Writing as a Designer

desk-and-penIt is ironic that a time when we have so much content in various formats and on different forums, there remains a vacuum in information.  It would appear that instead of sharing knowledge, there is a lot of noise generation.

The herd mentality has taken over the content creation arena.

People seem to think that throwing around popular (often misunderstood) terms such as “personae”, “editorial calendar”, and “reciprocity”, they can magically transform poorly researched article into insight.  Not so.  The truth is that no matter how many catch phrases they mimic, the underlying shallow creative process shows through.  This begs the question:  why do content marketers bother investing time and financial resources in a strategy that will not deliver on business integrity and growth?

As business writers and content creators, we need to drop the charade.  We need to invest in more credible motivation.  If we can’t find it within ourselves, we can borrow from other practitioners.  I have looked around and I’m happy to say there is an abundance of good practices business writers can adopt to nurture our skill.

My latest source of inspiration is the design field.  Somehow we all know when things are “designed right” – they give us a glimpse of what makes good design.  It turns out that it is no accident; there are fundamentals of good design.  I imagine all good designers know them and consistently deploy them in their craft.

I think good business writers need to define and commit to some fundamentals.

Before we begin stringing together our words, we need to start with basics like questions.  What is the problem? Why is it important? Why is it important that we understand it correctly?  What are the consequences of addressing the wrong issue or providing the wrong answer?  Is this a ground-breaking topic?  Is there a current consensus on solutions?  The more questions we raise, the more open we are to critical thinking.

Questions help us clarify.  Questions help us uncover what we might otherwise miss.  They help focus on the essentials.  They help us define the parameters of best solutions and write convincingly about them.

My search has shown me that good designers are skilled at asking questions.  For them, no question is silly if it helps the design process.  I am honing my question-asking skill and learning some of the basics of design, which might help me do a better job as a business writer.

Here are 3 things I have learned so far:

  1. Design is truly a process; not a task.  Process denotes a method, intent, a procedure, a course of action while a task often denotes a chore or an assignment.  The way I see it, adopting a process approach is more likely to expand expertise and efficiency.  It is more likely to diminish reliance on rote mentality inherent in a task approach.
  2. Even if the project is not an original idea (it may have been done a million times before), it is important to find a way to instill some creativity.  I agree that it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel.  However, it is important not to simply echo others.  Good designers replicate purposefully.  The challenge is to make each final product memorable.
  3. You are on the right track if your process includes these 3 fundamentals:
  • Looking        →  see/prioritize/understand
  • Thinking      →  research/sort/organize
  • Doing            →  informed action/draft/edit/finalize/share

It is fairly obvious that skipping any of these basics undermines the design process.  In terms of good business writing, failure to pay proper attention to the LOOK, THINK, DO aspects weakens the impact of the content we create.

My challenge to my fellow business writers is to toss that template that promises to help you generate a-hundred-and-one unique articles and white papers effortlessly.  Sounds great, but (always) true.  Let’s spend a little more time (I know, who has more time?) on the fundamentals.  It may mean that we write less volume, but it could mean that what we do write will be a cut above the rest – and memorable.

 

 

©Rachel Agheyisi, Report Content Writer, Report Content Writer’s Blog

Tips for No-Pressure Content Writing

Sidebar:  I read the following article, titled “An Easy, No Pressure Way to Make Your Copy Sell More”, written by Roy Furr, a contributor at the AWAI.  He makes some solid points about the value of intelligent content marketing.  When we give our audience beneficial information, we create opportunities for mutually rewarding interactions.  So, let your readers know you took the time to research their needs and designed your piece just for them.  Read Roy’s helpful suggestions, and go try them!

Education is a powerful form of salesmanship!

Okay, okay … I’m going to have to explain a couple of things here. Because I’m not saying you could take any good high school teacher and put them out on the street and they’d be a star salesperson automatically. It takes a bit more than that.

But there is a way to sell more by taking an educational approach – if you have the right steps to follow.

And I’d like to give those to you today.

