Stop focusing on the price

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Many professional writers, editors, designers and other creative professionals worry about the constant pressure to lower their prices to compete for clients. Many people provide services where they are competing solely on price. Some work is farmed out to India and other countries where they charge $0.10 on the dollar.

Competing solely on price is a losing proposition. There will always be someone who charges less than you. Always. Continually lowering your prices is a no-win situation. Of course, you should offer competitive pricing, but charge a rate that makes sense to you. If you work below a rate that is comfortable for you, then you will not enjoy doing the work. You will come to dislike the client and do a less than stellar job. Work quality will suffer. Satisfaction will suffer. Your bank account will suffer.

As difficult as it sounds, avoid clients and projects that don’t meet your rate standards. Maintain a high quality of work, and continue looking for clients who will pay your rates. They are out there. Note that clients who used to deal with service providers who charged more than you are now looking for service providers like you – who provide reasonable rates for high quality work.

There will always be newcomers willing to charge low rates to get their first gigs. You were there once. There will always be discounters. Don’t bother competing with them, because clients who use them would not pay for your services anyway. Charge what you think is fair and look for clients who will pay those rates. Maintain your quality and you will continue to attract clients. Find ways to provide additional services that others cannot or do not provide. Go after niche markets that others dare not enter.

Your work has value. Do not undersell yourself or the value that you provide to clients.

David Gargaro

 

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Did you provide instructions?

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Most companies instruct their new employees on a variety of tasks related to doing their job and functioning within the corporate environment. For example, you probably instructed them on how to use the phone system, access files, interact with the public, make use of benefits, submit their hours, etc. But did you instruct them on how to communicate via email?

New employees are used to writing casual emails to friends and families, and occasionally writing proper emails to apply for jobs and engage in other business activities. But they might not know how to do the following:

  • Set up their email signature
  • Write a proper email
  • Use and modify template emails
  • Respond to clients (vs. partners or co-workers)
  • Send group emails
  • Respond to email complaints or queries

Most people don’t know how to do these types of things. And if they worked elsewhere, they might be used to procedures that are very different from how you do things. Even if you are a company of one, you should follow consistent email procedures. Larger companies should make it part of their communications program, and instruct new hires on what to do and how to do it.

Your employees represent your company, including via email. Teach them the proper way to do things. A short training session will do the trick. Set them up with email signatures to make life a bit easier. Provide an online instruction manual to help them stay informed. Ask new hires (and even long-time employees) to send a sample email to you so that you can evaluate their email writing skills.

Note: I teach a seminar on writing effective emails, which is geared toward helping employees to improve their email skills. For more information, send me an email – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

What have you overlooked?

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Your company creates new content every week, month and year. This includes new business letters, emails, press releases, web pages, brochures, sales and marketing materials, information products, and more. You’ve likely spent a lot of time and resources ensuring that all new materials are in line with the current corporate brand and message. Everything new that you create is accurately and attractively written and on point.

However, you’ve probably overlooked some of your older content. How many form letters, web pages, sales and marketing materials, training guides, etc. have not been reviewed in months… or even years? How many inconsistencies and errors can be found in those documents? Are you sending mixed messages to your potential and existing clients? Are you sending out materials with outright mistakes and errors, and don’t even know it? It’s very likely, and it can hurt your image (or provide clients with inaccurate information).

It’s a good idea to review older materials (every six months or so) that have not been replaced with newer content. You never know what you might find that could be affecting your overall message. You might even discover old ideas that can be recycled into new content. At the very least, you will find materials that need to be revised or removed from your corporate communications.

Need new content to fill in the gaps, or replace older content? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

 

Try to ignore the obvious

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When you write an elevator pitch, company description or marketing piece about your company’s features and benefits, you will often rely on “the obvious.” The obvious describes your company and your competitors. The obvious is easy to measure, easy to explain and easy to identify. Everyone knows the obvious. Obvious blends into the background.

