How to Get Your Writer to Write Like You Talk

talkingheads“This sounds nothing like me,” a client recently confided about his content from another writer. “It’s not what I wanted.”

His disappointment was evident–and not uncommon.

What do you do when you read your first draft of content from your writer in high hopes . . . and feel disappointment instead?

Some people give up on their writer and return to cobbling together their own words. Some seek another writer, hoping to find The One that will magically breathe life into their content.

To be sure, not all writers are equal. Some are better than others at certain forms of writing, such as blogging, business, or advertising. And some are simply just better writers.

But before you ditch your writer, consider this: Have you provided her with enough guidance? Have you taken the time to tell her about you and what you want? Writers are a bit like hairstylists: Provide little instruction, and you’re likely to get a mohawk instead of that simple trim you wanted.

My clients are usually sure about one thing: They want a writer who can write like they talk. And a good writer changes her tone to accommodate each client as easily as she changes her wardrobe.

But what clients aren’t always certain of is how to communicate what they want to their writers.

To get your writer on board with your expectations, consider these four simple ideas:

  1. Compile a style guide, which is simply a list of what you want in your written communication. The most well-developed guide I’ve seen so far is that of Explore God, a nonprofit organization that invests deeply in its team of writers. In addition to six instructions dedicated to tone alone, the organization provides 15 more parameters as guidance—down to the ideal number of words to include in a sentence.
  2. Provide your writer with any existing corporate materials that help her get a feel for the way you’ve been presenting your company, including your online materials such as your website and social media forums as well as print materials such as article, brochures, and flyers.
  3. Provide direct, specific feedback. You’d be surprised how many people hesitate to tell their writer they’re unhappy with their content in an effort to avoid an awkward conversation. Experienced writers, however, already know that their writing will not satisfy every client, particularly a first draft. They appreciate clients who are honest and specific about what they want to change.
  4. Perhaps the most critical—and most overlooked—piece of information is the published version of your content. Don’t let your busyness or fear of an awkward conversation get in the way of this step. In addition to providing specific guidance to your writer, she can begin compiling a study guide based on the final product. That way, you both win.

With a little effort and communication, you can align your writer with your expectations – and you might get a better haircut to boot. What other strategies have you used to communicate with your writer?

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for companies, publishers, and organizations. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her website to continue the conversation.

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Upgrade Your Genius

Photo courtesy of borntocompete.com
Photo courtesy of borntocompete.com

“Successful people simply practice successful habits.” – Brian Tracy

Successful business leaders are more than great visionaries. Their success is in their everyday habits — the small choices that build an empire over time.

One notable empire is the basketball career of Michael Jordan. Houston business coach Glenn Smith recently shared Jordan’s incredible story of successful habits with me.

“Michael Jordan without a doubt was one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the NBA,” he said. “But Jordan was not born a star basketball player. He was actually cut from his high school varsity team.

However, he didn’t let that stop him. He worked hard to play high school ball and even earn a shot at playing in college. He wasn’t recruited by the college he wanted to play for — North Carolina State — and he wasn’t drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have chosen him.

But Jordan never let any of this get in his way. At college, his coaches were taken aback by his willingness to work harder than anyone else. Even at the height of his success with the Chicago Bulls, his coach called him ‘a genius who constantly wants to upgrade his genius.'”

Michael Jordan’s story is a fantastic example of successful habits. Most notable is his daily investment of time and energy toward his vision in spite of obstacles and rejection.

Another notable habit was Jordan’s decision to resist distractions. Surely he was tempted at times to steer his attention toward other promising activities, people, or purposes, but he didn’t take the bait. Instead, he focused solely on doing one thing very well — “upgrading his genius.”

Like Jordan, successful business leaders define their vision and practice successful habits daily in spite of obstacles and rejections. But they also resist promising distractions. Even a worthy task, such as blogging, can prove to be an ineffective, distracting effort if a leader doesn’t have the time to maintain it properly. Business success includes tapping into resources and delegating tasks in order to remain focused on your primary genius.

What daily investments will you make — and what distractions will you delegate — to upgrade your genius this year?

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for business leaders, organizations, and publishers. Connect with her on LinkedIn or on her website.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Freelance Writer

cleaning-suppliesWhat I’m about to say may sound counterintuitive, but trust me on this.

The best way to get the most out of your freelance writer is to provide him or her with content.

Yes, I just said you should provide content to your freelance writer. You may be scratching your head at that logic. You probably think I’m one of those people who straightens her home before a housekeeper arrives.

Actually, I am one of those people. I do straighten my home before it is cleaned by a professional. I’ve realized that if I move some things off the floor and countertops, a housekeeper can do a better job. When basic things are out of her way, she can stop wasting time on straightening up and instead start focusing on what I really need from her, which is deep cleaning.

