Archive | business

Never miss a deadline – 3 time-saving tips from the newsroom

Never miss a deadline - 3 time saving tips from the newsroom

I started my writing career working in busy BBC radio and television newsrooms. The demand of hitting deadlines for hourly news bulletins and regular broadcasts was excellent training in being accurate, quick, and getting things done. Here are three top tips from the newsroom to help you in your business:

1. Plan and prepare

Even with a breaking story, there is always a little time to think about questions to ask interviewees, or what to say on air.

For more regular planned content, I’d always set off on a story with details of where I was going, who I was going to speak to and contact numbers in case of emergency. Having the basics written down, or easily accessible from your mobile device can save a lot of running around.

I’d also spend some time thinking about the story I was going to film or record (often in the car on the way there). Plotting out a simple structure helped me to focus on gathering the interviews and information I needed and made sure I didn’t forget to ask an important question.

For example, the structure for a news feature could be:

  • Introduction
  • Viewpoint 1
  • Opposing viewpoint 2
  • What do members of the public think
  • Summary

Thinking about the structure of your business content, such as a blog post or newsletter can help you to focus on what you need and stop you getting distracted.

Check out how to write a blog post in one hour for more time-saving tips.

Never miss a deadline - time saving tips from the newsroom for your business Click To Tweet

2. Create once, use many

As a radio journalist, I had to write headlines for news bulletins every hour. Often the same story would appear on subsequent bulletins, but by changing the headline, I could give it a new focus. For example, a business story could appear as:

  • New factory brings £30 million investment to the North East
  • 500 new jobs come to the North East thanks to major factory investment
  • North Tyneside mayor says factory investment offers a ‘promise of prosperity’

How to re-use and re-focus content you create for your business

  • Record a video on your latest blog topic.
  • Create an infographic of a handy how to guide.
  • Offer a downloadable template to go with your time-saving tips.
  • Ask your customers and fans to vote on new designs for your logo.

There are loads of different ways you can put a new spin on a content idea.

3. Get it done

I learned very quickly that there’s no such thing as another 30 seconds in a newsroom. Content was ready for the deadline or it didn’t make it to air.

Adequate and on time always beats perfectly late. That’s been a valuable lesson throughout my writing and business career.

Adequate and on time always beats perfectly late. Click To Tweet

It’s understandable that you want the content you create or the tasks you complete for your business to be perfect. To sweat over every little detail. Change your mind a dozen times and then go back to how it was originally.

Remember, your customers, your audience only see the finished results. They can only respond to what you publish, or create. And if it takes you forever to do it, they may lose interest and move on.

You wouldn’t watch a blank TV screen would you? Or listen to static on the radio?

Set your deadline, stick to it and publish.

Additional tip: The handover

At the end of each shift in the newsroom, I would leave instructions in a handover note to the person on the next shift.

Even if you’re not handing over to anyone else in your business, think about what you can do to set yourself up for a good start each day.

At the end of each day at the writing desk, I write a to-do list for the next day’s activities. Plans may change, just like they do in the newsroom, but it’s always a good place to start.

For more on how lessons for the newsroom can help you make decisions, work to deadlines and trust in your team, check out John Young Media.

For more writing, marketing and time saving tips, sign up to my mailing list.

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Finding your writing voice and what that means

Finding your writing voice and what that means

A lot of writing advice talks about ‘finding your voice’. But what does that mean?

We all have a unique ‘physical’ voice. The tone, accent and language you use are formed from a unique mixture of your background and education; where you’ve lived and worked; who you’ve associated with, who you admire and whose customs you adopt.

Speaking vs writing

Studies have shown that we start to recognise human voices in the womb. In the early stages of human evolution, being able to distinguish whether someone was friend or foe in the dark, would have been an important survival trait.

In contrast, writing is something we’re taught to do. It’s a skill we have to learn and it doesn’t come as naturally as speaking. So our writing voice is more likely to be influenced by education, and what we’re taught about writing.

And that’s where there’s can be a disconnect between our speaking and writing voices. In being taught to write, we assimilate all these ‘rules’ about grammar, spelling and punctuation. And they can sometimes get in the way, making us fearful of making a mistake when we write.

What happens when we write?

I’ve seen it more times than I care to remember in business communications. When someone picks up a pen or taps their fingers on a keyboard, their ‘voice’ changes. It becomes more formal. It looks for clever sounding phrases. It adopts things it’s seen written elsewhere in a bid to sound professional.

