Writing: An Essential Entrepreneurial Skill
Table of Contents
- The Power of Good Writing
- Words in a Digital Age
- Why Writing Is a Key Skill for Your Business
- How to Get Better at Writing
- A Few Words Before You Go…
Words are everything. Even when we’re not uttering them or writing them down, they’re the basis for thought in every conscious human mind. We’ve evolved in such a way that even when we try to grasp abstract concepts we still fall back on words: we try to catch the right ones and then arrange them in an order that allows us to make sense of things.
Words are powerful. Although a lot of the time people consider language a mere “tool” for communication, language is greater than this single, arbitrary, and pragmatic approach. Even if that is how it all started (I didn’t steal your hitting rock, he did!), the truth is that language has taken on the form of an intangible, ever-shifting entity that has the power to paint our reality and affect the way we perceive the world.
Words are the way we try to create coherence, art, and, well, a living out of this world. While we have yet to claim mastery of language as a concept, we can try to achieve some level of mastery of the written word in a language. Because, while language isn’t just a tool, it also does serve as one. Faustian politicians become popular, novels evolve into beloved, timeless classics, and marketing campaigns remain unchanged for nearly a century thanks to good writing.
The Power of Good Writing
If you clicked the last hyperlink in the above paragraph, you’d see that it tells the story of how copywriter Frances Gerety came up with the De Beers diamonds advertising slogan “A Diamond is Forever” back in 1947 – and how the slogan is still used to this day. And to this day, men follow the ancient tradition of buying diamond rings to propose to the women they love and truly show their devotion, because, well, “a diamond is forever”. And that’s true – but not for the reasons you’d expect it to be.
The truth is that diamonds are only scarce due to the illusion of scarcity perpetuated by the De Beers diamond-selling company; that they actually have a lousy resale value (which is the real reason why diamonds are forever, and not marital bliss); and the “ancient ritual” of proposing with a diamond ring is less than a century old. And the romantic origin of the diamond-ring proposal? It comes straight out from a De Beers marketing campaign, rounded off with that catchy, well-written copy – “A Diamond is Forever” – for good measure.
That slogan shaped the diamond industry and the advertising industry – it was named “The Slogan of the Century” by Advertising Age.
Now that’s some high-quality brainwashing.
But onto a brighter subject.
What does this sad tale of a marketing-campaign-turned-cultural-norm tell us about the power of words? That a well-written slogan can take an idea further than anyone could imagine. Further than images alone, and further than the limitations of a low monthly wage.
Words in a Digital Age
Most programming courses begin by teaching students how to create a program that says two lovely words: “Hello, World!” But that’s just the beginning. Coding, digital design, graphics, functions, and crazy-advanced scripts are often too tempting to miss out on. So people spend time, money, and effort trying to turn their websites into a toy store for adults, so to speak. Buttons for this, videos for that, live chatbots everywhere, graphics that no one really asked for…
Sure, you can make an explainer video. Of course you can create a graphic! You’ll definitely need a good photo of your product for ads. But for that video, that graphic, and that photograph you’ll still need a well-written script.
Let’s look at the last example. We usually get targeted ads on Facebook (unless you’re craftily using a VPN) based on our search history or previous purchases. Oh, and also Facebook listens to our conversations to place ads, so there’s that. Anyway, recently I was looking for sportswear online (with my VPN off), and sure enough, my newsfeed was full of sponsored sportswear ads before long.
But our point here isn’t to judge Zuckerberg’s ethics, but to focus on those ads. They had some nice-looking models wearing comfortable-looking sportswear. However, the copy for the ads was something dreadful, like:
DON’T MISS OUT!!11
SALE IS ALMOST OVER!!
AMAZING discount FOR YOU only…
It’s kind of like what I imagined marketing was as a kid. You’re supposed to say “this product is the best ever” or “90% off” and people will buy it, right? Right, guys?
Obviously, bad copy is a turnoff for potential customers, and so is any sort of bad writing. That’s why good writing is truly an essential skill for entrepreneurs and business owners.
Which brings us to you.
Why Writing Is a Key Skill for Your Business
Entrepreneurs and business owners talk to clients over the phone and in person; they text; they write emails; they answer client’s questions; they write blogs; they do interviews; they prepare welcome videos and explainer videos, and so on. What all these activities have in common is that they require developed writing skills, if said entrepreneur wants to come off as serious, thoughtful, and professional.
Communication with Clients and Employees
Talking to clients, for instance, requires that you have clear speech and organized thought – and writing can help you develop the latter. In fact, writing out the main points before an important conversation can help you prepare your pitch better.
The same goes for employees. To instill confidence in your workers, establish yourself as an expert that they can trust, and to delegate tasks efficiently you need to work on how you use language – and there’s no better way to do it than to practice writing.
Give Your Company Credibility
Relying on your intuition to “wing it”, writing a few paragraphs every now and then from the top of your head, and allowing spellcheck to do the editing for you are all great ways to write average content, at best. Spelling and grammar mistakes, disconnected sentences, and generic language are common symptoms of this cavalier approach to language and writing.
And what this “disease” eventually results in is customers and clients that simply don’t trust you, that don’t take you seriously, and that don’t believe that you’re competent, serious, professional, and even smart enough to do business with. That’s right, as arbitrary as it may seem, poor grammar and spelling can cost you lucrative opportunities in the world of business.
Writing Blogs, Proposals, Ads, and Website Content
As an entrepreneur, you need to be able to write clear, concise content that will hold the reader’s interest. When presenting your services or products, for instance, you need to write in a way that grasps the attention of readers within the first few sentences.
As you develop your writing skills, you’ll also need to adapt yourself to the type of copy you’re writing. Writing a blog, a product description, a Tweet, or an ad all require a different approach. For instance, shorter text – like something you’d need to squeeze in a 140-character Tweet, means that you’ll have to choose your words carefully, doing away with any fluff and redundancies.
Writing product descriptions also requires concise and clear language. On one hand, you need to make sure that the customer isn’t left with any questions about the product. On the other hand, bombarding them with unnecessary information or convoluted language at the get-go won’t do you any favors. It’s all about striking the right cord between scarcity and informativity.
Get to Know Your Target Audience Better
It’s quite important to decide on the tone of your business. Is it serious and professional, or humorous, conversational, and friendly? The main place to look at when making this decision is your target audience. Once you make up your mind about who you’re targeting, you’ll also work on tweaking your writing in a way that’s appealing to them.
Let’s say you’re making soap (hopefully not the Fight Club way). Are you making a soap that’s meant to soothe the soft, gentle skin of babies and toddlers or soap for men with bushy beards? It matters to clarify this for yourself before building the brand and tone of writing for your business. If your audience is the former, you need to reel those caring parents looking for non-toxic, vegan, sulfate-free, etc. options by finding a tone that’s comforting and familiar.
If it’s soap meant to tame men’s manes, you’d probably go for something humorous and tongue-in-cheek, something that will attract your audience by simultaneously appreciating their facial hair while making fun of the concept of a “beard” in a world of reforming masculinity.
Stuff like that.
But to do all this, to do any of this, you need to start with words.
How to Get Better at Writing
If you haven’t done much writing in your life, don’t worry – it’s never too late. Here are some tips on how to prepare your mind and fingertips to start hacking away at that award-worthy copy you’ll soon be churning out:
- Read. To write well, you need to read well. And read a lot. To begin with, read your competitors’ blogs, landing pages, product descriptions, FAQs, and so on. Analyze their writing style and see how it resonates with the audience.
Then, read articles, ebooks, essays, and other types of specialized publications that pertain to your line of business. Even if you’re an expert, you can always afford to learn something new. Make yourself familiar with the terminology and emerging trends.
Lastly, read novels, short stories, poems. Although this may not be what you will be writing about, there’s no better place to look for storytelling styles. Yes, you’ll be writing a different sort of content, but these types of literature can inspire you to develop a more unique way of addressing your audience.
- Write. The best way to get good at writing is to write. Practice makes perfect. As we’ve already mentioned, different types of texts call for different ways of writing. Writing a college essay is a world away from writing a blog article. So, even if you have experience in one sort of writing, it’s time to practice writing for the purposes of your business.
- Be passionate about your business. If you care about what you’re selling and sharing with the world, your clients and colleagues will care about it, too. For instance, reading new studies that relate to your business is one way of showing that you’re passionate and curious about it. It will place you ahead of your competitors and allow you to better understand how to get others to be passionate about it as well. In time, you’ll know how to create the perfect call to action.
- Empathize with the reader. Loosely paraphrasing the words of Toni Morrison, you should write a book you’d want to read. In this case, write content – blog articles, ads, emails, etc. – that you’d like to receive yourself. And again, in the words of Danilo Kis – “Do not write for the “average reader”: all readers are average.” Although this is advice offered to young novelists, it may as well pertain to you, the writing entrepreneur: don’t underestimate your audience, but empathize with it. Believe it or not, people are smart, and can easily recognize hogwash.
A Few Words Before You Go…
Words are powerful, and language is too vast to fully comprehend.
Luckily, for today’s soiree, it’s enough to simply understand that writing is an essential skill for entrepreneurs. To establish yourself as a credible authority, to write content people want to read, to grow your business, and to build relationships with your clients, you need to be a good writer.
Of course, we can only hope that once you wield this sort of power, the power of words, you’ll use it for good.
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