Probably a lot like you, I never really wanted to “sell hard.” And because I didn’t, I unintentionally shifted my approach to finding out what a prospect would want to know about my product and offer, and then simply shared that information with them.

In other words, I figured out what they’d want to know before they made the purchase, and then I told it to them.

And surprise! Prospects actually liked the approach – and would buy as a result!

Because I had thoroughly researched the answers to their buying questions and was upfront in presenting to them without any hard sell, they were happy to have a conversation with me that frequently resulted in a sale.

There was no pressure. No hype. I wasn’t seen as a huckster. Or a used car salesman.

I was just a guy who had some valuable information for my prospects … And a good offer to boot. I was happy to explain it all. And inevitably, I’d give them a chance to buy.

Now I apply the same approach in my sales copy, and it’s leading me to writing promotions that break clients’ sales records and earn me great royalties, too.

5 Places to Use Education in Copy to Boost Sales

So you get it. You can sell more, without hype or pressure, by adopting a more educational approach to selling. That’s good news. Now let me show you how to put that lesson into practice.

There are actually five places in your copy where you want to use education to increase sales. And here they are with a “how to” description for each:

1.   Educate about the problem.

Your prospect has problems. Tons of them! (Don’t we all?) And it’s your job to help them find the solution. (Wait! Before anybody throws a fit: I’m classifying unfulfilled needs, wants, and desires under “problem” here. So if your product fulfills a desire, it’s solving the “problem” of an unfulfilled desire.)

Your first educational goal in making the sale is to make clear what the problem is – and why it’s such a big problem.

So, for example, I used to sell newspapers. One problem that can be solved, or eased, by a newspaper subscription is the high cost of groceries. You could lead off in selling a newspaper by saying, “Did you know you’re paying too much for groceries? That’s right. In fact, the average resident of Lincoln, Nebraska, could save at least 10% off their weekly grocery bill while eating the same foods.”

Well now, that’s a problem that wasn’t at the front of my mind, but now that I’ve been educated that it’s a real and solvable problem, I’m sure interested!

2.   Educate about the solution.

Now it’s your job to educate the prospect that a solution exists and specifically what the solution is. Continuing with the newspaper example, you could reveal that using grocery coupons and specials could save the average local resident 10% or more off their grocery bill every week.

So you’d say … “That’s right. You could be paying 10% less every week for your groceries, and it’s easy, too. A recent Wednesday issue of the Lincoln Journal Star ran ads from five different local grocery store chains with an average total of $543.73 savings PER AD.

“Now sure, you’re not going to get every deal or use every coupon. But the average savings per item was actually 11%! So by simply reading the ads, using the coupons, and buying what you were going to buy anyway when and where it’s on sale, you can save more than 10% – $15-$20 or more per week – off your weekly grocery bill.”

(Note, I’m making up these figures, but I’m sure the average town newspaper has similar figures. Sure makes a $3.00/week newspaper subscription seem cheap, doesn’t it?!)

3.   Educate about your company and methods.

So you’ve presented the problem and the solution – educating the prospect about the benefits they’ll receive by following along with your solution. Now it’s time to demonstrate your credibility in providing the solution by educating about your company, methods, and anything else that proves you are best equipped to solve their problem.

Continuing the newspaper example, using stats from Wikipedia … “The Journal Star is uniquely equipped to bring you Lincoln’s best grocery deals, along with everything else you care about that’s going on around the capital city. Serving over 80,000 households every week, we’re the leading newspaper in the city and have relationships with the community going back decades. Whether it’s grocery deals or local news, you can count on us to bring it to you in the comfort of your home.”

4.   Educate about your product.

The more complex your product, the more valuable it is to educate your prospect about it. I recently watched a 90-minute DVD before I bought a home beer brewing setup. I was happy to sit down and be educated as part of the sales process.

While a newspaper may be fairly straightforward and well understood, it may be worth educating about what sections it contains (besides the ads in this example), who it features, and especially about delivery services offered.