Man in a suit tightening his tieThat’s how you end up with nonsense like “leveraging our partner ecosystem” and “assuring you of our best attention” (an email sign off that I used to see on a daily basis).

Say those phrases out loud. How do they feel?

That’s a tip I use in my business writing workshops.Read what you’ve written out loud. Ask yourself ‘Would I actually say that?

Read what you've written out loud. Ask yourself 'Would I actually say that?' Click To Tweet

If you have to mentally wrinkle up your nose, or adopt an unfamiliar tone to say it, then it’s not natural and authentic. And your audience, your customers will sense that.

Why our spoken and written voices differ

When we speak, our communication is spontaneous. We don’t use complete sentences. We get distracted. We intersperse our words with pauses, umms and errs that give us time to think.

When we speak, our body language, facial expressions and tone give clues to our meaning and intention. We understand if someone is being sarcastic, joking or being serious. Our spoken voice is full of our personality.

When we write, we don’t have these extra clues to illustrate our meaning. The words we use have to do all the work. So it’s important that they are clear.

But your written voice can represent your personality in the same way that your spoken voice does. Use words to paint a picture, tell a story, conjure up ideas in another person’s mind. Drop in a colloquial phrase or a favourite word. It’s all about being authentic.

Use words to paint a picture, tell a story, conjure up ideas in another person's mind. Click To Tweet

Finding a voice for my clients

Cup of coffeeIn writing for clients I have to adopt voices. It’s a bit like being a impressionist. I listen to them talk about their business. I read their written content carefully. I look for words and phrases they use and mimic their rhythm and style.

When I adopt a brand voice for a client, it’s often about dialling up or dialling down certain elements. One client has a lovely chatty tone of voice, so as I write for them, I imagine popping into their kitchen for a cuppa.

Another client is incredibly creative, bursting with ideas and enthusiasm. I throw in words that appeal to the senses and drop in a one-word sentence for impact.

How I help improve your writing voice

Sometimes my job is to give a client’s voice clarity. I edit out words that you don’t need, strip away the fluff and focus on what matters so that you present the best version of your business.

Sometimes my job is to give a client’s voice a confidence boost, so instead of words like ‘maybe, might, a bit’, I use words like ‘can, will and lots’.

singerOften my job is to give your communication clarity. That means structure and punctuation that makes it easy to read. It’s a bit like a singing coach showing you where to breathe when singing a complicated line.

When I correct grammar and spelling, it’s about avoiding distractions, and preventing you from looking stupid. Think of me as the friend who’ll tell you that you have spinach in your teeth, or your dress tucked into your knickers before you head out to impress someone.

Think of me as the friend who'll tell you that you have spinach in your teeth Click To Tweet

As a copy and content writer, I choose my words carefully. The trick is to keep my client’s voice, but give it a tidy up. Just like you might brush your hair more carefully and put on a clean shirt for an important meeting.

The voice I use in these blog posts is mine. A unique mixture of my background, education, influences and interests. You may not be able to detect my accent, but my writing voice is authentically mine.

5 creative writing prompts to spark fresh ideas for your business marketing

5 creative writing prompts to spark fresh ideas for your business marketingDo you ever think I don’t know what to write? I’ve said all that already? There’s nothing new to add?

I hear that a lot from businesses I work with. Most of the time you’re thinking about what you’re doing, your customers, your products, making sales and generally getting on with business. Thinking about how you write or talk about what you do to market your business doesn’t cross your mind until you find yourself stuck for inspiration.

If you’re looking for something to say in a blog post, facebook update, newsletter, instagram post or any other place you market your business, try one of these creative prompts to get you started.

Ever think I don't know what to write? Try one of these creative prompts Click To Tweet

1. Write in the style of… a detective novel, a fairy tale, a science fiction adventure…

How would you sell your products and services on a space ship? What would happen if the local outlaw came into your store?

If you feel like you’re always saying the same thing the same way, deliberately adopting a new and alternative style can shake up your thinking and give you some new ideas.

Open book2. Pick a sentence at random

This works well with a fiction book, but a newspaper, magazine or other printed item can work too. Choose a sentence at random, write it down and continue on from there.

An alternative starting point can give your writing a whole new direction.

3. Choose an object and tell its story

Select an item on your table, in your pocket, or just something you can see. Now write about life from its point of view. How did it get there? What’s its purpose? What are its goals and dreams?

This is a great creative prompt if you’re looking to freshen up the way you talk about products or services that you sell.

