

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Work as a Creative? Make Sure to Use Your Timer

We creatives really don’t like clocks. They often cause stress and make us feel like we are not accomplishing anything when we have actually done bucketloads of work.

So, why is this creative writer and marketer telling other creatives to use a timer at their work?

Why You Should Use Your Timer

This is specifically for people who work as creatives. If you are taking an evening to paint for yourself, ditch any semblance of a time-tracker before heading to the studio. But, when we work, we always need to mix up the fun stuff, the creativity and the engagement of our emotions with the mundane.

If I never send invoices, I don’t get paid.

That emotion is worse than any clock.

Seriously. Because we would rather be writing, creating a world in our favorite digital sandbox, or modeling real clay on a wheel, we need to use timers to ensure that we have full creative license for a period of time.

For this article, I am writing it in 15 minutes.

Why?

Partly because of the challenge the clock gives me. But, the bigger reason is I am tutoring a student on SAT prep in one hour. I have to finish discussions with a potential client, and attempt to do several other creative things in the meantime.

Do Everything, So You Can Stop Everything But

If we do not give ourselves breaks and PAT time (look it up if you want a study in classroom management), then we either never create (tolling the death knell for a creative) or never get clients to pay us (a death knell for anyone).

So, whether you write for yourself or for someone else, get comfortable with creating the time for you to create. And if that really stresses you out, make certain you take time during the day to stop everything but ….

If you love reading, get your work done for the day and then stop everything but reading.

If you are a game designer or tester, get your work done for the day, take some time to engage with physical people, and then… stop everything but the game you have been wanting to play.

During your required work, give yourself time for creative tasks by using a timer. Look up the urgent/important quadrant for a good idea of what is required if you work for yourself.

I had 15 minutes to write this blog, and did it in 12. Now I will edit, publish, and have a 3 minute celebration that I beat the clock!

Now, go write, paint, draw, create something.

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Why You Should Avoid Pay-Up-Front Job Listing Sites

You decide to start a business or work for yourself. Immediately thereafter, you realize that you have no idea how you are going to get enough clients to pay your bills every day.

Welcome to the world of working for yourself. It is scary, but millions of people wake up every day and face the same questions; and, face them, they do. You can approach the need for clients as well, and you will often have to pay to get your business in front of them.

I have paid up front for leads from multiple sites and venues. I have also elucidated leads from thin air around me via the hot-sweat inducing practice of cold-calling.

So, why do I tell people to avoid pay-up-front job listing sites?

Avoid Pay-Up-Front Job Listing Sites

First off, let me say what I mean by pay-up-front freelance sites: a pay-up-front site is one that requires you pay them a certain amount of fees before you ever see the leads they will be bringing in. A site that sends you a Black Friday sale saying that they have 8,000 jobs being posted in the next two weeks but you can’t see them unless you pay 6 easy payments of $97 is a pay-up-front site.

Although these sites are often legitimate, anyone who is starting out in this business should never do them.

Why am I so adamant?

Because a newbie is as a newbie does. I think Forrest Gump said something like that…

Free First, Then Pay

There are many great sites that deliver leads to freelancers. These sites have free options to try them out, see potential jobs, and apply. Some, like Bark will require that you pay before you submit the application. Thumbtack used to require that, but now you only pay when someone responds to your application or reaches out to you via your profile.

Other sites I recommend, like Upwork or Freelancer both have a certain number of applications you can do each month for free, but take a certain percentage out of your income when you do land a client. They also have paid subscriptions if you run out of your free applications.

Even though these are often more expensive in the long run, I still recommend that beginning online freelancers start with the free to enter sites.

Why?

Because you pay for practice, not for opportunities.

The first time you apply for work, you have no idea what you are looking for.

So you practice. You apply for this, you read that, and you seriously underbid for that.

You get hired doing work that earns you $2 an hour, and it’s not enough.

But, you didn’t pay hundreds of dollars for the lead that landed you this job. So, you don’t try to make the poor client work for you, you walk away.