The same principle goes for freelance writing. When a client takes the time to provide basic information about himself, his business, and his industry, he is freeing the writer to spend less time on understanding industry basics and more time on meeting the deeper, more unique needs of his business communication.

Your writer will welcome any material that helps him or her get to know you and your business. Examples of helpful materials include your website, blog, business card, existing marketing materials, previous projects, and business plan.

If you don’t have existing materials for the project, you can provide content in two ways. First, take the time to answer questions about your business in person or in writing. Your writer will be able to guide you with a list of questions. Second, share the websites and marketing materials of your competitors. They will provide some industry standards.

So, what’s in it for you? When you take the time to provide content for your writer, you receive three benefits:

1. Faster results. The more information you provide, the faster your writer understands who you are and what you need to deliver your work. Unless you’ve hired a writer who is an expert in your field, a brief explanation on your part may save a lot of research on the part of your writer.

2. Cheaper costs. If your writer charges an hourly rate, saving time could mean hundreds of dollars in savings.

3. Greater effectiveness. When you provide information about the basics of your business, your writer can move beyond nuts and bolts and buzzwords to focus on deeper, more meaningful things, like communicating your unique strengths in an authentic way that is most appealing to your audience.

So, before you hire a writer to “deep clean” your business communication, take some time to “straighten up” your business materials. When you receive quality content in less time and with less money, you’ll be glad you did.

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for business leaders, publishers, and other writers. Connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/ellaritchie or check out her website at http://www.stellarwriter.com.

Why the Kind of Writer You Hire Matters

upsidedownSo, a man walks into a workshop and hires the wrong writer.

“Wait, what do you mean I hired the wrong writer?” he asks.

“You hired a book writer,” I say. “What you need is a social media writer.”

I look again at his LinkedIn profile, the one he had paid $600 for her to write. It describes his humble beginnings, his growing ventures in business, and finally his success as a business coach. It is a masterfully written story that slowly bulges with details. If I want a writer that really understands how to build a story for a book, this woman is clearly the real deal.

But this man needs someone who knows how to write a LinkedIn profile.

“Aren’t all writers the same?” he asks. No, they are not.

LinkedIn is no place for a story that simmers to a satisfying climax. No, LinkedIn bucks traditions and flips stories on their heads. Good social media content starts with a climax and follows with a story.

And the kind of writer you hire needs to know this.

You see, most professionals on LinkedIn aren’t going to wade through endless paragraphs to find out what you’re about. They’re busy, and they don’t want to work for information. When they open your profile, they want to know three things within seconds: What do you do? Are you good at it? How can you benefit me?

A writer who has had experience with social media will understand how to adapt her content to the fast pace of LinkedIn readers. She will take your glorious story, shave it down, flip it on its head, and reach your audience quickly. In other words, she will speak to your audience in a way that grabs them.

Before you hire a writer for social media, find out about her experience. Has she written anything like what you need? Can she provide a sample of her writing? Does she have a proven track record?

And then when you’ve found her, prepare to be flipped.

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for business leaders, publishers, and organizations. Connect with her on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/ellaritchie.

Three Kid-Friendly Wi-Fi Spots for Freelancers

mom-working-daughter-140310Ah, summer: three blissful months of sunshine, sprinklers, and snow cones.

Or, if you’re a freelance writer with children at home: three desperate months of intermittent work while one child screams from a headlock by his brother. Cue the circuit of summer camps and playdates.

In addition to community events, here are three favorite places that satisfy both me and my kids:

1. McDonald’s.

While my friends flock to Chick-fil-a, we head instead to McDonald’s. My kids eat pancakes and enjoy a large play area that includes two computers with video games and a television streaming cartoons.  Meanwhile, I sip $1 coffee and work with free Wi-Fi. The best part is that the kids, parents, and all entertainment are in one room. Call or scope out locations before you go, though, because not all locations have these features.

2. The library.

After picking out books, my kids scramble to sit by each other at a table of computers so they can play free online games together: pbskids.org, abcya.com, and funbrain.com top their list of favorites. The best part is that our library offers a weekly summer activity program during which parents are encouraged to stay in the lobby.

3. Inflatable places.

Monkey Joe’s is my go-to place when I need to meet a deadline. The kids happily eat pizza and jump with friends all day while I work with free Wi-Fi. The only downside is the cost: The entry fee and snack bar are a bit expensive, so I reserve this spot for a long day of work.

And there’s my signal to end this post — my children are tangled in a battle over a video game controller. Stay tuned for a blog post on how not to parent. In the meantime, what are the places around town that are preserving your sanity this summer?

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for business leaders, publishers, and other writers. Connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/ellaritchie.