What To Do When You’re Not In The “Write” Mind

It’s not easy to admit, but I confess that I’ve been in a bit of a mental and motivational slump where my blog is concerned. Oh, Pen with question marks implying writer's blockI’ve been writing plenty. Just not here.

 

In the past month, my work for clients included…

 

  • 16 blog posts
  • Copy for an email campaign
  • Content for a print newsletter
  • Project managing and editing a magazine for a local medical society
  • Brainstorming and writing abstracts for 10 posts of a “disruptive” nature
  • Content for two websites
  • Two press releases
  • Two industry editorials
  • A corporate retirement announcement
  • Two case studies
  • And a few other odds and ends to boot.

 

I haven’t been sitting around twiddling my thumbs or spending hours meandering around town playing Pokémon Go. Still, I’ve beat myself up about not following through with tending to my responsibilities here.

 

This post isn’t intended to show you how busy I’ve been, but rather to demonstrate that sometimes something’s gotta give. Occasionally, you might find you’re not in the “write” mind or you have put forth so much effort elsewhere that you have nothing left to give to your blog. Feeling guilty or less of a professional because of it won’t change the situation.

 

The moral of the story: Not having the drive and determination to write for your blog doesn’t make you a slacker.

 

Fortunately, my business hasn’t seemed to suffer as a result of my silence in this space, but if you count on your company blog to draw in traffic and produce leads the same might not be true for you.

 

So, what can you do if you’re overwhelmed with your other business obligations and undermotivated to write for your blog?

 

A few ideas:

 

  • Schedule dedicated time for the task. Just knowing you’ve planned for it and aren’t cutting into the time you should be doing something else might help you put your mind to it.

 

  • Pick a topic you’re pumped up about. When you’re enthused about the subject matter, it’s far more enjoyable to write about it.

 

  • Break up the work. Instead of sitting down for hours to write a post, do it in three shorter sessions: One for research and jotting down rough ideas; a second for organizing those ideas and writing a draft; and a third for editing and fine tuning.

 

  • Hire someone to write for you. If you know you absolutely won’t get to it or if you just plain aren’t “feeling it,” don’t force it. Your time will be better spent on other work that’s critical to your business success and you’ll have the posts you need to keep your marketing efforts on track.

 

The next time you find yourself in the midst of a blog writing slump, find some comfort knowing you’re not alone. It happens to all of us—and you have ways around it.

 

Your turn: What frustrates you most about writing slumps? How do you overcome them?

 

The Difference Between Writing, Editing, And Proofreading

Writing.Writing, Editing, Proofreading. Oh My!

Editing.

Proofreading.

 

No. They. Are. Not. The. Same.

 

Someone who is good (or even exceptional) at one doesn’t mean they’re decent at the others.

 

So, what’s the diff?

 

Writing

One of the definitions Merriam-Webster has for writing is, “the way that you use written words to express your ideas or opinions.”

 

The way I see it, in the simplest terms, writing is the process of stringing words together to communicate a message and make an impression on readers. In practice, it’s a far more complex activity than that because it requires the capacity to think through how to get from point A to point B, to choose effective words, and to structure thoughts in a way that strikes a chord with readers.

 

Writing requires creativity and the knack for connecting the dots to pull ideas and bits of information together and communicate them coherently.

 

A writer’s personal style, the type of assignment, and the audience the writer—or a writer’s client—wants to connect with will flavor the tone and formality of writing.

 

Editing

“Prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it” is how Oxford Dictionaries defines “edit.”

 

Most writers I know often edit their own writing to fine-tune how it flows, eliminate wordiness, and modify sentence structure and word choice. For me, it’s part of the process to ensure the end product I’m delivering to a client is as close as possible to what it needs to be. And of course, editing (typically in the form of minor tweaks) after getting feedback from clients comes with the territory, too.

 

Some editors are really good writers, but not all are and they don’t necessarily have to be. When editing, you don’t have to create the story and message; you’re improving upon the writing so it’s as effective as possible. Editors need to have proficiency in making changes that will ensure writing makes sense, uses proper grammar, has effective sentence structure, and uses the right words. They need an ability to both pay attention to details and look at a piece of writing from a birds-eye view to make sure all parts of it are effective parts of the whole.

 

The extent and degree of editing can depend on the type of writing, quality of writing, and length of a written piece. If you’re looking for editing assistance, you might see the various levels of editing referred to as:

 

  • Copy editing – Focuses on grammar, punctuation, and proper word usage.
  • Line editing – Focuses on the sentence or paragraph level rather than the broad scope of the piece.
  • Substantive or heavy editing – Goes beyond the two above and polishes sentences to improve clarity and flow. It will eliminate overuse of passive voice, repetition, awkward wording, and run-on sentences. This type of editing also involves checking facts and rearranging or reworking parts of the writing if necessary.