A great creative prompt if you're looking to freshen up the way you talk about products or… Click To Tweet

4. Write ten sentences

Write ten things about your day. They can be simple and mundane, or detailed and elaborate. They don’t have to link up or follow on from each other, so you can write something about having breakfast and then something a customer said to you. The only rule is to write complete sentences.

If the thought of writing anything feels daunting, this is a great way to grasp the confidence to do it. It’s just ten sentences after all.

Direction sign post

5. Write about a journey

It could be something as simple as a walk to the bus stop, or a trip into town. It doesn’t have to be that tale of the time you walked the Macchu Picchu trail.

Think about a journey and how you would tell the story of that journey to someone else.

This is a great way to get you thinking about structure and order as you write, because all journeys have a beginning, middle and end.

Think about a journey and how you would tell the story of that journey to someone else. Click To Tweet

How will any of this help me write about my business?

Writing creatively is about having fun, loosening up and forgetting about what you think you can or should be writing.

These creative prompts won’t necessarily give you something to use in your business straight away, but they will shake up your thinking and give you a fresh new place to start.

Look for the unexpected words and phrases that come from writing with a different set of expectations. Are there any that you can use?

As a copywriter, I often have to write about stuff that can seem pretty boring at first glance. I have used all of these tips and more to help me come up with fresh ideas and new perspectives.

Creative prompts will shake up your thinking and give you a fresh place to start. Click To Tweet

Want support and encouragement to write more creatively?

Try out some of these creative writing tips for yourself and join me for a day’s creative writing retreat at Christmas Farm in Northumberland on Saturday 23 September.

Fuel your creative inspiration with lunch fresh from the farm garden, plus plenty of tea, coffee and cake.

Book your spot at the writing table today 

For more hints and tips on great writing for your business, sign up to my mailing list

Why creativity is important in writing for business

Painting of peacock and peahen by Gail Armstrong

Peacock and peahen by Gail Armstrong

During the creative writing workshop I hosted in June, I set a free-writing exercise using animals as a prompt. Gail, an artist who creates paintings and drawings of people and places around the North East, wrote about a peacock.

The idea took such a hold that she returned to it as part of her own free-writing practice. As an artist, she was able to visualise her words and draw the beautiful picture of the peacock protecting a peahen that I’ve used to illustrate this blog post. You can see more of Gail’s work on her website.

I hadn’t planned to use that particular exercise in that workshop, but conversations around the table in Beth’s cabin sparked the idea and I felt confident enough to go ‘off script’ and try it.

Creativity inspires creativity. Look at the world of professional creative art. You’ll hear music inspired by books and poems; paintings inspired by music; dance inspired by stories; sculpture inspired by movement. Creativity inspires.

Why creativity is important in writing for business

For all that’s so impersonal about the word ‘business’, business is essentially about people interacting with other people.

From the simplest of individual transactions (“I want that. I’ll pay you for it”), to more complex and subtle negotiation (“I want to be part of that. I’ll give some of my personal data in return”), business is about the exchange of goods, services and ideas between people.

Writing is a creative pursuit. In a world of business, it’s easy to lose sight of that in the midst of targets, focus groups, measurements and ROI. But I hope that in writing for business I never have lost the motivation and desire to be creative.

Connect with readers through empathy

tango dancersWhen Robert Frost wrote: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” he was talking about the power of poetry to connect writer and reader through empathy and shared experience.

In business writing I say: “Boredom in the writer, boredom in the reader.” If I don’t find something interesting in what I write, why should you read it?

It’s up to me as a business writer to find something that excites, intrigues, delights or concerns me and to use that as a means of connecting with readers, customers, audiences.

All business thrives on creativity. Audience, targets, focus and goals are all important, but playing, trying new things, looking for inspiration outside the world of business is vital too.

Looking for creative inspiration?

If you’re looking for inspiration and time to write, join me for my next writing workshop in Northumberland. We’ll enjoy an environment that nurtures creativity. I’ll give you some prompts and time to explore your own writing. And you’ll be fuelled with tea, cake and lunch to keep your inspiration flowing.

Find out more and book your place.

Exercise your writing muscle – train to be a better writer

Use your writing muscle - writer wearing a hoodie, holding pen and note-book

Like physical training, your writing can benefit from exercise. Just like challenging your body, heart and lungs to take on new challenges, you can improve your writing by focusing on your writing practice and trying new things. Here’s how I exercise my writing muscle and keep myself in top writing shape.

Make time for writing

I swim, cycle and run so that I can take part in triathlons. I do weight training to keep me strong and in good shape for my sport too. Yes, it is sometimes hard to fit in physical training. But I know that if I don’t put the effort into consistent training, I’m unlikely to reach my potential, and I risk injury. Training challenges me, and I enjoy it. So I make time for it.