This is practice. This is worth paying for.

If you have the resources to spend to look for specific leads for a business you understand and have been building, then go ahead, sign up for that job-site that requires you sign up for their business builder’s university first.

If you are just starting out on this freelance journey, don’t pay for sites that don’t let you see the leads first.

 

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Develop the Habit

Writing well does not happen the first, second, or third try.

Writing is a habit, a practice, a lifestyle.

If you want a career in writing, take time to write every day.

Practice in a physical journal, create a blog that you share with no one or create content for the world. What matters is not who sees your craft, it is that you develop the habit of regular writing.

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3 Grammar Checking Software Tools

3 Grammar Checking Software Tools

When people pay for your writing, they expect a certain standard. Yes, you can get away with significant creative license if you write a novel or other creative work. But, you will still lose fans after one too many mistakes with your and you’re. So, if you want to have a career in writing, I suggest you use these tools to help improve your grammar and systematize your editing.

Grammarly

Grammarly is a tool that can be added to Windows, to Microsoft Office, and to Google Chrome. Grammarly’s editing algorithm checks for more than simple mistakes. Many editors check for misspelling and basic grammar mistakes like fragments. It identifies places where you may be missing an article (I always take that with a grain of salt), where you confused common words like your, you’re, too, two, to, then, than, except, accept, and others. If your friends on social media often correct your typos, you definitely need Grammarly. It will help with your editing if you want a career in writing or a related field.

Microsoft Office

I have been more impressed with Microsoft Office’s grammar algorithm recently. They have some more AI type editing that shows up in your writing as a double blue underline. This can help with tricky grammar structure. But, the most important aspect of Microsoft Office is its autocorrect functions. When you are typing, you need to be able to type without significant time editing. THe fact that Microsoft Office would have automatically changed THe to The saves me time. Except I am leaving that typo in to make a point. 
 
When you write in Microsoft Office, the auto formatting and corrections often save sginifcant amounts of time, especially if you tend to hit two keys at the same time or have slow pinkies on the SHIFT key (Did you see what I did there?).

Hemingway App

The Hemingway App is essential for any writing geared towards the general public. You copy and paste your writing into the Hemingway App, and it will analyze your writing. It looks at the complexity of sentences and phrases, the use of adverbs, and the use of passive voice. It also gives you your grade level score in the Flesch-Kincaid Readability score.
 
If you want to have a career in writing, or editing, you will need to learn how to use these grammar checking software tools to make your writing stand out.

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Can You Make A Career Out Of Non-Profit Writing?

Stick around the freelance writing community for long and you will meet people who need help with writing materials to run their non-profit organization. I always like to think of it that in the for-profit world, you have to pay your taxes, while in the non-profit world, you have to file your paperwork.

Because of the amount of paperwork non-profits are required to file, the opportunities for a writer are endless. Non-profits use paperwork for licensing, IRS approval, grant-writing, policy making, etc.

So, if you are going to build a business or a career writing for non-profits, what are some things you have to understand?

You Have to Talk About Money

This is the most important thing to consider about a non-profit writing career. Non-profits are often so focused on their vision and mission that budgets and emergency funds take a very low priority in day-to-day operations. Because they won’t think about their finances as much, you have to think about yours and be clear in setting boundaries.

Because of how easy it is to volunteer time at a non-profit, you could easily find yourself earning less than minimum wage, or nothing at all, while working full time.

Look at your budget needs, and don’t do a writing project that violates your budgetary boundaries. If you need to earn $10 an hour to make ends meet, don’t take a writing gig for less. You can still provide high quality writing at cheap, cheap prices like $10/hr. Then it is a win-win for you and the non-profit.

Occasionally, when a non-profit is in an area I want to learn more about or has impacted me in some way that I want to give back more, I will volunteer writing services fully. Volunteering is a choice, but realize that it hurts your ability to sell your writing services later, because you have developed a habit of not getting paid.

