copywriting, editing, proofreading, research, typos, writing tips

Research my old friend – the key to credibility

Well, that was embarrassing! By no means the most embarrassing thing to come out of the White House in recent weeks, but for us lowly Aussies, it’s a pretty blatant slap in the face. It just shows how a simple mistake, like not knowing someone’s name can wreak havoc with your credibility (although having said that I suppose that would have to assume Mr Spicer had some to begin with, which is up for debate). As a writer, it just reminds me how critical it is to have exemplary research skills.

What’s in a name?

While we all may take issue with some of the decisions our Prime Minister has made (or not made for that matter), Spicer referring to Malcolm Turnbull as ‘Prime Minister Trumbull’ has put a bad taste in our mouths. Is it that he deliberately got it wrong and is trying to make a statement that we don’t matter? Or is he so grossly incompetent that he can’t check his facts before addressing the media? Either way, it doesn’t sit well.

As a writer, I am always thrown new and bizarre topics and ideas. I am tasked with creating something engaging in any number of industries and fields and write it in the name of the experts. If I muck up the facts, not only I lose face, but so do my clients. What’s in a name? Your credibility that’s what.

Finding credible sources

Don’t get tarred with the unpleasant brush of ‘alternative facts’. Much like we all need to start investing in the validity of the news put in front of us, when you are producing content, make absolutely certain you know where your facts came from.

Don’t take my word for it. I cannot emphasise enough, the need to find credible sources. A little reminder, Wikipedia might give you your quick facts to get you started, but you know anyone can edit their pages, right? Whether you are writing news articles for major publications or editing a bit of content for someone’s website, if you use someone else’s content, please check it first.

book-1421245

Check your facts

Not only do you need to ensure that your sources are credible but more important than that – have you checked your facts? Have you checked your names? Your dates? You may have gone out of your way to find credible sources, interviewed fantastic people and profiled some fascinating event or product. But if you’ve mucked up the nitty gritty, the whole content piece is totally worthless! I’m not even exaggerating. It’s one thing to have the odd typo (even us experienced writers must admit that every now and then something slips by), it’s another thing entirely to call the Prime Minister of a country by the wrong name.

Research can be fun – really it can!

You know the thing I love most about what I do? That I get to step into someone else’s world for a day. For the time it takes me to produce that content, I get to become an expert. And for that time, I do. The cool thing is that other people’s worlds can be amazing, especially when you get to step back into your own at the end of the day.

To make something interesting to your readers, you’ve got to be interested yourself. The best way? Get in and learn. Before I worked for a metal finishing company, I had no idea how cool metallurgy can be. I mean, seriously, check this video out. Science is cool!

Don’t proof your own work

Whatever you do, whatever you write, wherever you plan to publish, don’t proof your own work. Yes, of course, you can ensure you minimise mistakes and check and recheck everything you write. Please remember, you are invested in what you create and sometimes you will miss things. Sometimes significant things. Don’t embarrass yourself the way that a media professional never should. Ask for help.

There are so many things I want to say about research. I am a research fiend. I actually enjoy finding new and interesting ‘actual facts’.

You know what? The last few months have been pretty confronting for a lot of people. There is so much about recent events that if I am honest, I am not even sure how to react. But you know what? I can say this! Do your F$#@ING research!

copywriting, digital copywriting, editing, freelancing, invoicing, Uncategorized

Billing when freelancing – overcoming the awkwardness

The decision to become a freelance writer was one of the best I’ve made (along with agreeing to marry my husband and making my most excellent child). It’s provided me with freedom, independence, autonomy and most importantly the power to choose with whom I work. Gone are the days of fighting for recognition, negotiating workplace bullies and pandering to other people’s expectations of what a workday looks like. The added bonus? I get to hang out with my kid a couple of days a week, something I feel extraordinarily lucky to do.

For the past four years, I have been lucky (and maybe a little talented) enough to build a comfortable part time business and worked with some pretty fantastic people to boot. While my business grows, and I consider how to elevate it to the next level I have been reflecting on some of the challenges I faced. Don’t get me wrong, as much as I love what I do, there have been challenges. The most salient of which continues to cast a shadow over me. A shadow I fight instincts to overcome.

What is this shadow, you ask? Getting paid. Yup! I have always found the whole process overwhelming and I wish I had someone to give me some tips.

money-in-purse-1237221

First things first – what do I charge?