5.   Educate about your offer.

After you have gotten your prospect excited about your product, it’s your responsibility to educate them as to how they can get it. This is where you have to put on your salesperson’s cap, but don’t worry because you don’t have to sell hard. Simply describe the terms of your offer in a clear, direct, and easy-to-understand way that makes it hard to say no. And don’t forget to include a guarantee or risk-free trial period.

So your newspaper sales pitch may conclude with, “You can take 21 days to try our home delivery service at no risk. Just say ‘Yes’ today and we’ll start your delivery 7 days a week. We’ll also send you a bill due 21 days after your subscription starts. If you’re not completely satisfied – and haven’t saved at least double your subscription price off your weekly grocery bill – you can simply write CANCEL across your bill and send it back. Otherwise, send in your payment and you can enjoy our daily delivery service for just $3.00 per week for the next 13 weeks. We make it risk free to try so it’s easy for you to say ‘Yes’ today.”

Try this on the next piece of sales copy you write. Instead of upping the over-the-top promises and using far too much hyperbole, up the education factor. Make sure you take your reader through the natural educational points outlined above. And see what kind of sales results it generates.

  

Endnote:  This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) The Golden Thread, a free newsletter that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on the best wealth careers, lifestyle careers and work-at-home careers available. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.awaionline.com/signup/.

 

  

© Copyright Rachel Agheyisi and Report Content Writer’s Blog, 2009-2011.

 

To Niche Or Not To Niche

It’s a safe bet to say every freelancer has heard of and pondered the issue of “a niche”.  Colleagues swear by it.  Business coaches recommend it as fundamental to success and revenue growth.

So, what is a niche?  Perhaps a better starting point is what a niche is not.  Here are a few…

  • It is not sameness of daily activity (aka boring or tedium).
  • It does not mean being boxed in a corner (aka feeling trapped).
  • It does not spell inflexibility (no wiggle room).
  • It does not necessarily involve prolonged re-training (if done correctly).
  • It does not necessarily have to be novel (no need to re-invent the wheel).

 

If a niche is none of those things, what then is it?

According to the Encarta dictionary, a niche is a position or activity that particularly suits somebody’s talents and personality or that somebody can make his or her own.

Put in those words, a niche certainly has a strong appeal.  It conveys the desirable feeling of being in the right or suitable place for somebody.  I am yet to meet a freelancer who doesn’t want to be in a suitable place.  For many of us, that’s precisely why we went solo!

In business terms, a niche denotes specialization.  A freelancer with a niche is a specialist.  On the other hand, a freelancer without a niche tends to be a generalist.

I have a niche.

I am a business writer who writes white papers, case studies, and marketing content used by IT companies.  I think of myself as a specialist and act as such in the various ways I market my business.

I’ve read and heard of freelancers who routinely agonize over practically every decision: what to charge, who to market to, who’s “the competition”?  The underlying reason always seems to be the fact that these freelancers (typically generalists) offer such a wide array of services it’s hard for them to develop meaningful hard sticks.

I like the clarity that the choice of a niche brings to the decisions I must make as I build my practice.  You probably know freelancers or solo practitioners like me.

Each specialist has at least one fundamental reason for the decision to specialize.  In what follows, I share three of my reasons for choosing “to niche”.

  1. Positioning:  Prior to putting up my “Open for Business” sign, I decided that I didn’t want to get lost in the crowd of freelance writers.  Along with that decision, I also knew I had to consciously set aside the “team skill pool” marketing approach I’d used in corporate consulting.  As any specialist will tell you, it is vital to create and effectively implement an individualized marketing platform to gain acceptance as a subject-matter expert (SME).  Nothing boosts a solo practitioner’s credibility as being widely recognized as a SME.  Working in a niche facilitates positioning, so you’re not just open for business, people know that you’re open for a specific business.
  2. Productivity:  Economists and strategic management gurus have written extensively on the efficiencies associated with specialization.  Mastery in one business segment translates into timesavings and productivity gains, which in turn fuel profitability.  What freelancer couldn’t use a little more profit?  Specialization allows you to hone your research and writing skills in your field, which in turn helps you to be more productive and profitable.
  3. Practical:  Unlike some freelancers, I’ve never been comfortable with marketing my services.  Sure, the fear of rejection is a factor, but the greater issue initially was not knowing exactly what to say about my services.  However, once I selected my niche and created a simple value proposition, marketing became less formidable — much less of a chore.  Of course, it’s never really “all done”, but the clearer you are about your business, the quicker you get to doing it.  Incidentally, this is true of practically all aspects of running the business, including prospecting, networking, pricing, and planning for growth.  A focus is practical.