 

Some characteristics of editing (copy editing in particular) overlap with those of proofreading.

 

But they are not the same!

 

Proofreading

Proofreading comes after writing and editing.

 

Dictionaries.com defines it as: “to read (printers’ proofs, copy, etc.) in order to detect and mark errors to be corrected.”

 

It involves a final check of a piece of writing before it’s published to catch minor mistakes in spelling, spacing, punctuation, inconsistency in indentation of paragraphs, etc.

 

Contrary to what you might assume, not all writers and editors are capable proofreaders. Proofreading requires a skillset all its own, and it’s never ideal for people (writing and editing professionals included) to proofread writing assignments they’ve been working on. Sometimes (depending on how heavy my workload is), I’ll ask a proofreader to review what I’ve written and fix any errors I might have made.

 

When you write or edit something, you’re too close to it, and it’s far too easy for your brain to trick your eyes into seeing perfection where it doesn’t exist. For example, you might not catch an extra “the” where it doesn’t belong or an incorrect “they’re” where there should be a “their.” We’ve all seen published blog posts with those sort of oopses. They can happen to the very best writers—because writers aren’t proofreaders. Yes, writers will do their best to make sure what they write is as clean as possible (and often it will be error free after they’ve reread it a couple of times to catch sneaky mistakes), but a second set of eyes on a piece of writing (yours or a pro proofreader’s) can further ensure perfection.

 

Writing, Editing, Proofreading – Which Do You Need?

It depends.

 

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might benefit from asking a writer to help you with your content.

 

  • Do I have trouble formulating topics and ideas that will captivate my target audience?

 

  • Do I struggle writing thoughts, information and ideas in a way that makes sense to others?

 

  • When I write, does it sound stilted and unnatural rather than genuine?

 

  • Do I have trouble getting to the point when I write?

 

  • Would I rather have a root canal than write a blog post?

 

If you’re considering working with a freelance writer, keep in mind that rarely are writers skilled at all types of writing projects or a good fit for all industries.

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might need an editing professional’s touch.

 

  • Am I good at formulating topics and ideas and writing them in an understandable way, but do I have trouble varying the structure of sentences so they sound less boring?

 

  • Does my writing sound monotonous and lack variety in word choice?

 

  • Do I creatively convey my message when I write but struggle with organizing the content so it flows logically for readers?

 

  • Do I find that I repeat myself or become long-winded when I write?

 

  • Do I enjoy the creative process of writing but not going back to fine-tune what I’ve written?

 

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might need a proofreader’s help.

 

  • Am I good at writing clearly and coherently, but I make a lot of silly mistakes in grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc.?

 

  • Do I have time to review what I’ve written with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it’s error free?

 

  • Do I loathe attention to detail?

 

Writing, editing, proofreading…they’re different yet all extremely important when creating and publishing content of any type. If you don’t have all three skillsets in-house, consider getting the help of professionals who can make sure your content consistently puts your business’s best foot forward.

Good Karma For Your Small Business

I’ve written about the topic of strategic volunteerism on several occasions, most recently for national media personality, investment expert, and New York Helping handsTimes bestselling author Carol Roth’s Business Unplugged™ blog.

 

As a solopreneur or small business owner, choosing your volunteer activities carefully so you take something (other than feeling good about yourself) away from the experience can do wonders for your business.

 

By selecting volunteer gigs strategically, you can improve your leadership skills, connect with influencers in your community, learn new technology, and become more business savvy.

 

But Professional Development Isn’t The Only Potential “What’s In It For You?”

While giving your time and talents, you can also increase awareness of your products and services—and that can eventually help your business’s bottom line. I typically don’t mention that because directly promoting your business and seeking financial gain through volunteering is generally a no-no. But as you volunteer with others to work toward common goals for an organization, people naturally learn more about who you are and what you do—and they spread the word as you earn their trust and respect.

 

In 2015, I can attribute over $8,700 of my year-to-date writing revenue to the connections and exposure I’ve gained through past volunteerism efforts. No, that’s not enough to sustain my business. But it’s a decent chunk of change that’s helping me reach my income goals for the year.

 

What Goes Around Comes Around: Good Karma For Your Business

I don’t advise that making money be your motivation when embarking on a volunteer opportunity—but know that volunteering can present the potential for building your business revenue. The key, I believe, is in leveraging the connections you make—and staying on the radar. Keep in touch, be active and engaged on social media, and do your best to network face to face when possible.