As I have come to understand, there are countless reasons a contractor might amend their rate card. Whether it be industry, not-for-profit status, offering a package or even throwing in the occasional ‘mate’s rates’, the factors are plenty. As a consequence, not many contractors and freelancers will publish their rates.

As a newbie to freelancing, or even just freelancing to a particular industry, attempting to navigate your way to the perfect hourly rate can be tough. If you aim too high, you’ll get undercut. If you aim too low, people may assume you don’t have a quality product. Locating that Goldilocks rate can be a minefield.

My advice? Do your research before you start quoting. Make a few cursory calls, ask others in your industry, find out what the agents pay. Beyond everything, be confident that your product is worth it.

Stick to your guns – don’t second guess yourself

You’ve finally locked down your rate and even managed to bag a client. Congratulations! Now, stop negotiating. People will always try and get a deal, and if they think they can scrimp another dollar from you, they will. I’ve had clients come to me, halfway through a job, attempting to slide that rate just ‘ever so slightly’ lower. It’s a damn slippery slope. As much as the Pollyanna inside me wants to believe that no one would try and cheat a humble sole trading freelancer, my experience sadly tells me another story.

You are talented. You have the skills. More importantly, you’ve agreed on a rate. As hard as it is, keep that foot firmly on the ground and do not waver. Interesting side note, after I rejected the further discount, the client never brought it up again. Clients worth their weight will respect you more.

Undercharging – it doesn’t pay off the way you think

As with sticking to your rate, charging a client for the right amount of hours is also a tricky one. I always knew that overcharging was a bad move. Not only can it breed bad blood, but it’s just not the right thing to do. What I didn’t learn until I was on the job was the risk of undercharging.

You think to yourself, “Oh I’ll just absorb this cost because it’s a one off”, or “If I undercharge them, they’re more likely to give me more work”. I wish it were that simple.

You under charge, you set a very sketchy precedent. Expectations will be that you deliver at the lower rate every time. While that may make you feel good about yourself, it doesn’t really put food on the table. By all means offer discounts and packages; they can often be your bread and butter. Just don’t put yourself in a position that you can’t then bill your client what you are owed.

Invoicing and following up

Yikes! What a minefield! Asking people for money is awkward as heck.

Do you ever get that totally unjustified wave of guilt when you walk through a metal detector at the airport? I sometimes get that same weird guilt about invoicing people, especially when we’ve developed a rapport. For those who find it as awkward as I do, you’ve got to remember your service/product is valuable. You’ve earned those dollars. Your clients know it, and shock horror, expect it. Invoice and invoice regularly.

If your clients are dragging their feet on paying, remember that’s awkward for them not you. Don’t feel bad about following up.

writing for business
content production, digital copywriting, editing, proofreading, typos, writing tips

Writing tips for non-writers: writing for business

writing for business
Writing for business

Would you like to know how to write purposefully, authentically and effectively in your business? Understanding how to best communicate with your stakeholders can improve business, build credibility and foster excellent relationships. I have plucked a handful of key steps you can take to guarantee an improvement in your writing skills.

Identify a purpose

What is the purpose of your content? Is it internal or external communications? Is it marketing or informative? There is no point spending hours and resources creating content if you don’t know why you are creating it. There are many reasons you might choose to create content, and taking the time to nut out exactly why you want this content will be invaluable to you. It will save time in the long run and will help inform where you want to use the content.

Know where you want to publish your content

Deciding where you want to publish your content should absolutely affect what you produce. Is this content for the web? Is it an annual report for board members? Is it an article for print? Is it an email to a client or colleague? You should take a different approach for each platform. Know ahead of time where you want to publish your content and use that to guide your approach.

Generally speaking, writing for business requires a professional and approachable tone. Be direct, be simple and be clear. If your business has a style guide, you can follow that guide for the right approach.

Identify your call to action

Once you know the desired outcome of your content you have identified your call to action. Make that call clear. Identify it early and always return to it. If any content that you’ve created does not support your call to action – is it necessary?

Know your style

Designing a consistent voice for your business is vital. If you haven’t already, engage a communications specialist, either internally or externally and create a style guide now. This document will help you and your colleagues create consistent, on point, on-brand content for every platform.

Remember to create a guide that includes all the platforms on which you will be conducting business including but not limited to:

  • Emails
  • Reports (external and internal)
  • Website
  • Blog or online articles
  • Newsletters
  • Brochures
  • Social Media
  • Overall printed style
  • Overall digital style

Save your templates

If you have written a great email, or you’re particularly proud of a report you’ve produced, save it. Ensure that you design templates as part of your style guide. This will save time and guarantee a degree of consistency.

Many people do no have experience writing, yet their jobs require writing. Make it easier for them and yourself. Design templates that are easy to follow and save them.

You’ve gotta accentuate the positive

Starting a piece of content with something you can’t do just reminds people what you can’t do. Where possible always lead the focus back to what you can do. Using optimistic language engages your reader on a confident and positive level. Leading with what you can do intrinsically instills your reader with confidence in your ability to do what you need to.

Use the active voice wherever possible. It saves time. It is more direct. It gets your point across in the most efficient way. Unless you are making a specific point, there is no place for a passive voice in business writing.

Get rid of your jargon

When you’re in an industry full of jargon, it’s often difficult to simplify your language and create engaging and clear content. Read my earlier blog for tips on how you can KISS your jargon-filled copy goodbye.

Check it once then check it again.

Pay particular attention to names, titles, gender and dates. By making a mistake this simple you can almost certainly lose a degree of credibility from your reader. Check your facts and then check them again.

Make sure you haven’t made any silly and obvious spelling or grammatical errors. You can refer back to this spelling and grammar checklist for some tips. Don’t just rely on the internet to check your work. Check your content and then check it again.

Ask someone to proofread your content.

Check it one more time.

Ask for help

If you’re still unsure, ask for help. If you don’t have a communications specialist in-house, consider engaging someone like me to help you with your business content.

There are some great courses out there. For a personalised writing training course for your business, get in touch with Make it Peachy for a free consultation.

copywriting, editing, proofreading, sub-editing, typos, writing tips

Don’t let silly mistakes spell the end of your credibility

We’ve all been there. You’ve spent hours working on the perfect pitch or article and in a proud state of exhaustion, you publish without a second thought. Only then do you, and all your colleagues and followers, realise that you’ve made some key mistakes. Mistakes you could have easily fixed. Mistakes that just chip away at your credibility as a knowledgeable resource in your field. Mistakes I can help you avoid.

I have created a basic checklist that should help you avoid some of the common mistakes. Use it wisely.

There vs They’re vs Their

It is so easy to mix these up.

There has a number of meanings. It can be an adverb, a pronoun and adjective or a noun. It generally refers to a place, but not always. For example

My cup is over there.

Is there anybody out there?

My cup there is empty.

We’re going over there.

Their is a possessive adjective. This means it is indicating that you own something. For example

You can borrow their ball to play soccer on Thursday.

They’re is a contraction. This means it is a shorter way of writing they are. For example

They’re coming over for dinner after the game.

If you would like a more detailed explanation, read this article on E Learn English Language, which explains it all in more detail.

Loose vs Lose

This is an incredibly common mistake, which can fundamentally change the meaning of your sentence.

Lose is a verb to describe the loss of something. For example

I lose my keys if I don’t leave them in the same place.

Loose is an adjective to describe the opposite of tight. For example

When I lose weight my trousers become loose.

Desert vs Dessert

Mixing these two up could be the difference between a delicious chocolate mud cake and eating sand.
Desert has two meanings and two pronunciations. The first is a noun describing a dry, baron land. The second is a verb to describe abandoning someone or something. For example

I thought I found an oasis in the desert, but it was just a mirage. 

A loving mother does not generally desert her child.

Dessert has just the one meaning. It is the noun to describe the tasty treat you have, or shouldn’t have, at the end of a meal. For example

My husband forgot to share his chocolate dessert with me because it was too delicious.

You’re vs your

Your is a possessive adjective. This means it shows that you own something. For example

Did you bring your book to class?

You’re is a contraction. This means it is a shorter way of writing you are. For example

If you’re going to go for a walk in the rain, I suggest you bring an umbrella.

Everyone’s favourite pedant Ross Geller explained it his way when breaking up with Rachel.

The dreaded apostrophe

The apostrophe is a mean and complicated beast. Knowing where to put it can have even the most engaging writers stumped. There are many ways to use and misuse the apostrophe and Scribendi have written a really comprehensive article on the proper use of apostrophes. One of the most common mistakes people make is in relation to plurals. Plurals that are not possessive do NOT require an apostrophe. For example

I play football on Thursdays.

Don’t let your computer do all the work

By all means use tools such as spell check and grammarly. Please don’t let that be your last line of defence. The great thing about these tools is that they will often pick up on major mistakes or incomplete sentences, but they will never be able to pick up your intent. You need to read over your work to make sure you haven’t altered your intent with a well-spelt typo.

Is your spell check on the right region? It’s easy to forget that even though we are speaking the same language, sometimes our spelling is specific to our country.

Read it aloud. If it doesn’t sound right when you speak the words, chances are, it’s wrong. Reading it aloud will give you a realistic feel for the rhythm and feel.

Finally – NEVER PROOF YOUR OWN WORK.

Even experienced editors and proof-readers follow this rule. When you are personally invested in the content it is so much harder to pick up the small mistakes. Always ask a colleague or friend to give your work a once over, just to make sure.

content marketing, copywriting, digital copywriting, editing, research, storytelling, writing tips

Writing tips for non-writers – KISS your jargon filled copy goodbye

You are the expert. You have oodles of experience. You know your product. You’re passionate about your product.

The problem is you just don’t seem to be able to translate that passion into engaging content. Why?

There are many reasons you might be missing the post. Today, we are going to talk about jargon. That dreaded terminology that took you months, if not years to pick up is likely turning your content to gobbledegook. It’s time to unlearn those words, and simplify, simplify, simplify!

Here are some tips for keeping your content clear, engaging and authoritative. Write down what you know and then give it a little bit of love.

Just remember – it’s all in the KISs

Keep It Short

 You want to find the most efficient way to relay your point. Why use 15 words when four will suffice?

All you are doing is alienating and likely boring your audience.

Your copy overall does not need to be long to be effective. Neither do your sentences. By shedding the excess, you will likely cut a lot of the jargon by default.

Keep It Simple

 Your field is likely full of complicated definitions and terms that make communicating within the industry easier. You must remember that no one else understands your jargon. If you want to illustrate your point, strip away the technical words. Assume your audience does not have a glossary of your terms. Be as clear as you can without patronising your reader.

Your thesaurus can absolutely be your friend. Just try not to overdo it, like Friend Joey Tribbiani once did.

Keep It Straightforward

Get to the point. Unless you are writing for writing’s sake (which by the way is a perfectly admirable thing to do), there is no need to beat around the bush. Tell it how it is.

Sometimes it can be hard to remember that using your jargon is not, in fact, the most straightforward way to explain something. Sure, if you are speaking to people within your industry that may be so. Clients, partners and other stakeholders won’t understand.

It can be helpful to break down your content into bullet points or headings. This can often highlight for you what your most important points are.

Keep It Stylish

 Create a brand style guide. Work with your marketing resources to identify how you want to represent your brand to the public.

Know your tone ahead of time. This can be a really simple way to avoid using jargon. If you have planned your style ahead of time, you might also have identified a handful of key phrases that relay your brand clearly. Using these instead of industry jargon will be far more effective.

Keep it Succinct

You want to make your content clean, clear and sharp. Don’t be precious with your words. There is a lot of literature about how to declutter your life or your house. The Japanese KonMarie method tells us to keep only those things that spark joy. When it comes to your writing, ask yourself, “does this sentence support my point?”

  • Remove anything that doesn’t serve your purpose.
  • Avoid the passive voice; it’s clunky and unclear.
  • Use strong purposeful words. The more direct your words are the fewer you’ll need to use.
  • Don’t be redundant.

When it comes down to it, using jargon in your copy is the easiest way to lose your audience. Non-industry readers won’t understand and they will check out. It is so much harder to win back an audience member than to just keep them interested.

So when you’ve written your first draft – KISs your jargon goodbye.

writing at a table with smart phone and water
copywriting, digital copywriting, editing, research, storytelling, writing tips

Writing tips for non-writers – Secrets of Newsworthiness

Creating engaging, enticing and relevant content can be incredibly overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. Well, I am going to share a little secret with you. You, too, can create newsworthy copy, that people want to read.

Those of us who trained in the art of writing were all given a cheat sheet; constantly there to remind us what is news. Let’s take a look at the seven pillars of newsworthiness and how you can make your digital copy newsworthy too.

Even when you are creating marketing material for your clients and potential clients, these pillars will ensure your content is on point.

Timeliness – When did it happen?

In a generation of instant gratification; we want what we want and we want it now! When you create your content, bear this in mind at all times.

Is there a NEW campaign? A NEW product? A NEW Service? Is there a way you can make it NEW? If you publish new content on a regular basis you can guarantee that you always have timely news to offer your readers.

Proximity – Where did it happen?

