Avoid This Fatal Small Business Mistake

Small Business Saturday (Nov. 28) is around the corner. It’s a time for celebrating the benefits of having small businesses in the Work for itlocal community and rallying to support them. American Express’s “Shop Local” mantra is the call to support local small businesses on Small Business Saturday.

Yes, small business owners, this day is for you!

But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to try.

Being a local small business doesn’t mean people are obligated to support you. You have to do your part, and you need to make customers feel appreciated.

Examples Of Doing Small Business The Wrong Way

I recently had two encounters with local small businesses that failed to recognize that. I won’t call them out by name, but I will share my experience with each.

 

  1. My husband and I were recently at a business event where a business owner of an entertainment venue complained about the community not coming out to attend performances. His tone and his attitude made me feel like he was pointing the finger at us, even though we regularly support his business. While he may not have meant it personally, that’s how I took it. In his frustration and discontent with the local community’s support, he lumped us—long-time customers—into the bunch. I left feeling like he doesn’t appreciate our business. And now I really don’t have much interest in going back any time soon.
  2. Second example is the interaction I recently had with the insurance agent and company that provided my family’s homeowners insurance. As we were working with a pitbull rescue to adopt a furry family member, I contacted our agent to see if our policy had any restrictions on the breeds of dogs we could have to maintain our policy. She responded by emailing a clause from the insurance company that indicates pit bulls couldn’t be covered. I asked her for additional information regarding our options…then radio silence. After several days of no response from her, we switched both our homeowners and auto insurance policies to State Farm—who, by the way, has stellar local customer service.

The Lesson For Small Business Owners

Being local doesn’t mean you can take your customers for granted. It doesn’t mean local people must shop at your store or select you to provide their services simply because you’re a local company.

You have to earn their business, and you have to appreciate them.

One Blogging Shortcut To Slash The Time You Spend Writing

Don Purdum of Unveil The Web recently wrote a blog post about how to write a blog post in 15 minutes or less using the Alarm ClockDragon Dictation app for IOS.

 

Naturally, it caught my attention. I’m always game for saving time if quality isn’t compromised in the process.

 

Although I personally doubted my ability to write a substantive, polished blog post in 15 minutes using any trick of the trade, I wanted to find out if dictating a post would make me more efficient.

 

I almost looked into buying Dragon Dictation on Android, but then realized I could convert voice to text using the Gmail app on my phone.

 

Yep. Gmail. The capability of dictating an email has been there for a long time, but I’ve very rarely used it. I never really found the need or desire to—until now.

 

So, I thought I’d give it a try.

 

  1. I dictated a very rough 572-word draft of this post in 8 minutes while sitting in my Jeep waiting for my daughter after her play rehearsal at school.
  2. I then copied the text from Gmail into Word.
  3. And then I edited the draft to create what you’re reading here.

 

How Did Dictating a Blog Post In Gmail Go?

All in all, it appears Gmail’s speech-to-text feature functions much like how Don described Dragon Dictation does.

It spells most words correctly—with a few exceptions here and there. And with the proper voice prompts, it adds punctuation. When instructed, it adds commas, periods, question marks, exclamation points, and colons. I found I needed to use the singular form (e.g., “comma” vs. “commas”) for the app to recognize and insert the marks; otherwise it would spell out the word. I could also start new paragraphs by saying, “new paragraph.” Semicolons and parentheses evaded me, so I’ll have to do some research to see if there’s a way to “talk” them into the text.

 

A Couple Of Gmail Speech-To-Text Quirks

  • If I paused too long between words or sentences, I’d need to tap the microphone in the app to continue recording.
  • I haven’t figured out how to command it to backspace if I want to remove what I said or correct a spelling error. But you can use the manually backspace icon next to the microphone to accomplish that.

 

A Happy Ending: Newfound Blogging Efficiency

This 522-word post required a total of 54 minutes to compose and edit. I estimate it would have taken me approximately an hour and a half without using the Gmail voice-to-text feature for the initial draft.

 

I think after getting more accustomed to dictation, the overall process will go even more efficiently. If my spoken thoughts had been more organized in this experiment, it would have taken me less editing time.

 

I’m definitely going to use this method for future blog posts. It provided a nice break from pounding out every keystroke, and it saved time.

 

Have you used a dictation app or other voice-to-text feature to begin drafts of your blog posts? I’d love to hear what has work for you and share it with my readers.

You Owe This To Your Clients

When you’re a solopreneur, it’s all on you—managing all the administrative aspects of your business and serving your clients.Girl-pointing-at-you

 

That means you need to be as close as possible to the top of your game at all times.

 

The one sure-fire way not to get there is by neglecting your own well-being.

 

I know far too many small business professionals who do that. They eat junk, don’t exercise, and rarely get a good night’s sleep.

 

According to 2013 CDC (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention) data:

 

  • Nearly 30 percent of adults in the United States are obese.
  • Over 22 percent of adults eat less than one serving of vegetables daily.
  • Over 38 percent eat less than one serving of fruit each day.
  • Only 20 percent of U.S. adults meet aerobic and muscle strengthening guidelines.

 

Yep, a lot of people don’t take such good care of themselves. Are you one of them?

 

If so, realize it’s not only bad for you; it’s bad for your business, too. And it’s doing your clients a disservice.

 

Eat better to work better.

According to the World Health Organization, “Poor nutrition can lead to reduced immunity, increased susceptibility to disease, impaired physical and mental development, and reduced productivity.”

 

Reduced productivity. That means if you’re eating crap all the time and billing your clients on an hourly basis, they’re probably getting shortchanged. And you’re likely hurting your business’s bottom line in the process because of not having the stamina to take on and accomplish more billable work.

 

Engage your body to engage your brain.

Numerous studies have shown that exercise improves cognitive function. Physical activity helps you think more effectively. That ability to focus more fully on your tasks can translate into delivering higher quality work more efficiently.

 

Make yourself a complete package.

This infographic by Hubspot shares some interesting statistics that show the strong link between nutrition, exercise, and job performance. A few to pay particular attention to include:

 

  • Workers who eat healthful foods all day are 25 percent more likely to have higher job performance.
  • Workers who eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables at least four times per week are 20% more likely to be productive.
  • Workers who exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight are absent from work 27 percent less and perform their jobs 11 percent better than non-active, obese peers.

 

And don’t dis the importance of catching your Zs.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep daily. Yet a survey by the CDC found that almost three in ten adults (28 percent) average 6 hours or less of sleep each day.

 

Sleepiness can severely thwart our ability to do our best. It slows down our ability to think things through, it impairs memory, and it makes it more difficult to learn new things. And it tends to make most of us moody—certainly not an attractive or beneficial side effect when collaborating with clients.

 

Do right by yourself and your clients.

What you do or don’t do to take care of yourself is your business—but realize that your habits can have a profound impact on your business as well. You can’t give your clients your best work when you aren’t at your best.

 

Your turn! How do you keep yourself near the top of your game? What could you do differently to be there more often?

 

Like this post? Then you might want to check  out these, too:

Not Drinking Enough Water? Six Ways To Make It Less Wishy-Washy

 

What You And Only You Can Take Responsibility For

 

Why Your Desk Should Be A No Food Zone

 

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

 

 

 

LinkedIn Message Emoticons: Strengthening Connections Or Lowering The Bar?

A few days ago, I noticed that while writing a LinkedIn message to a new connection, something was different.LinkedIn Coffee Stickers

 

I now have the option of adding a variety of emoticons to my messages. I can choose from a series of cartoon coffee cups conveying a variety of emotions, statements, and states of mind. And then there is a series of kitty cat emojis—which this dog lover will never, ever use. I can also select from an assortment of GIFs (from movies like Anchor Man and TV shows like The Office).

 

According to a posting in LinkedIn’s Help Center on September 17, the new features aren’t yet available to all users. LinkedIn will gradually roll the new messaging capabilities to all members.

 

Word of warning if you do have access to the new features: I discovered by clicking on one of the stickers to get a closer look at it, it was sent to the recipient immediately. I found no way to retract it, and therefore found myself apologizing to my connection for sending what was an out-of-character and odd reply. Surely, he would have wondered why on earth I had sent him a cute little sticker depicting a sweaty coffee cup, holding an MP3 player and apparently moving to the music.

 

Now back to the topic at hand…

 

Emoticons? Really, LinkedIn?

I’ve searched the LinkedIn blog for some explanation of why they’ve made this and other changes to their messaging platform. Here’s what I found in a post on September 1:

 

“Starting today, we are rolling out a new messaging experience on LinkedIn that offers an easier and more lightweight way to have professional conversations with your connections. We know many of you have been asking for this ability and we’ve taken a thoughtful approach to reflect the evolving ways professionals are communicating with one another today…”

 

Regarding the stickers, emojis, and GIFs, the post says…

 

“In addition to being able to attach photos and documents to your messages, now you can also add stickers, emojis and GIFs to insert a little extra personality into the conversations you’re having 1:1 or with a group on the new messaging experience.”

 

 

Perception of Professionalism

Aside from the other bugs that people have found when using the updated version of LinkedIn messaging, I have to wonder how “professional” connections will perceive people who actively use these personality enhancers in their messages. I find them a bit juvenile, but I realize my opinion won’t be the same as that of others. Appropriateness and professionalism are in the eye of the beholder.

 

I should fully disclose that I occasionally (OK, regularly) add a traditional smiley face into a message. You know…the colon + dash + right parenthesis,  variety. Yes, I insert an occasional semicolon + dash + right parenthesis, too.

 

According to a study shared on allacademic.com, smiley faces in work-related emails can cause recipients to find the senders more likable and credible.

 

I imagine that might be the case with LinkedIn messages, too. But the question remains whether the premade LinkedIn emoticons will have the same effect as adding emotion the old-fashioned way.

 

I’d love to hear what you think about it. Are these new stickers, emojis, and GIFs a good idea? Or are they lowering the bar for professionalism?

Facebook “Dislike” Button: An Awful Idea & How Empathy Could Backfire On Your Brand

In answer to requests for a “dislike” button, Facebook has been developing a button that will allow users to express sympathy or empathy when clicking “like” Facebook Fjust doesn’t seem appropriate. The name of the button has yet to be announced, but it sounds as though it will be something more subtle (possibly “sympathize” or “empathize”) than “dislike.

 

Let’s hope so. A button named “dislike” is an awful idea. Rather than used as a tool for showing compassion, it would give trolls and the otherwise mean-spirited to more readily disrespect and demean others. There would be haters “disliking” posts that share others’ successes and good news.

 

Empathy And Engagement

While an empathy button may help engagement on personal status updates, it won’t likely be a big engagement booster for businesses. Businesses typically don’t post updates that warrant a sympathy or empathy response—nor should they. Who wants to see downer posts from brands in their news feeds? Not me.

 

But what about posting more updates that might prompt empathy responses on your personal Facebook timeline? Could it kick engagement up a notch for your personal brand?

 

In her recent blog post, Rachel Strella of Strella Social Media shares, “I try to put my best foot forward because ultimately, people will tune out the whiners.”

“However, I think that those who remain positive are seen as having the perfect life. There’s actually a term called Facebook envy, which is very real. We post what we want the world to see and for most of us, we want to present ourselves in the best light possible, but sometimes that display is not reality.”

 

Like Rachel, I tend to post about the positive, fun happenings in my life or about things that amuse me or make me laugh. If I’m sad, mad, in pain, or ill, I’m not impelled to air it publicly. Believe me, my life is way far from perfect and I realize that others who have a similar social media approach to mine don’t have perfect lives either.

 

So maybe you and I could garner a little more social media love if we were more open about when things aren’t going our way. If your personal brand shows more vulnerability, possibly making it easier for others to relate to you, could those stronger emotional connections carry over to your business?

 

Possibly, but I think it would be a dangerous strategy to embrace for three reasons:

 

  1. You’ll constantly be reminded of your life’s challenges as notifications ping you when people hit the empathize button or comment on your post. It’s tough to let things go and move on when you can’t catch a break from your troubles.
  2. Depending on what you post, your clients and colleagues might see you as a complainer, a crybaby, or a train wreck (or all of the above). Who wants to do business with someone like that?
  3. If you share too many empathy-eliciting updates, people might tune you out.

 

Easy Does It

I agree with Rachel’s statement, “In a world where we are told to be ourselves and remain authentic, it seems a struggle to share in a way that won’t reflect negatively, but shows we are human.”

 

Indeed, it is a balancing act.

 

Quick shifts and going to extremes will throw off the equilibrium.

 

What are your thoughts about the eventual new button on Facebook? Will it prompt more raw and real status updates to make us connect with each other better or will it further incent chronic complainers to air all that’s amiss?

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?

 

 

 

 

 

Lighten Up! Business Humor To Cure What Ails You

After a take-no-prisoners week of working our @$$es off, I believe a little humor is in order. We’ve earned it, right?Man laughing loudly

And according to the Mayo Clinic, laughter brings both short-term and long-term stress-relief benefits including:

  • Increasing oxygen flow to vital organs.
  • Releasing stress-squashing endorphins.
  • Facilitating muscle relaxation.
  • Boosting immunity.
  • Easing physical pain.
  • Decreasing depression.

All the more reason to take some time out for a good belly laugh. And where better to go for one than the creative satire of The Onion?

Here are a few gems from “America’s Finest News Source” (in no particular order of hilarity) that poke fun at work and business.

