Work + Life
Spoiler: It's figuring out what kind of creative worker you are
by Brittany Taylor
published October 20, 2017
updated June 5, 2018
¶ A current client is launching her own digital marketing agency. Why hire a fellow marketer, then, when she’s perfectly capable of a little DIY? Because while she’s stellar at creating campaigns and copy for other people, she's a wishy-washy kind of writer when it comes to marketing herself.
I get that.
It’s not an uncommon writer problem to have, and it’s certainly not the only one I’ve seen.
This, friends, is the client I told you about. They’re great hangin’ around with other apples, but once they fall off the tree and have to write just for themselves, they’re toast. They lay around in the grass and get lumpy and sad, typically because they’re afraid of tooting their own horn too loudly.
They see others turning into juice and they decide to be juice! They see others turning into marmalade and suddenly marmalade is the best thing ever! Chocolate orange? Orange soda? Orange pound cake? Yes, yes, and hells yes! Oranges are delicious but inconsistent, and that inconsistency quickly turns into blandness.
They have the writing-for-themselves thing down, they can keep their eyes on the content strategy prize, and they’re reaping the benefits of nailing both areas.
Life is good for bananas—hard, because they bruise super easily, and nobody wants a bruised, brown banana, but good. They do, however, have variable expiration dates. Can they adapt to changing business environments and be made into banana bread? Or, will they flicker out and get tossed in the trash? Hm.
They’re like pumpkins around Halloween: They need an outsider’s help to reach their full potential.
While some non-writers choose not to market themselves in ways that lean heavily on writing, they need to communicate somehow, and to do that, they have to teach themselves or work with someone who can put words to their ideas.
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Many of my clients are wimps when it comes to talking up their work. I’m not, but I am prone to getting lost in the figurative woods.
Here's the kind of writer I am: I have no problem being ballsy on behalf of anyone, including me, and when it comes to the folks who hire me, I’ve always got an eye on strategy. My own strategy, however, seems to eternally be in flux, and when I’m a few weeks away from setting new intentions and goals, I tend to wobble. And then, I turn to trends.
Hear this: Trends are fine, when they’re a choice.
Trends become a problem when they’re you’re default. When you shift toward them because you’ve lost sight of what you are meant to be doing, trends turn into ruts that take you away from your mission.
And, worst of all, because they’re trends and everyone else is doing them and having success using them, you tend to stick with them longer because, you reason, if they’re working for other people, how can they possibly be the wrong choice for me and my business?
And yeah, y’all. It’s a problem. But my problem is one of four. Whether you’re an orange like me, or an apple, a banana, or a pumpkin-y non-writer, you have a set of issues that’s unique to you.
Sure, you could avoid the subject and treat it like a cold. But some colds turn into walking pneumonia, and this is one of those types of colds: It’s a problem that’s going to get worse when left to its own devices.
When you know what kind of writer you are—when you diagnose the problem—you can start looking out for and treating the symptoms.
Is there a cure? Heck if I know (and if you find one, shoot me an email, ‘cause I want in on that).
This isn’t about nixing the problem. It’s about responding to it proactively. It’s about maintenance. It’s about creating systems appropriate to the kind of writer you are. They'll help you work better, more efficiently, more productively, more passionately, and more purposefully.
Systems are all about using your strengths as much as you can and figuring out smart, efficient ways to off-set your weaknesses so that they don’t turn into handicaps.
Now that you know what kind of writer you are—apple, orange, banana, or, uh, pumpkin—you can use that information to trial-and-error your way to building systems that make you a better, more well-rounded person and a stronger business owner and self-marketer.
You need to pinpoint your accomplishments and your skills, and gain confidence in communicating them. As an exercise, spend 10 minutes bragging about yourself. Or, ask a friend or colleague to share what they think your best attributes and achievements are.
To drill those into your head (and make you feel more comfortable and natural talking about them in all forms, not just written), craft affirmations around these “brags” and post them where you can see them as a part of your daily routine. Read them, think on them, say them out loud. The more you interact with them, the more you’ll recognize them as truths rather than bragging.
It’s essential that you maintain a passion- and purpose-first mindset.
Sit down and consider what kind of content you want to publish. Mull over these questions: What businesses and writers do you admire? Is the content you’re drawn to the sort of content that makes sense for your own business? What do you want your content to do for you and your business? What do you want people to take away from whatever you publish? What do you want them to feel? What do you want them to learn? How do you want them to think of you?
Then, distill these points down into bulleted strategies. Put them somewhere you’ll see regularly, so that you have a constant reminder of the path you’re meant to follow.
The problem with success is that it can make you complacent. Complacency can leave you without a safety net, should one method, platform, or technology you rely on to make money go belly up.
So, practice thinking in terms of what’s next. If Instagram closes, what would you do? If people stopped responding to your Facebook ads, what would your next step be? If MailChimp shut down, where would you migrate your list? If a technology you created a course on was made obsolete, what would you move on to?
The more you train your brain to think in terms of the future rather than the right-now, the more agile and innovative you’ll become.
It’s important to be honest about why you don’t like to write. Are you too busy? Does it take too long? Are you a perfectionist? Are you not seeing the results you’re aiming for? Are you unsure of what you should be writing? Is it too tedious? Is your vocabulary or grammar sub-par? Do you struggle to make what you write sound like you? Do you have bad associations with writing?
There are all sorts of reasons. Whatever yours is, there are things you can do to work through your struggles:
If you need your writing to take less time out of your day, consider batch writing or lowering your target word count or outlining to speed up your process.
If you’re a perfectionist or aren’t seeing results, lower your bar. Stop editing as you go. Don’t look at your pageviews for a month.
If you get anxious looking at a blank screen, practice writing for five minutes a day so you get into a routine of putting words on paper.
If you need to improve, technically, sign up for a word-a-day email or subscribe to a grammar blog and read it every day.
If you have a tough time writing the way you talk, record yourself talking and transcribe it to get a feel for rhythm and speech patterns.
If you have a bad association with writing, maybe from your school days, talk through it with someone you trust to listen, not problem-solve. Let yourself vent your emotions. Then, try to write about it. Try to write anything that feels good and makes you happy. Make new writing memories to replace the old.
Remember: Writing is just one form of communication. If you struggle with it, you might struggle with formulating ideas and expressing them coherently. If that’s the case, consider working with a business coach or writer specializing in strategy who can help you put words to your overall vision and mission.
My name is Brittany, but my friends and clients call me "Britt." Online small business owners hire me to create content strategies and write their blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates. I work with bosses around the world from the marshes of Charleston, S.C.
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