 

So, for me the decision “to niche” included those three elements,  among others.

It’s understandable to be afraid of choosing the “wrong” niche.  I can recall my many fears, bouts of disabling doubts, and constantly shifting assumptions.  On hindsight, I can say these are all rational – an integral part of the process that ultimately produces a clear path.  The truth is some of my earlier fears and doubts linger, but they are not nearly as intimidating.

For most people, there is no shortcut to knowing what is a suitable place or a good fit.  It typically takes time and research to define and embrace the rationality of one’s choice of a niche.  I’d say, the due diligence is worth undertaking as the outcome will set the tone for the business.  The more time and honesty you devote to the process, the better the outcome.

To sum up: If you’re still undecided about a niche, or you’re just starting out as a freelancer, I’d suggest that you give some thought to whether “to niche” or “not to niche”.  Consider the potential benefits of specialization for your positioning, productivity and prospecting.  You owe it to yourself to invest your talents and personality into something you can make your own – your niche.

© Copyright Rachel Agheyisi and Report Content Writer’s Blog, 2009-2010.

The Secret to Success for Every Freelance Online Copywriter is to Stay Focused

Sidebar:  We all want to experience measurable progress with our freelance business.  Few things provide momentum as progress.  The problem is we might not be consistent in applying best success practices to our personal and business lives.  Well, the following article is just the reminder we need.

Nick Usborne, has been a copywriter for 30 years now, eleven of which he’s dedicated solely to online copy.  He is the author of many business books, including Copywriting 2.0: Your Complete Guide to Writing Web Copy that Converts.  I can personally attest to the fact that Nick is also an excellent business coach.  I hope his insight gets you back on track and fires up your dedication to grow your business.

Here’s Nick —-

Freelancers are notoriously vulnerable to distraction.

Instead of remaining focused on a single goal, with a clear plan, we leave ourselves open to anything that suggests the grass might be greener elsewhere.

Does this apply to you?

Before you say no, answer these questions …

During the course of the last week, have you …

 

  • Had a day when you were furiously busy, but at the end of the day had achieved very little?
  • Clicked a link in an email just to check out some other course, program, or copywriting “system”?
  • Thought about trying some other copywriting niche that is not directly related to the one you are working in now?
  • Accepted, or thought about accepting, a freelance project that really doesn’t align with your niche or your goals?
  • Worked 40 hours but were able to bill for only about 20?

If you answered “no” to all of those questions, good for you.  That means you have a clear goal and plan for your freelance copywriting business, and you stick with it.

If you answered “yes”, or even acknowledged that maybe you do get distracted from time to time, you need to pause and think.

Remember, as a freelancer you are alone.  It matters how you spend your time each day.  And every hour you spend on a distraction is an hour you can’t bill for.

And that, perhaps, is the clearest distinction between freelancers who are driving in a straight line towards achieving a clear goal, and freelancers who are weaving around without any clear idea of where they are going.

The freelancer with a clear goal gets to invoice a lot more hours.

He or she doesn’t waste any time wondering if the grass might be greener elsewhere.  She doesn’t get distracted.  She knows where she is going, and has figured out how to get there.

If you want to be focused, and bill for more of the hours you work, follow these steps:

1. Decide on your niche.

Decide on what you want to do.  Become a B2B online copywriter.  Or a specialist in writing e-newsletters.  Or a page optimization expert.  Or a landing page expert.  Just pick a specialization.