Focus on the obscure… the rare… the strange… the different. Think about what truly differentiates you from the competition. Identify a niche problem that needs solving, and describe how only your product or service can accomplish that goal. Outline one feature that is often ignored, that no one else offers, and make it the focal point of your message. Expand on a benefit that very few need, but is worth its weight in gold.

For example, I can state the obvious by declaring that I provide clients with writing and editing services, solutions and support. Many other writers and editors can say the same. Fewer editors can claim a background in actuarial science. So, I can edit statistical, financial and mathematical documents because I know what the numbers mean.

Obvious is common. Rare is valuable. Write a statement that emphasizes that value.

What are your non-obvious features, traits and abilities? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

Heeding (or ignoring) your editor’s advice

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Some people believe that editors are infallible, and that every correction should be immediately followed… even when they don’t agree with those changes. I am here to tell you (although many editors will disagree) that you should NOT simply accept every editor’s comment and correction.

Some edits are necessary, such as spelling errors, grammatical issues and problems with consistency. Other edits are subjective – they may involve changing the way a sentence is written, or switching from passive to active writing. As the writer, you are responsible for the final product. They are your words – you have a better understanding of what you want to say than anyone. The editor wants to help you clarify your meaning and produce the strongest possible document. But, in the end, they are your words, and you own that decision.

Microsoft Word has a great feature for editing documents called Track Changes. You can see the editor’s changes, and then accept or reject them at your leisure. Always ask your editor to use Track Changes, or create a PDF with the marked up changes, so that you can make the decisions yourself. Also, seeing the editor’s changes allows you to question his/her decisions, and learn why something was changed.

Always listen to your editor, and consider his or her advice. They want to help you improve your writing. Editors can push you in the right direction. But you have to follow the path that makes sense to you.

David Gargaro

Can you edit too much?

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Some people are never satisfied with “good enough.” They want perfection. Every element of their work must meet their high standards, and anything else is unworthy.

This often happens in writing. Writers will revise and edit their work, and they are never satisfied until it is “done.” However, it is possible to never be done editing. You can rewrite a heading or sentence multiple times, and still not be satisfied.

Sometimes, you have to just stop when it is good enough. What is good enough? There is no definitive measure. Good enough can mean the copy is free of errors. The copy should read well and flow naturally. The theme should be clear to you and your audience. The heading should interest the reader, and lead the reader into your story.

There is such a thing as too much editing. It’s not always clear as to when you should stop editing. But if you find yourself obsessing over particular words and phrases, then you should probably stop. And if you’re not sure, let an editor or another person read it for a second opinion. And then let it go – your words will only be effective when you let someone else read them.

Need help from an editor to see if your writing is good enough? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

Writing tips for non-writers

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The following tips come from the chapter “Writing Tips for Non-Writers Who Don’t Want to Work at Writing” in John Scalzi’s book You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing. This book is full of great information on the writing process, the writing industry, and being a writer. These tips are ideal for people who don’t write often or don’t write well, and even for writers who need help with their writing.

  1. Speak what you write: If it does not sound good when you speak it, then rewrite it.
  2. Use proper punctuation: Learn how to use commas, periods, semi-colons, colons, etc. properly.
  3. Shorter is better: Aim for shorter sentences over longer ones. If it sounds too long when reading it aloud, shorten it.
  4. Spelling is important: Use a dictionary or spellchecker to improve your spelling.
  5. Avoid difficult words: Don’t use difficult or unfamiliar words when a simpler word will do.
  6. Pay attention to grammar: Grammar is important to good writing, but clarity of writing is more important.
  7. Front load your point: Get to the main point early in your writing.
  8. Write well all the time: Writing well in emails is as important as writing well in your business correspondence. Practice makes perfect.
  9. Read good writers: Learn what good writers do and follow their lead.
  10. Simplify: Simpler is always better, so remove anything that makes your writing more difficult to read.

What writing tips do you have for non-writers? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro