What a Website Says About a Writer

A lot of times my blogs are inspired by snobbery, I admit. In this case, it’s snobbish and even a bit hypocritical. Because my current website sucks. I know. I am ok with it, because 1) it serves my purposes (writing samples, evidence of business, landing place, etc.) and 2) I am working on a new site.

Today I was researching other sites to see what content they provide (specifically I was looking for FAQs I may want to include on my site). Not having a FAQs is fine. Especially if you’re a single writer and you are more focused on getting someone to talk to you. But these websites are terrible. Mediocre at best.

God bless ’em. I mean, they’re writers, not web developers, right?

But that’s no excuse. It hurts your business and it hurts the perception of the industry. And here’s why:

A Bad Website Tells Your Client You Don’t Value Experts

As a professional writer, I know the value of my services. Someone in the client’s organization can write web copy/blogs/pamphlets/sales letters/white papers/case studies, but I know I can write it better. Not because I know my grammar, but because I know how to determine the audience and purpose and create effective copy on a micro level.

Likewise, I know what I can do myself, but it would be much better if I hired an expert. Like developing an effective website. I don’t know how to do that. I don’t even know HTML (which is just the beginning). I can find sites and software to help, but even my best attempts will fall flat, because it’s not what I do.

A Bad Website Makes Your Services Look Bad

My writing is developed with the specific brand in mind and considers what it will look like on the page. Because that makes a difference. I hate working blind (not knowing what the site will look like and/or having no say in the appearance). And I hate giving writing samples of work I have done out of context.

Writing is the overall visual just as much as it is the specific words you use. You can have “the best words,” but if they are in a bad frame, they likely will be passed over.

A Bad Website Tells Clients You Really Don’t Know What You’re Doing

If your businesses is marketing B2B services (you know, your Business 2 another Business), you need to show them you know what the heck you’re doing. If you know how to effectively communicate to businesses, you understand the importance of the website for effective communication. If you don’t understand the importance of the website, I purport you don’t know how to effectively communicate through words, either. Even if you aren’t a web writer!

But maybe you hired a professional web developer, and it still looks bad. Your client still sees you don’t know enough about effective communication to evaluate the services of so called professionals. You probably paid less for an amateur, because you don’t see the value in an effective site.

How do you expect the client to compensate you appropriately if you don’t do it for other creatives? How can you ask your client to trust your services when you don’t trust a better investment will bring better return?

Yeah, Yeah, I’m a Hypocrite, But..

Yes, my site sucks. Yes I am designing my own website. But I am not pushing my SEO so I can be on the first page of a Google search. I am not marketing my site. When you put yourself front and center, you better be sure you’re dressed for the part.

Also, I really do understand more than the average writer about what a site should look like and how it should perform. And I have the guidance of a talented developer on speed-dial. (Not really speed dial, of course, because it’s not 2003, but we text.)

And this is what makes me a great writer. Knowing my limits and truly seeking to understand past those limits.

 

I am still working on my website (it’s been three months longer than I expected). And then I launch! But only with an attractive, effective site will I begin to build my online presence. When potential clients are looking for experts 1) I’ll stand out, 2) I’ll appear more professional, and 3) clients will see more value in my writing.

There will be those who look at the other guys and think, “Obviously this other writer is cheaper, I’ll go with them.” But that’s not the kind of client I want anyway. I want a client who will be impressed with a job well done and see the value in it.

Man I need to get that site up!

 

Authentic Voice and Bilingualism

There’s a lot of differing views about “voice” out there. And I think a lot of it comes down to definition. See, in general, one’s writing voice is the distinctive way one words their ideas. It encompasses verbiage and rhythm and vocabulary and all kinds of stuff you don’t even realize unless you study it.

In general, what you write is what you write. And expecting it to sound like someone else (favorite author, for instance) is unfair to you and your writing.

On the one hand.

On the other hand…

…part of developing as an artist is exercising your voice.

Singers push their voices to sing higher, lower, louder, softer, fuller, and so on. They study other singers and try out what those singers do. They listen to a variety of genre so they can not only master their own genre, but bring something individual to it. And sometimes they perform in a style that is not their own. They even study other languages to better understand their own.

Painters do the same. You can find some Picassos that look an awful lot like Monet. In the end, his voice was very different, but he knew the technique because he painted in the other style. Brush strokes. Color. Shading. And then he was able to better capture his own voice.

So for the sake of creative development, emulating the voice of another artist stretches your own.

But this is just in the type of writing often considered “art.” When you’re talking communication, that’s a different side of the story.

I’m a web writer. And each thing I write is a different piece and requires an individual voice. For instance, I can write two articles about the same safety precaution, but one uses warmer, sentimental voice, another uses a powerful, rough and tumble voice. Why such a difference? If you follow my writing, you should know the answer to every question is: know your audience.

But I am not necessarily writing to a different audience in these two pieces. I am, however, writing to a different part of my audience.

In this instance, I want men to feel like they’re taking care of their family. And I want their wives to buy in, too. But then I want men to feel like they are buying a monster truck. A gadget. Something super cool. They have precious people to protect (first article), and they’re strong enough to protect it (second article).

Because I understand the importance of voice, I am aware that my natural voice speaks most effectively to women and certain… perspicacious men. (That’s the best word I could find for this without ostracizing both men to which I am referring and men to which I am not.)

So when I write for men, which I do a lot–men in business, men consumers, men looking for jobs–I have to change my voice if I want them to listen to me. Some may see this as devious, lying. But if I want someone who only understands Spanish to hear what I am saying, I have to speak Spanish.

So if I want someone who speaks Manish to understand me, well, I gotta speak Manish, don’t I?

More Finding My Niche (aka what I know, what I am good at, and what I like)

Well, hello there! Long time no see…and it’s my fault. This summer my husband (a teacher) and kids were home and we lavished in being together. So my work kind of fell off a cliff. I tried holding on, but I got distracted and let go.

Now I have to pick up those pieces and need to keep this in mind for next year. Scheduled blogs need to be written ahead of time. If I have other work, I need to remove myself (or everyone else) from the house and get it done.

Anyway, last week I said no to monthly money. One of my clients is a business I know pretty much nothing about. It spans industries in finance, insurance, sales, and cars. With few others in its industry to model. I don’t know or understand the target audience(s) who are varied. I am pretty much lost.

I could get there. I could become an expert in it. I would write some good copy. But it would take at least twice as much energy and probably five times as much research in the beginning. And I don’t like any of those industries. And, I’m charging them minimum for the quality of blog posts I provide.

Basically, it isn’t worth the effort.

Two major lessons for me here:

First, when I thought I may not writing blogs for that and other businesses (miscommunication issue), I was pretty stressed about losing the business. BUT I felt relief over not having to write those specific blogs. So when we reconciled, I was upfront with them (which I can’t help but do) about not wanting to write those.

Second, I better understand my niche(s). Education, workforce development, business, marketing, web marketing, writing (of course), personal development, family, outdoors activity, professional development, arts, and social justice specifically in race, income, and gender.  When assigned topics within these categories, I have little difficulty and a lot of fun researching and writing. And there are many others categories/industries, I assume, but these have just come across my desk.

But I am the type of person who loves learning. So it would be easier to eliminate niche(s) than collect. And business, finance, insurance, and I would even say agency are on the “I really don’t care” list. And what’s the point of being a freelance writer if you still have to write about what you don’t like, aren’t good at, and know nothing about?

So, finding your niche seems constricting, at least to me. But it’s quite liberating. What do you just not love and/or can’t do? Maybe start there instead of limiting yourself from the other side.

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