Amy G Wagner

Freelance Writer | Lancaster, PA | Harrisburg, PA | York, PA

Category Archives: Communication

Business Blog Writing Tips for People Who Don’t Like to Write

What’s your freelancing or small biz fancy? Graphic design? Virtual assistance? Accounting? Well, if it’s *not* writing then sitting down to bang out that next blog entry might not be your favorite task. Yet if you’ve decided blogging is a sound strategy for promoting your business and connecting with customers, then you’ll need to get those fingers on the keyboard.

The good news is that even if you’re not a pen-monkey by trade, learning how to write a blog isn’t tough. No special literary genes required. No magic wands either. Heck, you don’t even need to have passed senior year English. Check out these simple tips for writing blog entries for your freelance business:

Write like you speak.
You’re blogging, not writing a college thesis. Resist the urge to use 5-syllable words or write sentences worthy of a Russian author. Imagine the ideal person you want to read that blog entry. How would you explain your point, share your tips, or relay that info to that specific person if you were speaking to them in person or on the phone? That’s the language and terminology you’ll use to write a blog entry. No more, no less.

Don’t fall for the SQUIRREL.
What’s your blog entry about? If you’re a photographer writing about how to coordinate outfits for a family photo shoot, then the article should include tips and tricks pertaining to that and only that. It can be easy to be distracted by a SQUIRREL!, and dive into a discussion of outdoor lighting conditions or add several paragraphs about what time of day is best to take infant pics. Stay focused, freelance-san!

Make it scannable.
Blog readers scan pages to pick out the relevant information rather than read word-for-word as they would from a piece of paper. Help your client or customer find what they need quickly–before they hit that back button–by breaking down your article with one of these:

  • Bullet points
  • Numbered lists
  • Short phrases or sentences (like in this article)

Edit. Edit. Edit.
Spell check alone does not a blog-ready article make. Editing is about ensuring the entry is easy to read and understand, and–by default–portray yourself as a professional. After all, when a prospect reads an article lousy with mistakes, he or she is bound to ask: If this web designer is so sloppy with her own blog, how sloppy will her work be if I hire her?

As you re-read your blog draft:

  • Remove extra words
  • Delete repetitious statements
  • Made sure your headline and main idea match what you wrote about
  • Check for words that sound the same but are spelled differently (allowed vs aloud)

Keep an idea list.
Ideas are all around you. Really! Blog ideas for freelance businesses can come from a conversation with a client or colleague. They can come from problems with your last project or something your 5-year-old says. Remember that tip above about sticking to your topic? Well, those thoughts about outdoor lighting or infant pics would be fantastic ideas for their own blog entries.

Carry a small notepad in your purse or car, keep lists on a note-taking app, or make voice notes into the smartphone—whatever works. Refer to the list when you’re scratching the noggin, saying “What the heck should I write about?”

If you’re not a pro writer, what is it about writing that makes you want to chuck your keyboard?



How to Write a Thank You Note

Quizzes to discover which Hobbit you’re most like…videos of grumpy Great Danes. Facebook can be a massive time and brain cell drain. But one Facebook activity making the rounds has users challenging each other to share a list of positive things in their lives or things they’re thankful for.

Lots of people in my Facebook circle took part over the last week, expressing gratitude or thankfulness for people or situations. It’s always good for any of us to take time to reflect on what brings us peace, joy, comfort, laughter, and so on.

And as cool as it is that so many are posting a gratitude list on Facebook, it’s also super-important to thank the people in our lives in a personal way. That’s where old-school handwritten notes come in.

Whether you’ve already posted a gratitude list on Facebook or not, I challenge you to stop what you’re doing and let someone know they’re important to you. Here’s how to write a thank you note:

1. Pick a person, any person.
Seriously, anyone. Maybe you already have someone specific in mind, but if you’re out of ideas, here are a few:

  • The co-worker who helped you figure out why that stupid jerk file wouldn’t open
  • The office mate who brought you a desperately needed coffee
  • The first client you ever had—the one who took that leap of faith in your ability:-D
  • The friend who always makes you laugh
  • The neighbor who lets your kids run through her yard and never, ever complains about it
  • The high school teacher who said “You can do it”
  • The parent/sibling/cousin/friend who answers your texts, no matter how late you send them

2. Get pen & paper.
If you only have time to shoot off a quick email thank you, that’s better than nothing…but there’s something to be said for handwriting a note and sending it snail mail. No need for frilly personalized stationery or special pens—I mostly use note cards and colored pens bought at Target or Walmart.