I hope you’ll find them as therapeutic as I do:

  1. Website’s Built-In Search Engine Just Pathetic
  2. Heartless Monster Walks Out Of Local Small Business Without Buying Anything
  3. Woman Has No Business Being An Extrovert
  4. Report: Employees Most Innovative When Brainstorming Dramatic Quitting Scenarios
  5. Man Too Deep Into Sentence To Avoid Saying Word He Can’t Pronounce
  6. Job Applicant Blows Away Interviewer With Intimate Knowledge Of Company’s ‘About Us’ Page
  7. Going-Out-Of-Business Sign Thanks Neighborhood For 3 Months Of No Support Whatsoever
  8. HR Director Reminds Employees That Any Crying Done At Office Must Be Work-Related

I feel better already, how about you?

Now get back to work!

 

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why Writing Is So Intimidating—And How To Make It Less Agonizing

I know business professionals who would sooner have a tooth pulled without anesthetic than write a blog post.Notebook showing fear of writing

Writing intimidates them. It intimidates a lot of people.

Why do many people break out in a cold sweat when asked to write something?

They get caught up in the perceived complexity of writing. In some cases the subject matter might be complex, but writing is a rather straightforward process.

Think of writing as what it is: communicating. Writing is simply putting words together to make a point or inform. Your ultimate goal is to be understood, so take the shortest, clearest path to getting there.

How can you simplify writing to make it less overwhelming for you and easier to grasp for your readers?

Don’t…

  • Try to include everything under the sun about a specific topic.
  • Use run-on sentences.
  • Use long words for the sake of looking smart or reaching a certain word count.
  • Rely completely on a spelling and grammar checking software to catch errors.

Do…

  • Make an outline to identify your main topic and key points before you start writing.
  • Reread what you wrote to make sure everything you’ve communicated is relevant to what you want readers to understand or serves to further a key point.
  • Remove anything that is off-topic or repetitive.
  • Proofread—or better yet, ask someone else to proofread—what you’ve written, so it’s free from embarrassing errors.

Most importantly, realize writing gets easier with practice. As with any skill where there’s room for improvement, you will get better with more effort and experience.

Also, realize you don’t have to do it alone. If you feel uncertain about the clarity and quality of your writing, ask for feedback from someone you trust, or hire a professional writer or editor to help you find your voice and communicate more clearly.

Writing may never be second nature to you, but it doesn’t have to be frightening.

What other writing tips would you give to folks who struggle putting their insight into words? I’d love to hear them, so please share them in a comment here!

 

More posts you might like:

How Much Should You Pay For Content Writing?

Four Ways To Instantly Boost Your Self-Confidence

I Took A 9-Day Break From Social Media—And I (And My Business) Survived!

At about this time during last summer, I believed it was ultra-important for my personal brand to stay current and engaged online even while I was taking a On-Vacationvacation break from work otherwise. I tweeted, posted to my business Facebook page, interacted on Google Plus, and even made a few new connections and published a post on LinkedIn while vacationing in Port Isabel, TX, just across the Queen Isabella Causeway, which stretches over the Laguna Madre Bay to South Padre Island.

During this year’s vacation, I didn’t. I did nada on social media for nine days (with the exception of liking a handful of photos on Instagram that my daughter posted and requested I show some love to during our Walt Disney World vacation).

That’s right. I ignored social media. I didn’t post any photos (until after I returned home); I didn’t share links to articles about small business, productivity, or marketing; I didn’t send invitations to connect (nor accept any) on LinkedIn; and I didn’t scan my news feeds to see what any individuals or businesses were up to.

And guess what?

  • The sky didn’t fall.
  • Earth continued to spin on its axis.
  • The sun rose and set as usual.
  • Lightning didn’t strike me.

But more important, I didn’t lose clients and I didn’t lose any killer opportunities as a result of me choosing to live life offline and give my online activities a rest.

I should disclose that my Klout score dropped three points from 60 to 57 during my hiatus. But who gives a darn about that?

Anyways, contrary to what you may have been told, taking a limited break from social media may not be as bad for your business and personal brand as you fear. If you’ve told your clients that you’ll be gone, if you’ve finished any work that you promised to complete before you departed on your getaway, and if you’ve provided status updates on any assignments that are mid-project, you’ve likely got all in a good holding pattern.

Particularly when you’re a solopreneur with no staff to hold down the fort, your audience will understand you’re human and need time away from it all. And if they’re that dependent on what you share that they can’t go for a week or so without any content or interaction with you, they need to seek some professional help aside from yours!

When you’re on vacation, why not live in the moment and be present in the fun with your loved ones and friends rather than worry about garnering likes, comments, and shares online? As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” That goes for you Jills out there, too.

When was the last time you unplugged from social media?