I make time for writing too. Not just as part of my daily routine, which involves creating content for my writing clients. I make time to explore writing outside of my work commitments too.

Time to try new writing challenges. Time to write with no expectations or judgement. Time to play around and enjoy it.

Time for writing can be a regular 20 minutes free-writing to warm up my writing muscles for the day. Or, it can be more intense and concentrated, in the form of a workshop or writing retreat with Dark Angels, or a training event from 26 Characters.

Become a better writer by reading

Most writers start out mimicking their heroes. I did. Somewhere in a box in the attic, there’s an exercise book filled with a story about a girl who runs off on horseback in the dead of night, in the style of C.S Lewis. Reading was how I first learnt the elements of stories, about heroes and conflicts, about character, place and action.

It may seem like a long path to go from writing fantasy tales to writing marketing materials for businesses. But business writing has its heroes with their obstacles to overcome too. It’s just a matter of seeking them out. Call that my daily quest.

Writing stories of my own taught me about structure – about the importance of beginnings, middles and endings. These are important elements in business writing too.

You need a strong headline to catch attention. You need to draw people in, take them on a journey. And then at the end, you need to persuade them to take action.

Become a better writer by analysing technique

While studying English Literature and Language at Leeds University, one of my tutors used to set us the task of writing essays in the style of the writers we were studying – Philip Sidney, John Milton, Alexander Pope.

This was very different from modern writing, but in mimicking the rhetoric, structure, and language of different writers, I learned to appreciate the craft of their writing even more. That meant I could write about it from a position of understanding.

Using metaphor, drawing on all the senses, writing from another person’s point of view, choosing a potent word – these are all techniques I have learned through studying language and literature. And they serve me well as a writer for business today.

Become a better writer by finding your voice

As a writer, the ability to adapt my writing to different styles is a very useful skill. It helps me sound like the brand or company I’m writing for. And I can still do a decent impression of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, should you need that kind of thing.

But to be authentic, it’s not enough to mimic someone else’s style.  You have to develop your own.

While a brand and business may borrow and adopt words and language from its own industry and environment, as a tone of voice consultant, I advise them to look for the things that make them different.

Just as in speaking, we all have our own individual, distinct and recognisable voices, it’s important to find your own voice when you write – whether that’s writing for business or writing for yourself. It’s what makes you different, unique and memorable.

To exercise your writing muscle and improve your writing

  1. Make time for writing

  2. Make time for reading

  3. Try on different voices and see what fits

  4. Use what you’ve learned and make it your own

For more tips to help you improve your writing, sign up to my mailing list.

If you’re looking to build your physical muscles, Mass Gain Source offers these essential body building tips for beginners.

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How to write a blog post in one hour

Blog faster- how to write a blog post in an hour

I often hear people running their own businesses say that they’d like to write more blog posts, but they just don’t have the time. I don’t think it has to be that way. So I’ve set myself a challenge. Can I write this blog post in one hour and show you how to do it too?

The clock is ticking. Or rather, the timer on my phone is counting down, so let’s go.

Where to start? With a store of ideas

Where do ideas for blog posts come from? I read, listen and watch the news. I browse the web, read articles and blog posts. When I find something interesting I stick it into a swipe file or a notebook.

Stick your ideas into an online pot, like Evernote or OneNote  and they’re accessible any time anywhere. Or keep a notebook and jot them down at the back. Just make sure you always have it with you.

Ask your friends, family and community what they want to hear about. Even if you only have a small number of followers or subscribers to your mailing list or blog, a few ideas from them are better than none at all.

Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. You may find you’re waiting a long time. The more you go looking for it, the more you’ll find.

10 mins gone and I’m well into creating content from one of my stored ideas.

What does a blog post need?

  • Title
  • Image
  • Lead para
  • Practical hints and tips
  • Question/conclusion/where to go for more

Applying a structure can help you focus on what you need to get the job done and stop you getting side tracked.

So what do I have?

  • Title  – well that’s the challenge of this blog and something I swiped from my ideas store
  • Image – I can go to my file of images on my laptop and use something like a picture of my desk. Or I can spend 5 mins looking for rights-free images on a site like pixabay or pexels.com. I’ll do that in a few minutes.
  • Content – well that’s what I’m doing now. Typing directly into WordPress, or a simple text editor such as One Note or Evernote.

I usually type in Word, but I don’t want to be distracted by too many formatting options and I know that when I copy and paste into WordPress, it does some wonky formatting that I’ll have to reset. So keep it simple and avoid having to spend time re-formatting.

Use a template or formula

You may think that writing posts to a formula or template will get dull and boring. But most well written stories on the web, including news stories, are written to some kind of template and chances are you’ve never really noticed.

A template, such as headline, lead paragraph, content, conclusion gives your writing a structure and direction. That keeps you focused as you’re writing it and helps make it easy for your audience to read too.

Applying a formula is one way to help you write blog posts quickly and consistently. Once you’re up and running, and have built your confidence, then by all means play around a play around a little and try a new one.

If something works well for a post – then repeat it.

30 minutes left

I’m not working through my list in the same order that I’ve written it. The first thing I’m working on is the content, what I’m writing or typing right now.

I’m not particularly crafting each line as I go, just getting my thoughts down in some kind of order. When I have my first draft complete, I’ll go back and tidy up any spacing, capitalisation, spelling and grammar problems.

And I’ll  start formatting headers and sub headers in WordPress too, to make this easy to read.

Next up I’ll go and hunt out that image and place it in the post with a description and alt tag (because that’s good for SEO).

How to write a blog post quickly and consistently

We’re all busy. We all have lots of things to do. But the truth is that we all have the same number of hours in a day and days in a week. It’s what we choose to do with them that differs.

If writing a regular blog post for your business is important to you, then make time for it. Schedule time with yourself, just like you would for a meeting or a call with a customer.

Make an appointment

Commit to writing a blog post in a regular time slot and see how productive you can be. That means no phone calls, no sneaky peeks at social media, no email checking. Just focus on your appointment to get that blog post written.

Once you get in the flow, you may find that you can get more done more quickly. And get smart. If you do find you have a chunk of time, and you’re in the flow, why stop at one? Write two or three and get them scheduled ready to post.

If you don’t have a block of time all in one go, then break it up into chunks and do a bit at a time. Say you have ten minutes on Monday – use that to fill your inspiration file. Another ten minutes on Tuesday? Start sketching out the content for your blog post, do some more research or look for images you can use.

Okay. Content’s written. I’ve got an image. How am I doing for time?

10 minutes left

Time to review and check and see what this post looks like. I spotted a few errors and tidied up some bullet points and formatting.

I’ve also time to do a quick review of SEO, looking at keywords. I use the Yoast plugin to help me.

My one hour blog post plan

  • Pick an idea from my swipe file
  • Commit to a time to write and create the post
  • Draft rough copy in OneNote
  • Copy into WordPress (second draft) and write in complete sentences
  • Create a title
  • Insert an image – choose from my own library or search online
  • Format the post with headings, bullet points etc
  • Preview and amend
  • Check SEO
  • Publish or schedule

Okay, just a few minutes left now. Time to preview and check again and to write a quick line to introduce this on my social sharing platforms.

Now, time for the truth. Was this helpful to you? Did you find it useful? Let me know in the comments below.

For more business writing and marketing  tips like these sign up to my mailing list.

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The network power of Forward Ladies

One of the best things about starting my own writing and training business has been building my network. It was always part of my plan to work with new and different clients, but I didn’t anticipate how quickly I would be welcomed as part of the small business network in the North East.

I’ve joined a couple of online networking groups, and attended a couple of face to face get togethers (for details see my blog post about networking as an introvert). And I’ve been impressed by the level of support and encouragement I’ve received from fellow business owners.

So, when three amazing business women in my new network mentioned Forward Ladies, the UK’s largest business support network for women in business, I took it as a sign that I should go and see what it was all about.

A new business network

Griselda Togobo and Antonia Brindle of Forward Ladies network

Griselda Togobo, Antonia Brindle, Forward Ladies network

I attended my first Newcastle Forward Ladies Power Breakfast last week. Sarah Gray of Grays Powers of Attorney even gave me a lift – how easy could it be!

My timing couldn’t have been better, as the guest speaker was the impressive owner, Griselda Togobo. She told us how she’s inspired to be in business every day by her mum, who grew up in Ghana, and didn’t go to school, but ignored all the people who told her she couldn’t, and set up her own construction business.

Griselda spoke passionately about not letting anything get in the way of being a woman in business. Making our own decisions, being the ones signing the cheques, Griselda maintains that there’s never been a better time to be a woman in business.

Amazing support

As it was my first event, I was given the opportunity to introduce myself and my writing and training business, Wordstruck. But more importantly, two of my new network friends, Jo Darby of Voice in the Room and Clare Talbot Jones of Talbot Jones Risk Solutions spoke unprompted, about how I’d helped them. I’ve only met these amazing women recently and have been inspired by their personal and professional approach, so their words really meant a lot to me.

That demonstrated better than anything the values of  Forward Ladies. It’s not a network that’s about selling, but one that focuses on supporting each other and helping businesses grow together. That’s a value that I feel is very important to me and the way I choose to do business.

New connections and opportunities

There’s often much said and written about the loneliness and isolation of running a small business or being a sole trader. But my experience so far has been quite the opposite. I’m delighted to have found amazing encouragement and positivity from my new network of independent business people.

I am excited to be part of another powerful and enthusiastic network in Forward Ladies. And I’m forward to learning from other businesses and using my skills and experience to help them too.

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Free writing – how to start writing anything

Just write.

It’s one piece of advice I always offer about writing of any kind. If the blank page fills you with fear, find a way to defeat it.

Free writing

person writing with a pen in a notebookJust write. Take your pen or pencil and move it on the paper. Write as quickly as you can, without thinking too much about what you want to write.

Don’t worry if it’s a scribbly mess. Pay no attention to grammar or spelling or any of the usual things that demand your attention when writing. Just take your mind for a walk and let the words follow as you write.

This is free writing and it’s a great technique to help you get over the hurdle of starting to write anything.

Writing as part of a creative routine

For creative writers, it’s a technique popularised by Julia Cameron in her book The Artists’ Way. She calls this practice ‘Morning Pages’ and encourages writers to start each day with 3 sides of long hand writing.

Much of what you write may be nonsense, or fairly dull practical stuff about what you need to do that day, but given time and focus, other elements start to appear if you can just let go and write.

I don’t stick strictly to the ‘Morning Pages’ routine, but do use variations of free writing in my own writing practice, whether I’m writing for business or just for my own amusement. I always start with something handwritten as I find thoughts flow more readily from brain to pen than they do from brain to keyboard.

Finding creative gifts

Use free writing to spark creative ideasFree writing is useful for any kind of writing, not just for self discovery. It gets you started and gives a structure.

I recommend setting a timer and writing for between 10 to 20 minutes. And importantly, doing nothing else in the meantime. Just focusing on writing, but trying not to think too much about what you’re writing.

Writing in this way allows you to tap into your subconscious, which is a great source of creative ideas. Once you get your conscious mind out of the way, you may find that your subconscious throws in something completely unexpected. That’s an absolute gift for generating original and creative ideas.

I remember using free writing to start a piece of fantasy writing about a monster. After a while, letting my thoughts flow, out of nowhere came an image of a reality TV show contestant singing into a microphone. The clash of the two images gave my creative piece an unexpected twist and the final story was shortlisted for a writing award.

Free writing for business

Girl breathing Free writing also helps me reflect. I turn off the screen, eliminate any distractions and just spend time with my pen and notebook. My handwriting becomes very untidy and often I don’t write in full sentences. But as I do it, I can feel a sense of calm, like I’m taking deeper breaths, or spending some time meditating.

For business focused writing I adapt the exercise by giving myself a starting point or a topic at the top of the page. For example, this blog post began as a free writing exercise around the theme of writing workshops.

Discover your writing inspiration

I’m putting together materials and exercises for a creative writing workshop next month and free writing is very likely to be one of the exercises I will use. I may start people off with a sentence or a phrase that they continue such as: “I’d write more if…”

If you’re interested in starting to write and developing your writing creatively for business, blogging or just for your own enjoyment, check out details of my Get Writing, Keep Writing workshop.

For more business writing tips, sign up to my mailing list.

The benefits of collaboration for your business

“Working for yourself can feel a bit lonely at times” – that’s something I hear from lots of sole traders, entrepreneurs and self employed business owners. Writing is often perceived as an individual activity, but in writing for business, I’ve found that’s far from the truth. I often work in collaboration with other businesses and benefit from people who offer a range of different skills and experience.

So what benefits does collaboration offer to your business? And where do you find the people to work with?

Collaborate for creative inspiration

I’ve been privileged to work with some amazing designers, animators, photographers and filmmakers throughout my career. Drawing inspiration from people with different backgrounds and experiences really helps spark new and original ideas.

Glass jar etched with the words 'Creative juices'As part of an agency, I got used to working with a tight-knit team creating concepts and visions for creative campaigns. We quickly moved from ‘That’s my idea, that’s your idea…’ to ‘That’s a great idea – how do we build on that?’ We trusted each other to work towards a shared goal of creating something that was bigger and better than the sum of our individual inputs.

Although I may not sit next to a creative team every day, I still find opportunities for creative collaboration. For example, I first worked with Ashleigh when I asked her to come up with a visual brand for Wordstruck I’d seen her work on twitter and really admired her style.

What you don’t see now are all the other ideas we discussed and debated, all the roads we didn’t go down. Ashleigh shared ideas and we discussed, developed and refined them to get to the finished versions. I learned a lot from being on the client side of the relationship and absolutely love my visual brand.

It felt like a very creative and supportive relationship, so now that Ashleigh is set to launch stop. an exciting new brand agency, I was delighted that she asked me to work with her on copy to launch and promote it. I can’t wait to show you the results of that collaboration.

Collaborate to benefit from expert help

I have been making my living from writing in one form or another for more than 20 years, so I am confident that I can deliver a great service as a writer for businesses. But I don’t have so much experience of running my own business, and I know that’s something that I have to continue to learn and work on.

people rafting on a riverI’ve benefited from lots of great free advice. But I’m a firm believer that it’s worth while paying an expert to help in areas where I lack the skills, knowledge  or time to do something properly.

That’s why, I’ll be working with an accountant to help me manage my first self-assessment return. With several different sources of income since last April, I appreciate the reassurance of getting it done correctly and know that it will take them a lot less time than it will take me.

I also greatly appreciate the help and advice I’ve received about risk and insurance from Talbot Jones Risk Solutions. Talking to Richard and Clare about my business absolutely put my mind at rest about possible risks and filled me in on much that I didn’t know. At no time did I feel under any obligation to put business their way, but I was pleased to be able to do so.

And that’s where they really excelled, by providing the kind of personal patience and service that I think you only really get from independent businesses. I got a real sense that they were as invested in my business success as I am and really did their utmost to find me the right product at the right price.

Collaborate to develop skills

I love working with my writing clients, finding out about their business, discovering what makes them tick and how I can help them tell their story.

street performers doing each others make upHowever well I prepare for a meeting or a call with a potential new client, there’s always the element of the unexpected.

I have to admit that I was a bit cautious about working with one of my clients at first, as I didn’t know much about them and it took some time to understand what they were looking for.

When I mentioned I was going off to do some voiceover work that afternoon, our conversation took a different turn, and I’m now using my journalism skills to help them develop original content for a brand new website launching soon.

Finding new people to work with is helping me develop greater confidence in talking about my business and listening for the opportunities to help others.

Collaborate to amplify your voice and support each other

In today’s world of social media, it can sometimes feel like you’re a lone voice shouting into the void, and that no-one out there is listening. My answer to that is to find your tribe – people who do similar things and understand what you’re taking on.

hawaiian hula dancersI found a great tribe of slightly mad people to support my running and triathlon adventures in the online community of Fetch Everyone. My writing tribe are members of 26 Characters and graduates of the Dark Angels courses.

In business, I have found support from other local entrepreneurs through online social networks including Do Digital, the Inspire Network and North East Bloggers and PRs.

Find your tribe - collaborate with those who encourage and support your business #DoDigital Click To Tweet

Everyone on these forums is running their own business. We support each other by sharing recommendations for services and advice. We read and comment on each others blog posts, share and celebrate each others success and hang out in a space where it’s okay to ask questions.

Do you collaborate with other businesses? What are your challenges and successes? I’d love to hear about them.

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How to find your business blogging confidence

There’s been a lot of chat about business blogging in my online networks this week, with several people expressing a lack of confidence about doing it.

I’m a writer. I blog and I have done for years. I’m not saying I always do it as well or as consistently as I could do, but I’m not afraid of writing blog posts for my own and other businesses. By addressing some of your worries and sharing what works for me, I’d like to help give you more confidence to blog for your business.

Why blog for your business?

There’s lots of advice about this, so I’ll give you the short version. Blogging is a relatively easy way to generate new content for your website. Search engines like new content, so your site appears higher in their rankings than static sites, and more customers find you.

Blogging is also a great way to establish your knowledge and expertise, to give your customers a chance to get to know more about you and your business and to build up a relationship with them.

I don’t like writing and I’m no good at it

photographerWho says you have to write a blog? Why not use video or photographs?

You don’t need fancy equipment and editing software for video or vlogs – a smartphone or the video mode on a digital camera will do. Film them selfie style, or fix your camera onto something. I’ve balanced mine on a pile of books before now.

Pictures also make great blog posts. A series of photos of an event, product or experience are an excellent way to show what your business does. You can add captions or let them tell their own story.

I am not great at using pictures in my blogs. I prefer to use my own to avoid rights issues. But I have found pixabay and Unsplash useful for sourcing rights free images and have created some of my own using Adobe Spark and Canva.

Or, best of all, hire a professional photographer to get some great pictures of you and your business that you can use time and time again. That’s on my to-do list in the next six months.

As for being confident or ‘good’ at writing blogs, all I can say is that if you don’t try, it won’t get any easier. Let your audience or customers decide how good you are. And if you need some help, then ask your friendly local writer for help with subjects, structure or writing style.

I don’t have any ideas for blog posts

This is quite difficult for me to understand, because I have ideas all the time. I watch the news, sign up for alerts to subjects I’m interested in, go for a walk, talk to people, look through photos on my phone. I read, I dream, I cook, I run – I mash things up from one area of my life and another. I have more ideas than I will ever get to write about.

Working in creative industries means I’ve always had to think of ideas. As a BBC Radio journalist I had to source at least two news stories a day, which meant generating a lot more than two ideas and working on them until I ‘found’ a story.

Wordstruck notebooksAs a creative copywriter, I had to generate lots of ideas for marketing campaigns. Here, working with other creative people really helped me to bounce ideas around, and spark new ones from others’ input. The trick was not to dismiss any idea straight away, to keep on generating them and only then start to apply filters about what would work well.

I take the same approach to blogging now. If I’m asked to write about a particular theme or subject, I’ll do a bit of research and then jot down as many ideas as I can.  I’ll leave them for a while before coming back to them to decide which ones to present to a client.

I write ideas down in OneNote, and in my notebooks. Nowadays, I normally have a phone or notebook with me, but I have scribbled things on the back of bus tickets in my time. Most of my ideas are a sentence, phrase or question that acts as a prompt, but sometimes they can be a quote or an observation.

I don’t think my ideas are any good

If you want to be strategic and smart about blogging for your business, then think about your audience or your customers and what they would be interested in. Here are a few themes to get you started:

  • What advice can you pass on?
  • Share  your view of what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ – what goes into your product or service?
  • Review an activity, event, place, product or service
  • What do you wish you’d known when you started in business?
  • Think about questions that your customers always ask you – can you answer some of these in a blog post?
  • How can you help your customers do business with you or a closely related business? For example this guest post for Whiteacres Design offers great tips for choosing a commercial photographer

If those aren’t enough then here are 50 ideas for your business blog.

And if you’re still struggling, then drop me a note in the comments below or contact me through the Wordstruck facebook page.

I don’t have time to blog

As a business writer, one of the services I offer is to write blogs for your business. So, it may seem a bit odd that I’m writing this blog post, as I could be doing myself out of business. But I recognise that not everyone has the budget or inclination to hire a writer. And I love writing so much that I want to share that with you.

Here are some of the things that helped me:

Set a time and place for blogging

Wordstruck writing deskMy brilliant writing mentor John Simmons has written a weekly blog post for years. He sets aside a specific day and time to write.

I wrote a weekly blog on a writing theme for over a year, following the same discipline and setting aside an hour a week to do it.

I didn’t always complete my blog post in that hour, but I made a start. Sometimes I could extend that time, sometimes I had to find it somewhere else. But I made it a goal to get it written and published.

Make yourself accountable

I set myself a weekly blogging goal because I wanted to generate content, and because I wanted to test my ability to come up with new ideas on a consistent basis. This was actually the start of convincing myself that I had the right attitude to set up in business for myself.

If it helps, tell someone what your business blogging goal is, or at least write it down e.g. I will post a blog about my business once a week for 6 weeks. I announced mine on my twitter profile.

Take on a bet, or promise yourself a reward for sticking to your blogging goals. Buddy up with your social or business network and challenge and support each other.

Just do it

Blogging is a great way to develop your confidence in writing and talking about your business. Remember, you’re in charge of what you publish and when. And, you can go back and edit things (even delete them) if you want to.

So, try not to get too hung up on writing the perfect blog post . Just write it and publish it. After you’ve taken a deep breath and calmed down, go back and look at the responses, comments, views and analytics and use them to help you decide what to post next.

Special business blogging offer

Writing this blog post has made me realise there’s a lot more I could say about business blogging. So I’d like to hear from you. What challenges and concerns do you have about blogging for your business? What more would you like to know?

Please add your comments below or get in touch with me via the Wordstruck facebook page. I promise to respond to every comment.

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