Create Yourself in Your Own Image

We know about presenting a good, professional image and using effective body language. If you work in fiction you’ve likely used body language, style and first impressions to create a character. But, do you present a good image of yourself?

If you are in a professional situation do you know how to appear professional and confident. Do you look at people when you speak to them? If you look at someone’s eyes while they speak they will feel you’re really listening. Don’t sit or stand with your body scrunched or folded up. Good posture counts. Also, don’t sprawl and have people tripping over you, but – don’t be afraid to take up some space. When sitting, standing or walking don’t appear small and intimidated, talk with your hands a little, rest your arm on the arm of the chair.

Is your conversation full of slang, do you tend to use any bad language (anything you wouldn’t say in front of a 4 year old)? Coach yourself to speak clearly and avoid pauses with “ummm” and related phrases. If you find yourself stumbling over your words, sounding nervous, stop. Take a breath, a sip of water and remember you’re talking to a fellow human being not a rabid skunk, relax.

Can you carry a conversation, do you have some prepared chit chat? Avoid talking about the weather, politics or religion, come up with something a bit more interesting and uniquely you. If you have hobbies try working them in. Don’t go overboard talking about yourself, just enough to break the ice is fine. Ask questions about their own interests to pull them into the conversation. You don’t have to be full of yourself, you don’t even have to be genuinely confident, but you should appear to know what you’re doing and be at ease.

Take a look at your wardrobe. Do you have at least one ‘interview suit’? If so, do you feel confident when wearing it? If you don’t go shopping for something that flatters you and makes you feel good when you have it on. It should be comfortable to wear so you aren’t distracted by a tight jacket, a colour that makes you feel mousy or any other of a hundred problems that can come up. Yes, you want to be dressy but you don’t want to feel unnatural or inelegant. If your style of dress is casual try finding something casual in a dressy fabric. Or something dressy, like a tailored suit, in a casual fabric.

Of course, you are groomed, have brushed hair and teeth, lathered up (recently) in general. Make sure your fingernails are clean. Give yourself a check over just before the get together. Anything stuck in your teeth? Did that garlic at lunch stay with you? Any dirt, strings, or very tiny aliens, hanging from your clothes?

Writers already have a small image problem. People tend to assume writers slack off and have it easy. We work at home, may not even get dressed or out of bed all day. We don’t work at a ‘real’ job. Don’t assume another writer or editor or publisher will know better. Dress for success. Create the image you want people to have and then be there.

Have you got the Correct Linkage?

I’m reading ‘The Weblog Handbook’ by Rebecca Blood. Among the things worth noting is using your linkage on a website. It’s not enough to display links to other sites. What you need to do is click on your own links. That way the webmasters will see you and know you are linking to them. Otherwise they won’t know you have links to them unless they stumble across you by some lucky fluke.

So, if you have a blog (or ezine or a site of any kind) and have links down your sidebar or in the blog itself, click them. Go to the sites and get yourself noticed. You’ll show up as a referrer site in their web stats.

You can set your own site up to see who refers to you too. There are free scripts on the web, most are simple and painless.

Sales Technique for Writing

I’ve never liked being a salesperson, yet as a writer we are in fact, salespeople. You can’t get around it. We sell ourselves as credible sources for information. But, we also sell our ideas and our writing itself. If you’ve ever thought “Why should anyone read my stuff?” You can understand the relationship between sales and writing (even before publishing comes into it). We want readers to buy into our writing, to be believe what we write, take it seriously. So, we have to sell it.

The following comes from: How Stuff Works

“The foundations of most modern sales techniques lie in five stages of action. These began in the 1950’s and include:

Attention: You have to get the attention of your prospect through some advertising or prospecting method.

Interest: Build their interest by using an emotional appeal such as how good they will look to their boss when they make this deal that will save the company thousands of dollars!

Desire: Build their desire for your product by showing them its features and letting them sample or test-drive it.

Conviction: Increase their desire for your product by statistically proving the worth of your product. Compare it to its competitors. Use testimonials from happy customers.

Action: Encourage the prospect to act. This is your closing. Ask for the order. If they object, address their objections. There are then many variations of closing techniques that can help get the business. “

It’s not too hard to see how that applies to our writing. Think of copywriting, fiction writing or even writing an instruction manual. The first thing you need to do is pull them in, catch their attention. You do this by surprising them, perking their curiosity, giving them what they want or showing them you have what they need. Whichever works for the writing you are doing. In website reviews a catchy headline is everything. If it’s a book you need a great opening line. Magazine articles use headlines and highlighted phrases in the article.

Interest, desire and conviction sort of roll into one theme, keeping your readers reading. How do you pull them through your writing? Some may only read the catchy beginning and then skim to the end for the conclusion. Keeping their interest through the middle is the real trick. This is where your writing style comes in. Don’t let them stop reading, keep providing content they need, want and must have. Keep the writing lively rather than droning on.

Then, as with any good sales pitch, you want them to take action. If you are writing fiction you want them to leave the world you created feeling they have left something of themselves behind when they read that last word. If you are writing copy for sales you want them to understand how important the product is. If you are explaining how something works you want them to feel confident enough to proceed and use the product. Even if your only purpose is simple entertainment, you want them to buy that from you. In order for it to be bought, you have to sell it.

The Reframing Matrix

Here is an idea for the next time you are stuck with an idea and can’t fight your way out of a wet paper bag with it. Try the reframing matrix plan.

The Reframing Matrix is a formal technique used to look at problems from different perspectives. It helps to expand the number of options open to you for solving a problem.

You draw up a reframing matrix by posing a question in a box in the middle of a piece of paper. You then draw a grid around it. Each cell will contain approaches to the problem, seen from one perspective.

