Category: writing

Adding humour and personality to your prospecting emails

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Thanks to Lianna Patch of for her article on this topic.

I’ve written about making better use of your subject line to attract prospects and encourage clients to respond to your emails. A well written subject line can mean the difference between getting more responses and getting none at all.

One way to get more out of your email is to inject humour and personality into the subject line. The key is to employ YOUR sense of humour and YOUR personality when writing to prospects and clients. If it’s not your style, or it does not feel right to you for the client or the situation, then don’t do it. However, if you can apply your brand of humour or personality, then there are many opportunities to use smart, funny writing in your subject line to get results.

Following up with prospects

The followup can be powerful. Speak to the benefit of what they will get or the pleasure of working with you.

  • Working together will be a blast.
  • Let’s take your writing project to the next level!
  • Hey! Do you still want to knock out that killer email project?

Sending work to a client for feedback

You need to find out what the client thinks of the work, and what to do next. Show that you care, and inject some life into that subject line.

  • I’m dying to know what you think!
  • Voila! Your marketing materials are here.
  • You have an incoming telegram – your sales letter awaits your attention.

Thanking a client for a great project

Many people neglect to thank their clients after the work is done. You’ll be amazed at how much appreciation (and work) you’ll receive in return, as gratitude emails are very effective.

  • I just wanted to say… you’re the best!
  • This project made the top of my list of favourite gigs ever!
  • Think of this email as a box of chocolate without the calories.

Checking in with past clients

I do this every few months, and often find that I get a nibble after throwing out a few check-in emails. Sometimes, past clients need to be reminded of your existence, and how great it was when you worked together.

  • Danger! Danger! This email will explode if you don’t open it soon.
  • It’s a blast from the past, and better than reruns of your favourite Seinfeld episode.
  • This email will make you smile, as it’s a message from your favourite copy editor.

Sharing something to keep the flame alive

Some people like to share interesting articles or news with clients. Those are good, but adding some personality to your subject line will be the icing on the cake… and who doesn’t like icing?

  • Hey Mark! I thought of you when I read this.
  • I just read the funniest story, and I had to tell you about it.

Additional tips

  • Keep the subject line short and strong when possible.
  • lowercase the first word… didn’t that just stand out when you read it?
  • Use an emoji that fits… but just one.

What did you think of these email tips? Would you use them? Do you have suggestions of your own? Let me know –


Understanding the four main properties of nouns

In a previous post, I discussed the different types of nouns. Today’s post is about the main properties of nouns.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, nouns have four main properties:

  • Case
  • Number
  • Gender
  • Person


Case refers to the relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and other words in a sentence. While there is some disagreement about whether there are two or three cases, you only need to concern yourself with two:

  • Normal = no apostrophe: The principal is in her office.
  • Possessive = apostrophe: This is the principal’s office.


Number shows whether the noun refers to one object (fox, stick, candy) or more than one object (foxes, sticks, candies). Some nouns differ when describing one object (person) compared to more than one object (people).


Gender is not used as often in English as it is in other languages, such as French or Spanish, which have masculine and feminine accompanying articles. Other languages also refer to non-living things in the masculine or feminine, whereas English typically uses gender only for people and other living creatures.

Gender can be masculine (son), feminine (sister) or common (parent). In the masculine and feminine cases, a gender-appropriate pronoun can replace the noun (e.g., he for son, she for sister).

Many gender-specific nouns that refer to a person’s job or position have gender-neutral versions. For example:

  • Police officer instead of policeman / policewoman
  • Firefighter instead of fireman / firewoman
  • Flight attendant instead of steward / stewardess
  • Server / waitperson instead of waiter / waitress

Note: The English language is constantly being updated to address people who do not identify with either the masculine or feminine gender, or who are gender-fluid. I am not knowledgeable enough to cover this topic in proper detail. My goal is simply to explain the meaning of gender in the use of nouns.


Person refers primarily to pronouns, but also applies to nouns used with pronouns. A noun or pronoun can be in the:

  • First person = the one doing the speaking: I, David, swear that…
  • Second person = the one being spoken to: Girls, you are being…
  • Third person = the one being spoken about: That car belongs to…

Do you have any questions about grammar? Let me know –


Understanding the different types of nouns

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If you’re a writer, then you should understand the most important tools of your trade – words. After all, words are your bread and butter. Many writers focus on understanding and properly using verbs, as they drive the action. However, you should also be familiar with nouns and how to use them.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style 15, a noun is “a word that names something, whether abstract (intangible) or concrete (tangible).”

  • An abstract noun describes something that you cannot see, hear, touch, taste or smell (e.g., feelings, concepts, ideas or events).
  • A concrete noun¬†describes something that you can either see, hear, touch, taste or smell.

A common noun is the informal name of an item in a class or group – an apple, a box, a bridge. Common nouns are not capitalized unless they begin a sentence or appear in a title.

A proper noun is a person’s name (e.g., Frank, Arlene), or the official name of a thing or place (e.g., Toronto, CN Tower). Proper nouns are always capitalized.

Count nouns have singular and plural forms (e.g., boat / boats, pixie / pixies. loaf / loaves). When a count noun is the subject of the sentence:

  • The singular count noun takes a singular verb (e.g., the box is heavy).
  • The plural count noun takes a plural verb (e.g., the boxes are heavy).

Mass (noncount or collective) nouns cannot be counted. They apply to something that is abstract (e.g., love, pressure) or something that has an unknown number of people or things (e.g., the staff, membership).

  • When a mass noun is the subject of the sentence, it usually takes a singular verb (e.g., the population is large).
  • When used in the collective sense, it can take either a singular or plural verb (e.g, The group is difficult to please / The group of vendors are difficult to please). The singular verb puts the emphasis on the group, while the plural verb focuses on the individual members.

Do you have any questions about grammar? Let me know –


How to position your freelance writing or creative business

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Some freelancers, solopreneurs, and creative professionals want to be all things to all people. You can be a “Jack/Jill of all trades” and still be successful. I’m a bit of a generalist – I write on a wide range of topics for clients in different industries. There’s a book called Range by David Epstein which argues that you can have more success by not focusing on a niche (read it – it’s quite good).

However, some freelance writing experts argue you can find greater success by focusing on a niche and deciding upon who you want or need to serve. Position your services by focusing on an area to stand out among your competitors. Show your customers that YOU are the solution for them. Customers respond better to focused prospecting.

I think you can succeed by focusing even if you are a generalist. You can write just informative articles and blog posts for companies in different markets.

So, where do you start in positioning your freelance writing or creative business?

  • Explore 2-3 areas or industries that you want to work in based on your experience, connections, interests, etc. Start with what you know and where you have experience.
  • Look more deeply into the markets you serve. Determine what your clients/market needs, and determine how you can satisfy that need while doing something that you enjoy.
  • Follow current business trends and investments. Choose growing markets as well – such as ebooks and interactive publishers.
  • Tell your prospects that you understand their particular issues and that you can help them to address those needs. Using your industry experience, try to address those specific challenges.
  • Choose markets that have money to spend. Look at their websites and marketing materials, and collect marketing materials from trade shows. When examining the markets, take a look at the size of the market (number of prospects), the average project or purchase size, and the frequency of the need for your services.

There are many other ways to position your creative business, but these ideas should give you a leg up in attracting the clients that you want, and growing your business. Do you have other ideas for positioning your creative business? Let me know –

David Gargaro

Jump over these five hurdles to write your book

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I recently read an article on identifying the five key hurdles that people face when trying to write a book. I wish I had read this article before I wrote How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground, as I might have done it sooner. Any one of these obstacles can stop someone from writing a book, so it can be difficult to overcome all five of them. If you manage to overcome these hurdles, you will be well on your way to getting your thoughts on a page and writing the best book possible.

So, what are the five hurdles that you must jump over to write your first book?

I don’t have the ability to write (“I’m not good enough” myth)

Everyone can write to some degree; we write almost every day. It’s like any skill – practice makes you better. Spend time to improve your writing skills, and work on improving those skills regularly. Work with an editor to make your writing the best it can be.

I don’t know how to write a book (“I need to know more” myth)

People get intimidated by the length of a book. Think of it as a long writing assignment, or a series of essays. Start with a step (a sentence), then write a paragraph, and keep going. Use your writing to share what you know, and you will get there. Again, you can work with an editor or a ghost writer to help you get the words on the page.

Everything is in my head already (“The wisdom will pour out” myth)

Good writing is well constructed – you can’t just spit out what you know onto a page and expect it to become a book. Start with planning and create an outline – bullet points / headings are a great way to start the plan for your book. Don’t try to do it all alone – get a writing partner / join a writing group / work with a coach or mentor to develop the plan.

I am too busy to write a book (“Wait for the perfect moment” myth)

If you wait for the right time to do something, you will alway be waiting. Make a strategic plan to fit writing into your day. There is always time to write – look at what you can cut out of your day (like TV) or write during your free time. Break your writing into small, manageable chunks, like 500 words a day or 20 minutes at a time. Set a timer and do a content dump, and then look at it later.

I am afraid of being criticized or ignored (“You have nothing valuable to say” myth)

Someone will find value in what you write in your book. You have unique skills, experiences and perspectives. There is an audience that can benefit from that knowledge. You must risk exposure to share your experience. Remember – you will never please everyone. Write to a specific audience. Write for yourself.


Overcoming these hurdles will get you on the way to writing your book. You can overcome these hurdles, because you put them there – remove your hurdles. You have a book in you. Leap your hurdles, and you are well on your way to sharing that book with the world.

Do you need help with writing a book, or editing a book that’s almost ready to go? Let me know –

David Gargaro

Following the map to success as a freelance writer

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Some time ago, I attended a webinar on creating a road map to increasing success as a freelance writer. The speaker provided a lot of great tips on what you need to do to improve your freelance writing business. I’ve summarized some of the tips here. Put these ideas together to give yourself a better chance at being successful as a freelance writer (other creatives can apply these strategies to their business).

  1. Wake up! Understand that a business takes effort. As a self-employed professional, you must realize that you are running a business, so treat it that way. Some people fool themselves that freelancing is easier than it is because there are low barriers to entry and a lot of potential markets. It’s not easy – finding work takes a lot of work.
  2. You need several key ingredients to be successful in your business. They include focus and commitment to putting all your effort into your business, belief in yourself, and determination to study your craft, prospect constantly and push through all obstacles.
  3. Prospecting is a full-time job. You must do it every day. Spend time on finding new clients, even to the point that you should not waste time on other parts of your business (to a degree).
  4. Use small wins to motivate yourself. Focus on the quick wins – writing a blog post, contacting a new client, responding to a client request – to motivate yourself in moving forward in your business.
  5. Smart positioning is key. Know what you do, who you serve, how you are different, and what that difference matters to prospects and clients.
  6. Tap your network. Reach clients through people you already know, and the people that they know. Go through your LinkedIn contacts, and see who they know that you can connect with.
  7. Take massive action. Double the action you think it will take to get business every day. If you think that you need to contact one new client per week, and it takes 10 emails / calls to get one new client, then reach out to 20 prospects per week.
  8. Develop a support system. Get support from other successful writers for ideas and advice. Join a peer group of professionals that are facing the same challenges. Get an accountability partner to help keep you on track. Hire / find a coach / mentor to show you the fast track to success.

What suggestions do you have for creating a road map to success? Do you need help with becoming more successful as a freelancer? Let me know –

David Gargaro

Essential copywriting tips for freelance writers

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Volumes of books, articles, websites, etc. have been written on the art and science of copywriting. There are many experienced copywriting experts who teach expensive, worthwhile courses on the subject. I don’t pretend to be one of them. However, I’ve learned a few key copywriting strategies along the way.

These seven tips can help almost anyone improve their copywriting effectiveness. You can apply these tips to your email and article writing as well.

  1. Understand the value of headlines. Your headline must grab the reader’s attention. A well-written headline makes your content more appealing and special.
  2. Do not (always) try to be clever. Your content should focus on clarity over cleverness – i.e., being bigger than you are, joking around, using writing tricks. Be clear first.
  3. Develop a compelling big idea. Describe your key benefit compressed into a statement. Convey something that matters in a short sentence. It’s more than a tagline – it states your central idea.
  4. Research to find big ideas. Writers often overlook the importance of research. Dig to find great ideas and trends, and repeat. This includes interesting facts, snippets, phrasing, stories, case studies, customer problems and solutions, etc. Research is about getting to know your target market, and what is important to them.
  5. Pull your audience to you – the people who are hungry for your topic. Figure out what that audience is hungry for, or missing, and then give it to them.
  6. Set a goal. You need a call to action, which will take your reader to what you want them to do. The call to action should be a direct statement of what you want them to do next – call, click, email, etc. Your call to action should be in every piece of content you provide.
  7. Don’t be boring! Boring content does not work, especially today. Make your content interesting and compelling to read. Inject your personality into your writing. Use design, images, layout, etc. to make your content stand out. Tell good stories.

What tips do you have to offer in making copywriting better? Do you need help with your copywriting? Let me know –

David Gargaro

The building blocks of writing great content for articles, blog posts and websites

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Have you ever played with Lego sets? I’m sure you have. They’re cute, pre-designed sets with just the right number of blocks to create a little scene. Each set comes with a set of diagrammed instructions on how to go from a pile of blocks to a completed scene.

It inspired me to come up with something similar to help you, the reader, write the ideal blog post, article, web landing page, or content to attract your target audience. You can use building blocks to help you to create great content.

Six building blocks of great content

  1. Create a compelling headline. I suggest finding a headline that caught your eye, and modify it for your topic and audience.
  2. Write a strong first sentence. Grab the reader at the deciding stage – make it intriguing, thought-provoking, inspiring, controversial, funny, or whatever works for the situation.
  3. Craft several strong subheads. They serve as sign posts for your content, and keep your audience reading. They also provide structure to keep you on track.
  4. Draft your main copy (write quickly but don’t edit – just write, then come back to it later to tighten it up). Use the main head and subheads to guide your content.
  5. Summarize your main points. Lay out and reinforce the premise.
  6. Conclude with a call to action. Ask for feedback, invite the reader to subscribe, share your message on social media, etc. Always ask for something from the reader to build the relationship and increase engagement.

Those are the basic building blocks of writing great content. Start with an idea, and build your blog, article or web page. You’ll get the hang of it and become a better writer.

Do you have suggestions on writing great content? Do you need help with writing your content? Let me know –

David Gargaro

Using storytelling to encourage decision-making among clients and prospects

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Whatever business you are in, storytelling will help you to move potential clients to make faster, more favourable decisions. You can also use social media to help you create that story.

Social media enables you to make “warm” calls and emails to potential clients. All it takes is some research effort on your part. You can use a host of tools (such as LinkedIn and Twitter) to find out more about your potential clients – what they do, what they like, where they spend time, what their problems / wants / needs are. All this information is at your fingertips. Write down a few key points, which will now form the foundation for your story.

Once you have this information about your potential client, you must determine how you can provide them with value. You are selling something (such as widgets, or writing and editing support). Now you need to determine what value you can deliver to that prospect to get them to move toward a decision.

Since you’ve already done your research on the prospect through social media, you can reach out to them in the same way. For example, if that person made a comment on LinkedIn, respond to their comment with feedback of your own. Once you have their attention, and a foundation, you can reach out via email. Begin your story based on that touchpoint. Engage them in a conversation that leads to a discussion of what you do and how that adds value.

The key is to relate what you do in a concise way so that it touches the prospect’s business or life. Do not just state what you sell or do. Tell a story about how you helped another client using your product or service. The case study is the heart of your story. And it’s real, so the person should be able to relate to it, because they might have dealt with the same situation.

The story does not just sell you or your product/service. It shows how you solved a problem, filled a need or created value for someone. The story is real, which makes you more relatable to the prospect. They know more about you, and think of you as a person who understands their business, and what matters to them.

Telling a story helps you to turn prospects into clients. Once you’ve researched your client and found out what is important to them, you can map out the information that they need to make a decision. This will help you to write your story. By providing the person with valuable information that ties directly to what is important to them, they will come to value what you have to say, and look forward to future communications.

Do you need help telling your story? Let me know –

David Gargaro

How to use a framework to focus your writing of blogs, articles, and newsletters

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Getting started in your writing can be very challenging, no matter what you try to write. The first few words and sentences can often be the hardest. And once you get started, it can be difficult to communicate what you want to say in an order that makes sense.

One way to make the process flow more smoothly is to use a framework. The framework supports your content by giving you something to build upon – much like a house’s frame enables builders to construct a house. Instead of trying to build from the ground up, you put up “scaffolding” to hold up the rest of your content.

For example, suppose that you want to write a newsletter. Start with your title or headline. This will be the first plank in your framework. Then add your headings and subheads – these will be your main topics and supporting topics. Write three to five bullet points under each heading and subhead. These will come from the main topics of discussion for that section.

You’ve now developed the framework for your writing. You’ve broken your content into chunks. Take each chunk, and focus on writing just that one bit. Use your headings, subheads and bullet points as your supports to build upon. Each point is its own room in the house you are building. Take one bullet point, and write what you know or want to say about it. Everything should focus on that one point. When you’re done, move to the next one. Eventually, you will have filled all the rooms and written a full first draft.

After that, it’s a matter of sanding the edges, adding some finer touches, and making it look pretty. And then you’re done!

Perhaps it won’t be that easy, but the framework will help you to organize your thoughts, break your writing into digestible chunks, and make the writing process go more smoothly. You can even create a template where you fill in the blanks with your headings, subheads and bullet points, and then build from there.

Do you have any tips on helping to make the writing process more efficient? Would you like help with writing your content? Let me know –

David Gargaro