People are generally interested in news that is local. People are often emotionally absorbed by events that are close to them. The tragedy in their local town is a greater tragedy; the local celebration is all the more exciting.

How can you make your content ‘local’? Focus and direct your material to localized groups. Change your content to appeal to each group at a personal level.

One of the many extraordinary things about living in the digital age is that proximity is constantly evolving. As our connection with the rest of the world is consistently strengthened, so too is our ability to reach a wider ‘local’ audience.

By personalising your content to meet the needs or interests of your intended audience your news is in closer proximity to them.

Rarity – How unique is it?

This is a particularly significant point when dealing with digital content. The web is absolutely saturated with content marketing, brand news and ‘exciting new offerings’. The only way to stand out is to find a way to make your content unique.

Why is your product different from the next? What makes you or your service special? Exclusivity is terribly appealing to people, they want to know that they’ve got something that other people don’t.

Prominence – Who’s involved with it?

So many of us are seduced by fame. Whether it is the latest celebrity endorsing the latest product or an industry authority promoting a theoretical approach, others influence us.

Gaining respect in your field is a very important part of adding validity to your work. People want to hear from industry trailblazers who are taking risks and know what’s going on. Join the conversation. Follow the right people. Align your service or product with someone or something that already has the name, respect and prominence.

Impact – How does it affect me, and others I respect?

News is interesting because it changes something. Perhaps it changes the environmental landscape, or the financial landscape or even the entertainment landscape. Someone or something is always affected.

Before creating your content, think about how your content will impact your customers, your industry or the world. Each piece of content you publish should illustrate this change. If it does not – you really need to question whether the material has the desired impact.

Novelty – Why is it interesting?

You can make any piece of writing just a little more engaging by linking it back to something extraordinary. Maybe there’s a holiday coming up, like Black Friday or Christmas, or even an event that is unique to your company. Coming up with a unique approach is key to great news and great marketing.

If you’re trying to push your brand or service, think about how you can link your material to something cool, random or relevant.

Human Interest – How do I feel about it?

Turn your marketing material into a story about people. Not for profit organisations are notoriously good at creating emotive and heart wrenching stories to entice their donors.

Why not take a page out of their book? Tell a story; how did your product or service help Jo Next Door to realize her dream. Pull on the heartstrings and give your audience some human interest.

content production, copywriting, digital copywriting, editing

5 awesome benefits of creating your own content

The web is awash with articles, blogs and links from the newest expert on any given topic. It can be wildly overwhelming as both a consumer of content and a content marketer to actually decipher what is useful.

This can often scare people from getting out there and creating their own original content. Don’t let it scare you and your business. Invest in unique content.

Here are just 5 great reasons why.

  1. Credibility

You are the expert in your field. You know your business and you know your product better than anyone. Creating original and unique content illustrates your authority.

When clients, partners and potential clients can see that you know your stuff, they will more likely have more confidence and trust in you and your service.

Heighten your brand authority by authoring useful information.

  1. Time and Proximity

Events, legislative changes, news or even simply the weather could affect your industry or service. Show the world you know exactly what is changing and how your service or product can accommodate that change.

Your response to real world changes shows your audience or client base that your business is mindful of the world around us. It is also the only way that you can show them how your service or product is useful as a result.

  1. Push people back to your website

If you want to drive traffic back to your website, this is a really great and genuine way to do that. Instead of trying every trick to manipulate people back, why not create engaging content that people actually genuinely need or want? The more engaging content you create, the more people will willingly subscribe to your channels.

As your audience gets to know you as a producer of great content, they will start to both recognise your brand and website as valuable.

  1. Increase your search rankings

This is another important benefit. There are many ways to pay your way to the top of the search rank. If you want those pesky search spiders to crawl all over your page, give them something to find. Creating smart and sensible content on a regular basis will remind the spider that you are here. By updating your content and using useful and relevant copy, your rankings will increase by default.

  1. Remind people who you are

Producing content that exemplifies your service or product is a really great exemplar of what you can provide. Give people a taste of the kind of work you can do for them by producing unique content about you and your industry.

Instead of just claiming you know your stuff, show people. Show people where your brand fits into the industry and why they should remember you.

Don’t forget that there is already some fantastic content out there. Read and follow groups you respect and even compete with. Get a feel for who is creating great content and by all means curate existing content, join the conversation and engage with your industry.

By creating interesting and unique content and connecting with other great content producers, you’d ensure you and your brand remain ahead of the game.