 

Have your volunteer efforts paid off for your business? Tell me more!

 

Image courtesy of KiddaiKiddeeStudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

Is It A Good Idea To Be “Friends” With Your Clients On Facebook?

“Blurry.” I can’t think of a better way to describe the line between “business” and “personal” on social media, can you?Modern-FB-Image-Canva-DMentzer

 

No matter what business you’re in…no matter whether you’re a business owner or a professional working for someone else’s company…at some point in time a client will request to be friends with you via your personal Facebook account.

 

Should you accept? Should you decline?

 

I was curious to find out how others in my network handle those requests from their clients. I’ve shared their interesting insight below. If you haven’t yet decided on a policy for handling Facebook friend requests from your clients, you might gain some clarity on the risks and rewards by reading further.

 

As for me, I do accept Facebook friend requests from clients—and sometimes even from prospective clients. I don’t, however, initiate requests to be their friends, because I don’t want them to feel put on the spot if they prefer not to mix our business relationships with the more personal side of our lives.

 

Overall, I’ve found that having a more personal connection with my clients has helped my business. Knowing about my clients’ interests, families, hobbies, triumphs, and challenges enables me to understand them better—and I believe vice versa. I’ve found that connection has created a stronger bond in business.

 

That said, it also makes me a little more cautious about what I post on Facebook. I generally refrain from liking, commenting on, and posting anything that is politically or religiously charged. I also steer clear of posting “woe is me” posts that complain about this, that, or other people.

 

To my knowledge, being friends with clients on Facebook has never hurt me professionally—it has helped me build my brand as a solopreneur.

 

But enough about me.

 

Here’s how several of my Facebook friends (a combination of clients, subcontractors, and vendors) handle “to friend or not to friend” situations.

 

Rose Boettinger, Freelance Writer and Virtual Assistant

I tend not to accept Facebook friend requests from clients.

 

Although nothing is private once posted on the internet, I believe “personal” Facebook accounts should solely be used as a means of communication with friends and family. If you become friends with your clients, they’re able to see everything you post (unless you adjust your settings accordingly for each post, which just wastes more time) and the frequency at which you post.

 

Clients may have religious beliefs and/or morals and values that differ greatly from your own and may be offended by some of what you post. They may also not share your sense of humor, again leading to your unintentionally offensive posts. 

 

Your clients may also be put out when they notice how often you post and when you post, noting that you aren’t serving their needs at that particular time. This may also lead them to question your work ethic and dedication to their businesses, despite the fact that you’re still providing them with quality service in a timely fashion.

 

I’ve only declined one client request thus far, and that was after explaining in person at my last meeting that I tend not to accept friend requests from clients—nothing personal. I then proceeded to tell the client that I have both LinkedIn and Twitter accounts targeted more towards my industry, and I’d be happy to accept any requests that may come to my LinkedIn account.

 

The client wasn’t offended, just slightly disappointed, saying he doesn’t typically utilize those particular sites as often.

 

A good way to avoid this snag would be to create your own [business] page on Facebook, separate from and in addition to your personal account. Note that pages are different than profiles (I’d be willing to bet not everyone recognizes that fact).

 

Kris Bradley, Internet Marketing Ambassador, MIND Development & Design

About three years ago I decided to friend people in my professional network on Facebook, which included prospective and current clients. I use a lot of discretion when I post, but my true self is visible on Facebook. I try to stay away from posting controversial topics (politics, religion, sensitive topics, etc.), but I do occasionally go down that rabbit hole. I had the mentality that I am who I am and I would hope that my professional contacts can embrace this. I would do the same if they either accept my friend request or I accept their request. 

 

I wouldn’t say that I can directly put a finger on any problems or issues that came from this decision, but I do know that some of my Facebook friends who are also professional connections have treated me a bit differently since I opened that door (friending them on Facebook) into my more personal life. When I say differently, I wouldn’t say in a bad way, but I can tell that their opinion of me has been altered by me allowing myself to peel back layers about myself that they might not have gotten from an occasional interaction via business or networking. Turning the tables, I can say that I have also formed some opinions of several of my Facebook friends whom are also professional connections. I guess it just goes with the territory.

 

As it exists now, I am very selective in friending clients. I have to have a good relationship and amount of respect for them on a personal level (and vice versa) before I will open that door and peel back those layers via a Facebook friend connection. A decent percentage of my professional communication on Facebook, mostly via Messenger, is on Facebook, so I would confidently say that there are distinct advantages to friending professional connections. A good alternative is Facebook Groups, which provides an excellent way to communicate about business on Facebook, but that is another topic for another day. 