One way of using the technique is the ‘4 Ps’ approach. This looks at the problem from the following viewpoints: Product, Planning, Potential and People. Another set of perspectives is to ask your self how different professionals would approach the problem. Useful professions to consider would be medical doctors, engineers, systems analysts, sales managers, etc.

I found this on a site called Mind Tools. Consider applying the reframing matrix to your writing blocks or hold ups. What would your four perspectives or viewpoints be? Overall you could say: Story, Publisher, Reader, Characters. But it could be applied to sections of your fiction too. Look at the situation from the viewpoint of four different characters. If you are working on a non-fiction article look at it from the viewpoint of four possible readers- other writers, professionals, your siblings, a checkout cashier, etc.

It does help to give you fresh ideas and slants/ angles on the ideas you already have.

Assignments for Home-Based Writers

From the book – How to Start a Home-Based Writing Business by Lucy V. Parker, these are sixty key assignments for home-based writers:

  • Advertising copy
  • Anniversary materials for corporations, organizations, institutions, municipalities
  • Annual reports
  • Articles for employee magazines
  • Articles for single-sponsor magazines
  • Articles for trade journals and small magazines
  • Brochures
  • Calendars
  • Capability brochures
  • Catalogues and product sheets
  • CD-ROM/ Interactive media writing
  • City and newcomer guides
  • Collateral materials
  • Conference and trade show materials
  • Consultation
  • Contributing editor assignments
  • Critical reviewing
  • Direct-mail packages
  • Directories
  • Editing
  • Employee benefit materials
  • Environmental materials
  • Family histories and genealogies
  • Flyers
  • Fund-raising materials
  • Ghost writing and collaboration
  • Greeting card writing
  • Indexing
  • Industry-specific writing
  • Instructional materials
  • Investor-relations materials.
  • Letter writing
  • Manuals
  • Menu writing
  • New product regulatory writing
  • Newsletters
  • Newspaper feature writing, reporting and stringing
  • Packaging design and copy
  • Policies and procedures writing
  • Political campaign writing
  • Press releases and press kits
  • Proofreading
  • Proposals
  • Public relations services and materials
  • Radio and TV ads and promotions
  • Researching
  • Restaurant reviewing and writing
  • Resume writing
  • Retail and mall promotions
  • Sales presentations
  • Scripts and storyboards
  • Speeches
  • Sports materials and services
  • Teaching writing
  • Technical writing
  • Telemarketing scripts
  • Transcripts and other forms of word processing
  • Translations
  • Travel writing
  • Website content providing

Go through the list and pick out which you like to do, could do more of, or could learn to do. It’s a great list. Find a copy of the book for more information about any of the assignments above.

You can also look up information about being a virtual assistant. I know some writers/ web designers/ virtual assistants – people who are leaving their options open and learning a lot of new skills. The key is to find your niche, the area(s) where you can flourish and grow and really love what you’re doing.

Take Action

Doing something makes you feel better. Think about the times you accomplished something and how much better that felt than leaving it for someone else, deciding it was beyond you or some other version of not doing. Even if the task is more than you are capable of, take a chunk out of it, or just try anyway. Find something you can do.

If you want to be a professional (paid) writer don’t think about it, don’t make elaborate plans and stop there. Do something. Take action. Start by cleaning all the junk files out of your computer, maybe a whole reformat if you don’t feel too nervous about trying that. (It isn’t really that complicated, it just looks intimidating). Don’t get too deep into cleaning or organizing or planning anything though. Those are pools of stagnation and procrastination too. Start there but move on.

If you’ve made a list of possible clients to write for, begin contacting them. Write your query letters and send them. Write a book proposal and deliver on it. You will feel so much better: accomplished, capable and far ahead of where you were when everything was just plans and stuff you’d like to be doing.

Also, you can find time for the things you really want to do. If you get stuck in the planning then you need to push yourself into the action. If you think you don’t have enough time take a look at what you are doing, where your time is being spent. Is all that really necessary or are there times when you’re just spinning your wheels?

Cranking It Out

Here’s something I found among a list of jobs for writers:

We are looking for writers to work on the following project:

  • Author many short (100-200) word articles on a variety of keywords (keyword list will be provided).
  • Author site map for your work.
  • Ensure the content achieves an 8-12% keyword density rating.
  • Ability to crank out at least 50 such articles a week

Qualifications:

  • Use Dreamweaver or Frontpage
  • Know how to FTP content to a site
  • Previous web writing experience (send URLs)

Compensation:

  • Paid on a per article basis.

Is this the job for you? You can find it on Craigslist.org if you want to. It sounds like they want someone to write spam, to me. I guess I still have a bit too much pride in my writing to consider it something I’d “crank out”.

I’m not being stuffy, just thinking of the work and creativity and craft involved in creating a readable article and then comparing that to something you’d crank out 50 times a week.

Could you do it? Even if you would take the job, could you write 50 short articles about random topics each week? I guess if it really didn’t matter how interesting or unique they were, you could. Of course, you have to consider how dense the keywords are. That seems to be the only content that matters.

Kind of sad if web writing comes to this, cranking out keywords for search engines to latch onto.

The funny thing is that search engines don’t all use spiders any more. Some have real people who aren’t impressed with a lot of half-assed articles full of keywords. Even if those sites get listed and show up at the top of the search that’s no guarantee of getting clicks. Not real clicks that stick around and actually look at the site. After all, getting clicks isn’t enough. If people come to the site, find nothing and leave. You’re not ahead of the game.

So, it’s paying work for some writer. Not me though. Not that I couldn’t use the money. I just don’t want to be known for cranking out articles when I could be creating something unique, with real value.