3. Write like you speak.
Sometimes folks don’t write because they stress out about their writing skills. Penning a thank you note has little to do with whether you know how to use a semicolon and everything to do with letting a person know that you value them.

Unless you’re a news producer sending thanks to The Royal Family for getting pregnant again, forget stuffy language. Imagine you’re speaking to that particular person face-to-face, and then write those words. That means if you have the kind of relationship where you can say “You’re awesomesauce because…”  then that’s the perfect way to start. Just be you.

Don’t worry about writing a 5-paragraph essay either. Even 2-3 sentences will get your point across and make the recipient feel warm and fuzzy.

4. Do it today.
It’s easy to get tangled up in all the things we HAVE to do, whether your task is blog writing for clients or wrangling the kids into the car. But life is short–so take just a few minutes and tell a fellow human being that they matter.



Blog Topic Ideas to Beat the Blank Page Blues

The blank page. Whether you’re writing as a freelancer or blogging for a small business, few things trigger a case of the sweats like a pure white word processing document. So if you need small business blog topic ideas to beat away those blank page blues, read on:

Get down to the business nitty gritty.

It doesn’t matter if you offer small business accounting services or kids’ birthday party venues, your readers expect to find relevant info regarding whatever it is you do:

  • Recap the most interesting tidbits from a recent study or report.
  • Ask readers what they want to you to blog about.
  • Compile a list of your 5 or 10 best blog posts.
  • Post a dictionary-type list of definitions for common industry terms or jargon.
  • Use a keyword tool (Google AdWords is free) to generate a list of related keywords—use those keywords as a basis for a post.
  • Share an infographic. (Check out this post about infographics from social media expert Ilona Olayan).
  • Share your industry predictions for the next 6 months or year.
  • Take a position on a hot-button issue.
  • Share a post-event recap after conferences or trade shows.
  • Write your unique take on a news item.
  • Profile an employee.
  • Interview a client or industry colleague.
  • Share a client case study.
  • Answer the most frequently asked questions about you, your product, or brand.
  • Post a list of your favorite blogs and websites.
  • Review a book.
  • Share a list of relevant resources, whether they’re website links, blogs, or books.

Let’s get video.

Who said great web content had to be in written form? Check out these video blog post topic ideas:

  • Upload a video tutorial that demonstrates how to use your product.
  • Video an interview with an employee, client, or industry colleague.
  • Give a behind-the-scenes tour of your office or facility.
  • Video blog your own reaction to industry news or trends.

Show ‘em your human side.

Don’t underestimate the power of building connections. I don’t know about you, but I find it easier to do business with someone I’ve started connecting with (I also find it harder to be cranky with them!). Showing your human side while blogging for a small business is a smart way to lay the foundation for those connections. Here are a few blog topic ideas to inspire you:

  • Tell the story of how your small business got its start.
  • Blog about why you love whatever it is you do in your business.
  • Share snippets about life in the office or workplace.
  • Blog about your favorite local charity or non-profit organization.
  • Post a list of your favorite local vendors, whether it’s the local coffee shop or your long-time accountant. Share why you love them, too. (“Dotty whips up lattes that would make a Seattle barista jealous!”)

Have fun!

All work, no play creates dull small business bloggers. Don’t be afraid to occasionally publish lighter blog content:

  • Have an exclusive contest (with a fun prize, of course!) for blog readers.
  • Compile a list of the funniest tweets related to your industry.
  • Share outtakes or bloopers from any video content you’ve published.
  • Write about a big game or favorite sports team.

Do you have business blog topic ideas to share?

 

 

Image courtesy of Flickr user Adi Respati.