 

Andy Garman, Partner and Marketing Director, Pipedream Marketing + Design

At Pipedream, we are very selective when accepting Facebook friend requests. We don’t initiate them with clients and typically don’t accept them. But we have a couple of longstanding clients with whom we have become friendly, and so we have accepted those friend requests.

 

LinkedIn is another story! We typically try to link in with all of our clients and prospects and we accept most requests from others to link in. Prompting the difference in how we treat those two networks is the inherent personal nature of Facebook and the business networking nature of LinkedIn.

 

Heather Kreider, Owner, Makes Scents Natural Spa Line

I feel very strongly that mixing business and personal beliefs/information is not the best choice for my specific situation. I typically do not accept friend requests from anyone that is not a personal friend, which is why I have very few “friends” on Facebook.

 

However, if I have built a friendship in the past with someone who happens to become a business partner, I will continue to be friends on Facebook, but am sometimes choosy with what I share with them.

 

In the past, I have been connected with managers of business partners and feel that doing so interfered with our business relationship. This may not be the case with all business relationships but in this one specific situation, personal information (the death of a loved one) was used against us in a way to justify an unethical situation. After this happened, I realized that sharing personal information with business partners was more of an issue than a positive. From this point on, I made it a personal policy to not become “friends” with clients on Facebook.

 

Although I have nothing to hide as an honest and genuine person, allowing a business partner into my personal life is not something that I want to allow. To be honest, so much can be misconstrued on Facebook, and I would much rather build personal relations rather than cyber relationship.

 

When declining an invitation to be a friend on Facebook, I typically message or email the client to politely tell them that I do not mix business with my personal life, and that I would be happy to connect with them on more business related platforms such as LinkedIn.

 

I have never had an issue declining a friend request. I typically do not receive many friend requests from partners, because I feel there is an unspoken social media etiquette or invisible line drawn in our industry to separate business from personal lives.

 

Jon Martin, Founder, Invoq Marketing

I do allow clients to be my Facebook friends, and often I initiate the friending process. 

 

As a friend, I am able to get a glimpse into their lives. I can keep track of important life changes, find topics (sports, TV shows, hunting, etc.) that I can potentially connect with them on.
At this point, being friends with clients has created no problems or issues that I am aware of. I very intentionally limit what I post on all platforms to be things that won’t offend my clients, and if I don’t want them to know something, I don’t post it on social media.

 

A few additional thoughts…

 

To friend or not to friend depends on your goals for your client relationships. I want to be as close as possible to my clients. I want to be the trusted confidant they turn to for guidance in making business and marketing decisions. The closer I can get on a relationship level, the more successful it allows me to be and to help them to be. The more I understand their pain points, vision, passions, and goals, the better I can serve them.

 

John Oppenheimer, CEO, 1 Sky Media

I consider myself an open networker so I will accept most friend requests even those from clients. I don’t actively pursue connections with clients on Facebook as I would on LinkedIn, but I do have some clients amongst my collection of Facebook friends.

 

We haven’t seen any direct orders as a result of these connections. I try to be conscious of what I post knowing that those beyond immediate friends and family will see it. Some topics will add to the friendly banter when we next encounter a client, something like “I had no idea you…”

 

We’ve encountered no problems so far as I know from being Facebook friends with clients. Again, I try to be careful not to post anything offensive or to like something that some people might consider off color, there have been a few exceptions with posts that were just too funny not to like!

 

Rachel Strella, Owner, Strella Social Media

I absolutely welcome being friends with clients on Facebook. In fact, I proactively “friend” my clients in most circumstances.

 

I consider my clients as friends—and even family—in some circumstances, so Facebook helps me to further my relationship with them. I like to know when their children have birthdays or when they’re going through a hardship, because these instances are not often something people share via email or another social channel.

 

In today’s world, there’s little separation between a professional and personal brand. One thing I’ve learned is that our business brand is only as strong as our personal brand. This is especially true for solopreneurs and small business owners. At the same time, I respect that clients may want to share their personal lives with only their closest friends and family. I would never overstep that boundary, because I understand that Facebook can be a personal thing to some people.

 

I don’t recall ever experiencing any problems with being Facebook friends with clients. In fact, it’s enhanced my relationships with clients, especially former clients because we have a way to stay in touch.

 

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when deciding whether or not to “friend” clients on Facebook. Ultimately, you need to decide what makes you and your clients most comfortable–and what makes the most sense for your business.

 

Your turn! What’s your policy on friending clients on Facebook?