Understand The Non-Profit’s Mission

You love hunting, raising and butchering your own meat, and training sled dogs. It is difficult for you to write for the SPCA or the Humane Society. Even if it’s just legal paperwork, passion shows.

Since non-profits rarely pay the same amount as for-profit businesses, your passion needs to match with theirs or you will be miserable. There are plenty of charities that match the passions of you as an individual. Find them, join them.

Love Learning as Much as You Want a Career

Writing for a career is about learning as much as you can, and teaching others what you learn. If you are going to write for non-profits, this is especially true. Constantly learn and apply what you learn to the world around you. Then, use what you have learned and practiced in your writing. Whether you write marketing copy, grant applications, newsletters, tax documents or policies, this attitude will pave the way toward your success as a non-profit writer.

What have you learned about working as a non-profit writer? Leave me a comment below.

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Can I Do Any Type of Writing Career?

Is It Possible to Do Any Type of Writing Career?

Writing as a career can seem to be the height of wealth and fame, or it can seem to be a drudgery. If you are thinking about writing as a career, can you choose what type of writing will you do?

Business Writing

The easiest writing career to get involved in, business content is incredibly diverse. At Paul Davis Solutions, we write on marketing, finances, interior design, home decorating, farming, trucking and logistics, clothes and fashion. Business writing is more valuable now than it has ever been. Yes, video is growing online, but written content still drives search engines. Plus, videos are scripted by writers.

Content for businesses includes blogging, sales copy, whitepapers, websites, brochures and more. Pursue business content creation to easily start an online writing career.

Academic Writing

True academic writing is a great method to build a career and independent income streams. But, academic writing requires that you have academic credentials, usually a doctorate in the field you want to write in. If you are willing to work through the academic process to get higher degrees, there are many careers and businesses related to academic writing: research, thought leadership pieces, and textbooks.

Literature 

Fiction and non-fiction literature is one of the most enjoyable things people read or write. Because of this, biographies, novels, histories, and even manga are all popular areas writers build a career. Since literature type content is so popular, the door to entry into living-wage levels of writing is much higher.

To start a literature writing career, pick a method of distribution for your content; your career strategy changes depending on this choice. One distribution is the more traditional one which still has the best return if you get published. Plan your novel or other book and send proposals to publishers.

The other distribution method is to publish your content yourself, using content marketing tools to market your writing and selling different access to your writing.

A hybrid is where you use a blog and other content marketing tools to advertise your writing and story-lines and then pitch your writing to a traditional publisher.

Yes, It Is Possible

Finally, a career or business as a writer is available for anyone who wants to put the time and mental energy into figuring out the type of writing they are doing and commit to developing it as a craft.

But, does everyone want to do a writing career? That question is more for each individual to answer on their own.

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3 Online Businesses You Can Start for Free

Bootstrapping. The process by which you start a business for little to no capital investment and grow it primarily through grit and a never give up attitude.

These are 3 areas I have worked that did not cost any money to start or to set up lead generation systems, not even a website.

Online Business #1 – Tutoring

I did this business on Wyzant. But, you could probably find other places where you can pick up freelance tutoring or teaching gigs. Do the sites charge you after you get work? Yes. But, you can get the work without any money down.

Music, Spanish, English, Math. If you enjoy any type of study, even gardening, you can probably find a tutoring or teaching job without spending cash.

Online Business #2 – Independent Sales

This takes a unique type of person, but if you are or choose to be a salesperson, there are jobs for you aplenty. Affiliate marketing, network marketing, and more are all available to an enterprising individual who is not afraid to ask strangers if they have a few minutes to talk about their needs.

Not for the faintheart, but you can start it for free. Or, for that matter, jobs are a dime a dozen in sales.

Online Business #3 – Content Writing

If you enjoy reading and writing, you might be able to make a living or at least some cash flow, writing blogs online. Enter your details in any of the popups or forms on this site and I will send you a list of 15 websites that are hiring freelance writers.

The world is wide-open for enterprising individuals, and these are 3 areas that I have and still do make money both online and physically person-to-person.

What are some affordable ways you started an online business?

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