Do not just hang up a shingle and announce something like, “I am a freelance online copywriter and accept all work”.

It’s tough to market yourself as a Jack-of-all-trades.  Besides which, companies don’t want to hire a Jack-of-all-trades.  They outsource work because they need a specialist.  They can probably find a Jack-of-all-trades in-house.

Be that specialist.

2. Establish a clear goal.

Decide on where you want your business to be three years from now.  Visualize it.  Imagine the kind of work you will be doing, the clients you will have, the income you will make.

You need a goal.  If you don’t have one, you’ll be weaving around in a constant state of distraction.

3. Stick with the plan.

Everything you do, each day, should be aligned with achieving your goal.

If the time you spend on the phone isn’t aligned with your goal, put down the phone.  If the time you spend on Twitter or Facebook isn’t aligned with your goal, log off.  If the new course you are thinking about taking isn’t aligned with your goal, don’t buy it.

4. Keep learning, but keep it focused.

Self-education is essential for freelancers.  You have to keep learning, so you can offer greater value to your clients.  BUT, make sure that everything you do to upgrade your knowledge and skills is precisely aligned with your specialty and your goals.

If a learning opportunity is not aligned with your goals, it is simply a distraction and a time-sink.

 

To summarize …

Think about the most successful freelancers you know.  The big names.  The big earners.

They all have one thing in common.

They are focused.

They know where they are going, and they know they can’t afford to waste time on distractions.

Follow their lead.

End Note:  This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) Wealthy Web Writer, a free newsletter for learning how to effectively write online copy and market products on the Web.  For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.awaionline.com/signup/wealthy-web-writer.

© Copyright Rachel Agheyisi and Report Content Writer’s Blog, 2009-2010.

If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now

Sidebar:  We all know about nurturing – the benefits of caring for and educating one’s self or another person or entity.  The problem is we might not be consistent in applying that knowledge to our personal and business lives.  Well, the following article might just help change all that!

Heather Lloyd-Martin, author of SEO Copywriting Success: How to Profit from Writing for Search Engines, has put together a list of timely reminders.  I hope her insights spark your nurturing vibes and move you to great accomplishments.  While you’re at it, don’t forget to be gentle with yourself!

Here’s Heather —-

You want to know my favorite thing about “living the writer’s life?”

It’s freedom.

I’m the kind of gal who jokes that she could never have a “real job.”  Being a self-employed SEO copywriter has allowed me to travel the world (often on someone else’s dime), work the hours I want, and make some pretty good cash.  For a self-described “highly stubborn” woman who requires total flexibility, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

At the same time, living “the writer’s life” has its own challenges.  You will realize your greatest strengths and discover your greatest weaknesses.  You will hit incredible, exhilarating highs as the clients and cash flow grow.  And, you will hit incredible, devastating lows – many of which can be minimized.  After 15 self-employed years (12 of them in SEO copywriting), here’s what I’ve learned …

  1. Find a mentor.  I used to be a “go it alone” kind of gal.  Now I know that having a business mentor is an incredible experience.  Not only can you ask them administrative-type questions like, “How do I set up my books,” and “How should I plan next quarter’s goals”, but you can also crawl to them when you’re insecure, frustrated, and need someone to give you a fast boost of self-esteem.  If I could do it all over again, I’d find a mentor much sooner than I did.
  2. Know that failure is, actually, okay.  It doesn’t feel good.  And it’s not fun.  But, if you’re not failing, you’re not trying new things.  Heck, I’ve failed (sometimes, in a very public way) and survived.  At the same time, I think I would have launched more products and done more things had I been less afraid of failure.  Having said that …
  3. Keep looking forward, not back.  So you lost a bid that you “should” have gotten.  Or you made a mistake with a client.  Big deal.  We all make mistakes.  Ruminating on them, wondering, “what if” and rewriting history won’t do anything but spin your wheels and drain your energy.  Besides, you’ll need that energy for …
  4. Exercise.  Seriously.  Do it often – every day if you can.  I wish someone had told me 10 years ago that my writing would be sharper, better, and faster after just 60 minutes of Pilates and cardio.  Instead of the time-suck I thought it was, I actually have more time in the day – and my brain doesn’t have that “foggy feeling” at 5 p.m. Plus, my back doesn’t tighten up after eight hours of typing anymore.
  5. Plan your vacation time – and actually take it.  Doing what you love can be highly addictive … and that addiction isn’t always healthy.  A huge trap as a self-employed copywriter is thinking, “I can work from anywhere – so I can mix business and pleasure.”  That’s nice for most vacations, but know that you’ll need time (gasp) AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER.  Why?  Because your revenue depends on your ability to stay creative, mentally alert, and calm.  If you fall into the trap of “working all the time”, you will start resenting what you do.  Getting away from the office gets harder.  And, the work becomes much less fun.  Schedule your vacation three (or more) months out and take it.  Don’t let anything stand in your way (especially clients with last-minute deadline requests).  I still don’t take vacation time as much as I should, but I’m getting better.
  6. Take supreme, selfish care of you.  About five years ago, my doctor said, “You can take a week vacation, or you can go into the hospital.  Pick one.”  Prior to that, I had no idea that my go-go-go lifestyle was as harmful as it was.  If a client needed me, I was there.  If there was a new speaking opportunity, I was on a plane and crossing multiple time zones.  No matter what, it catches up with you.  Remember, YOU are your business, so taking care of yourself is crucial.  Eat well.  See friends.  Work when the Muse strikes you and your energy levels are good.  If you burn out, your writing will suffer – and so will your mental state.  Remember that no one can take better care of you than you can.
  7. Take care of your finances.  It’s easy at the beginning of your copywriting career to leave financial planning on your “to-do” list.  Wrong!  I wish someone (like a business mentor) would have sat me down 12 years ago and prepared me for some harsh financial realities.  In any business, there are months when you’re making money hand-over-fist … and months when the phone barely rings.  It’s natural and normal and predictable – but for goodness sake, make sure that your financial rear is covered.  Set aside money for taxes.  Open a savings account.  Plan for your retirement.  Getting a firm grip on your finances now will help prevent (expensive) mistakes later – and you can start acquiring wealth rather than accumulating debt.
  8. Listen to your gut.  Ever think, “Hmm, this client seems flaky.  Maybe I should pass on the gig?”  Yeah, so have I.  And I lost about $7,000 when the client didn’t pay me.  Sometimes you won’t have any idea why an idea seems “wrong” or a client “just isn’t right.”  Know that you have an intelligent inner voice guiding you – and all you need to do is listen.
  9. Get (legal) help.  I skipped this step for years figuring I could “evaluate my own contracts.”  Yeah, right.  That worked really well until a client cancelled a gig and I was stuck with no recourse.  Just know that clients will throw the darnedest things in their contracts.  I’ve seen a bad contract cost someone tens of thousands in legal fees – almost bankrupting them.  I’ve seen writers get stuck in an endless revision loop because the client wants “just a few more changes” – and nothing in the contract specified how many revisions the client could ask for.  It may seem “too expensive” to hire an attorney.  At the same time, I don’t know what I’d do without mine.  It took me five years to find him, and he’s worth every penny.
  10. Form a network of people who “get you.”  Ever have friends with “real jobs” say”, It must be nice to stay home all day and watch television.”  Being a self-employed SEO copywriter means that you’re doing “stuff” every day that most people don’t “get” (and yes, that unfortunately includes our spouses and partners).  Make friends (either online or in-person) with copywriters, designers, and other creative folks.  During the times you need to blow off some steam – or share your successes – your professional posse will be there for you.
  11. Experience extreme gratitude.  I used to think that “anyone” could do this.  Now I know that those of us living the writer’s life are a special breed.  We can work from home and enjoy our families.  We can decide to work a little harder for extra vacation money.  And, we can live the life we really want to live.  This has been an amazing journey and I’m grateful for it every single day.

 

End Note:  This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) The Writer’s Life, a free newsletter for learning how to effectively write online copy and market products on the Web.  For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.awaionline.com/signup/the-writers-life.

© Copyright Rachel Agheyisi and Report Content Writer’s Blog, 2009-2010.

How to Take Somebody Else’s Good Idea and Make it Your Own — Legally

Get your "Mo"Sidebar:  Here is an article I think we all can relate to as professional writers.  It was written by Jennifer Stevens, a master copywriter for American Writers and Artist Inc. (AWAI).  If you’ve ever had periods of creative inertia (a.k.a. writer’s block), you might learn a thing or two.  I hope Jennifer’s suggestions help to re-ignite the flow and keep your pages filled consistently.

Here is Jennifer’s take—

 Recently I read an article with somebody else’s name on it that sounded an awful lot like something I’d written.  Most of it had been lifted word-for-word.  The writer apologized profusely.  Case closed.

Still, it got me thinking about the ways you can successfully approach a topic when lots of folks have written about it before.

Penning articles can be a great way to build your credibility, promote your expertise, and woo clients.  But, copying somebody else’s text — in addition to being illegal — makes you look lazy.

Lifting ideas, though … that’s a different matter.  Ideas cannot be copyrighted.  When you pluck one — and you make it your own — you look enterprising.

It’s not that hard to do.  The trick is to “cook” an idea your own way.  Think about it like this.…

Say you go to an orchard to pick apples with a couple of friends.  Baskets full, you each head home to whip up a dessert.  One friend makes an apple pie.  The other makes an apple tart.  You make an apple cobbler.  You all start with the same raw ingredients: those apples… plus sugar, flour, butter, cinnamon.  But, you each make something unique.

You can do the same thing with ideas.

An easy, surefire way is to draw on your own experiences.  Here are four ways to do that:

Come up with an appropriate analogy that’s all your own.  My apple-picking analogy here?  It came to mind because some friends and I recently took our kids to Happy Apple Farms.  I had apples on the brain.  Lots of people have written about plagiarism, but I seriously doubt any have discussed it in the same breath with apple cobbler.

Peg your ideas to a recent experience you’ve had or to a current news item.  An easy way to freshen a “classic” idea is to relate it to something you just did or read or to some recent newsworthy event.

For instance, if I were to pen an article titled, “How to Write Good Descriptions.”  I could begin by referencing a piece I read recently in The New York Times.  The descriptions were particularly strong.  I’d explain to my readers why they’re so engaging.  I could talk about what that writer did so well — and show my readers how they could do the same thing.

Often you’ll find great jumping-off points in the news.  Say, for example, that you want to write an article about how best to handle a public-relations challenge.  You could open your piece by referring to the recent Toyota scandal.  What lesson would you have your readers learn from the way Toyota handled their crisis?

Aim for a fresh audience.  An idea that might feel pretty standard-issue to a certain group of readers can be truly eye opening to another.  So, think about the ways you can take the know-how you use every day in your own area of expertise and find new folks to share it with.

For example, take an idea like using “picture, promise, proof, push” in a promotion.  That’s not new to you if you’ve studied copywriting technique.  It’s a “classic” idea to an audience of copywriters.  But if you’re a travel writer, in all likelihood that’s new to you.  So, I could write about how you take this proven copywriting technique and apply it to travel articles.  And, that would be a whole new take on the subject.

Start with somebody else’s idea, say it’s their idea… and then refute it, agree with it, or build upon it.  Start with an assertion somebody else makes and react to it.  Say you read an article about how to use vinegar to remove laundry stains.  The author asserts that there’s no more powerful natural stain-fighter.  You could agree, maybe even quote the writer and send your readers to her piece.  But, then your piece might continue, “But vinegar is good for a whole lot more than laundry.  Here are five household hassles vinegar takes care of instantly … ”

Have you ever found yourself reading an article and nodding vigorously in agreement?  Well, begin there.  Tell your readers that you just read this piece, and it’s spot on.  Tell them they should go read it, too.  But then explain why you feel that way.  Use an example from your own life.  Share a story that further supports that other author’s idea.

