The Most Used and Most Important Skill

Several years ago I spoke at a conference for internet marketers in South Florida. I spoke endlessly about ways to start and grow an online business. After each session I spoke at I would ask the crowd if they had any questions. Inevitably, there were many. I don’t remember what anyone asked me, except for one lady. She asked me what I spend the majority of my time doing for my business.

My answer?

Writing.  I don’t think she or anyone else in the crowd expected this answer. But it’s true. Every day I have to write something for my business. It could be a proposal, job description, promotion, advertisement, article, assignment for my team, email…or a million other things.

Not everyone goes into business being able to write well though. It can be complicated and frustrating when writing doesn’t come naturally to you.

It doesn’t have to be a task that frustrates you though. All you need to do is remember a few things.

The most important tip I can give you is to always remember your audience when writing for your business. Most writers make the mistake of forgetting about the reader’s wants and needs, and only write about the stuff that they think is interesting or newsworthy. Forgetting about who will be reading your material is the quickest way to lose your audience. Next time you sit down to write an email to a customer, or an article think about what your reader would want to know about the topic your discussing.

I also find it extremely helpful to organize my thoughts before I begin writing formally. My first objective is always to list all points I want to make in my writing. Next I put the points in order from most important to least important so I know which items I will talk about first. Then I write a brief summary of the entire topic, keeping it very general. I use this as my introductory paragraph.

The body of the story is easy to write now. I just write a paragraph or two about each point I listed earlier. I start with my most important point, working my way down the list. I end each letter with a paragraph detailing any action I want my reader to take. This works on any type of letter/story/advertisement I write. I simply state what I want them to do. If I want them to buy something from me, I say it. If I want an employee to complete an assignment, I tell them to do it and by what date.

This process takes the frustration out of writing. Anytime you break something down into smaller steps it simplifies things and takes the aggravation out of the task.

A lot of ‘professionals’ will tell you to take your time and think everything through when you’re writing something for your business. I couldn’t disagree more. I prefer to write fast and loose in all my materials. This ensures anything I write is more in line with my natural voice, i.e. it ends up sounding like something I would say.

I find when I write without re-reading every sentence and paragraph it helps the overall process move more smoothly. When I am constantly analyzing every sentence and word it puts stress on me to make things perfect and I never get very far. Free write, without stopping, as long as you can. Once you are done, you can re-read, edit, correct and analyze your writing.

One thing I don’t do is rely on spell-checker to catch any of my spelling and grammar mistakes. It’s simply not enough. Spell-checker will catch the misspelled words, but not all words I have mistyped. If the document is important, an advertisement or job description, I always have someone else read over it first before I send it off to the intended recipient. Your proof-reader doesn’t have to be a grammatical genius either. Simply having another set of eyes is enough to catch 95% of all mistakes.

It’s important to remember that every email is also a chance to focus and improve your business writing skills. Most emails are sent as casual notes among colleagues and vendors. They are not viewed as representatives of your business, which in fact they are. These ‘notes’ are how online business owners conduct 90% of their business.

Take each email seriously. Write them professionally and concisely. Pretend as if you are writing a letter to someone. Never say anything in an email you wouldn’t say to their face, and remember the written word lasts forever.

You can also brush up on your business writing skills by taking an online course or picking up a book on the subject. A number of continuing education classes about writing are offered online. Check out elearners.com and skillpath.com. Both offer training and education in advertising and business writing.

If you like having a book or other reference materials at your fingertips check out…

“Business Writing: What Works, What Won’t” by Wilma Davidson

“10 Steps to Successful Business Writing” by Jack E. Appleman,

“Writing That Works; How To Communicate Effectively in Business” by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson,

“The Business Writer’s Handbook, Ninth Edition” by Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu.

I found all of these on Amazon.com and had 5 star reviews (P.S. I’m not being paid to promote any of these books. These are my personal recommendations).

When I went into business for myself I never thought I’d spend so much of my time writing. I thought I’d spend the majority of my time working on deals, marketing, creating new products. And I do, but all those tasks and everything else I do for my business requires me to write. It’s an often overlooked skill that can really benefit your business. Improve your skills may just improve your business.

Good luck!

Mark Patricks

     
     
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