My point, finally, is simple: You don’t need to copy somebody else’s words.  Even if the idea you want to write about has been written about thousands of times before.  Look to your own life.  Look to what’s going on in the world around you today.  Share your reactions.  Your opinions.  That’s how you take a “classic” idea and make it your own.

End Note:   This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) The Golden Thread, a free newsletter that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on the best wealth careers, lifestyle careers and work-at-home careers available.  For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.awaionline.com/signup.

© Copyright Rachel Agheyisi and Report Content Writer’s Blog, 2009-2010.

Finding and Using Your “Mo”

Get your "Mo"Sidebar:  I just read this article by Roy Furr, Managing Editor of AWAI Spare-Time Biz Success.  It speaks to finding motivation and maintaining momentum.  It connects on many levels.  I hope you find something here to spark your own special “Mo” and move you on toward realizing your aspirations.

Here’s Roy —

My father-in-law retired a couple of years back.  Since then, he’s been building a retirement house on a lake in Nebraska.  (Hold the jokes — yes, there are lakes in Nebraska!).

The winter months get him down a bit though.

Because the snow and cold weather make it hard to work.  Especially when a load of snow gets dumped on the Midwest.  And, even when he can get out to the house to do some work, invariably there’s something he needs to do that he can’t because of the inclement conditions.

The winter takes away his momentum.  Or — as he calls it — his “Mo.”

Yet in the summer months, when the weather is nicer, he’s got a truckload of “Mo.”

He’s almost single-handedly built an entire five-bedroom house, in just a couple of summers.  Sure, he could have had it finished in a single summer contracting a whole team of workers.  But this is just him, his “Mo,” and some hard work.  And the house is beautiful.  Top-notch craftsmanship, too.

And, each summer as he works on it (I think it’ll be done this summer), it undergoes an incredible transformation, thanks to his “Mo” and his hard work.  He accomplishes more than you’d imagine one person could! 

What could you be building with “Mo”?

What my father-in-law does on his lake house during the summer is nothing short of a feat of human nature.  And, it’s something you can do in your spare-time biz as well.

If you know how to take advantage of “Mo.”

We’ve all got it in us.  It’s part of our human nature.  It’s the ability to leverage what we’re doing now, the successes we’re experiencing, and take it to the next level.  To keep working and working, and building toward our goal.  And, as we do the work, finish more tasks, accomplish more goals, and experience more positive results, we gain more power to continue doing what we’re doing.

Goals build on goals.  Results build on results.  Incredible things are accomplished!

That’s “Mo.”

Maybe you’re building your Money-Making Website and have started to get decent traffic.  How about putting links on your highest-traffic pages (or all of them) allowing people to share the content on various Social Media platforms?  This could cause a significant bump in traffic, thanks to the visitors who are already coming to your site.  Good use of “Mo”, if you ask me!

It just takes some creativity to figure out how to take full advantage of your “Mo” in your biz. 

How to find your most powerful “Mo”

Take a look at what you’ve been doing in the past three or six months that has given you the most powerful results.  What was it about it that you think gave you the strong results?  How can you repeat or leverage it to get more results like what you’ve been getting?

Spend some time with a pen and paper, brainstorming different ways to get strong results by doing something similar.

I don’t know exactly what it will be for you.  Only you can know.  In fact, you probably already know, deep down, what exactly you need to do to take advantage of your “Mo” that’s been building recently.

Now do it.  And keep doing it.  And keep finding ways to leverage your “Mo.”

That’s how you’re going to keep creating the incredible results you want.  That’s how you’ll look back one day in the not-too-distant future and say, “Wow, look what I’ve accomplished.”

You have “Mo” in you.  Just use it!

End Note:   This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) Wealthy Web Writer, a free newsletter for learning how to effectively write online copy and market products on the Web.  For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.awaionline.com/signup/web-writing.

© Copyright Rachel Agheyisi and Report Content Writer’s Blog, 2009-2010.