Life is crazy when you’re a business owner balancing building a successful business with all other aspects of your life. Maybe you think outsourcing something like copywriting is “cheating,” or not worth expending your limited budget.
Sure, you’re passionate about your work, but do you know how to write about it so that your ideal customer just has to have whatever you’re selling?
If you’re nodding your head ‘yes,’ I’ll tell you a secret: you might be right!
Why would I, a freelance writer trying to sell you writing services, advocate for you to write your own copy?
I got into writing copy, and writing in general, because it is an incredibly clarifying and motivating exercise. Finding your brand voice is one of the most gratifying things about the discovery process. And having someone to help you do it doesn’t mean you walk away from the experience with a shiny new website and no idea what your company is about anymore. Quite the opposite.
Take my recent client, Rachel Lynch of Therapy by Rachel. I worked with her to develop website copy that encapsulated a playful, compassionate tone for her expressive therapies and family systems practice. We pulled apart and explored analogies that she raised in attempts to describe her experience as a behavioral health practitioner and client. While we workshopped the copy, Rachel said this:
“I definitely want to go through and insert more of my own voice throughout. I love what you did with my suggestion[s]… It would be great if I could go through and add more things like that and then have you run with it.”
And that’s what we did.
Rachel was responsive and involved in the process. And after we worked together, she felt confident enough to change some things about the copy on her site to make it fit her desired client base and practice even better, all by herself.
This is where the “Without Ego” bit of my business values comes in. Of course I know that after my initial work with a client ends, they are likely to change things about their digital presence as their businesses evolve. Notwithstanding any changes Rachel made to the site after I signed off, the opportunity to utilize me as a sounding board, to express her wants for her business, and to hear and see language in context was invaluable. While we were in process, she expressed that she loved how I took the time to make her site easy to skim, as a large part of her client base lives with ADHD. She suggested certain terms and phrasing that she felt described her practice, and I had the fun of distilling it all into something that made her the ideal therapist for her preferred clientele.
After all, she had this to say:
“Hi April! I finally published the website and everyone is loving it! Thanks for all your hard work!”
I work in nonprofit administration during the week, and a large part of my job is assisting the Grants team at my organization with crafting compelling grant applications. I actually figured out that I enjoyed editing other people’s writing while working on grant applications.
This is funny to me, because in college I took a class that was supposed to be focused on arts administration and presenting, which included an assignment to write a mock grant proposal for a local nonprofit or community group.
Of course, being who I am I made this harder for myself than it needed to be (I’m working on it) by choosing a community group that operated out of a for-profit venue. There are waaaaaay fewer grants available for for-profit ventures than nonprofits. To make matters worse, the reason I was committed to this group was because I had been doing an ethnography of them all semester, rather than assessing the needs of the venue at which they gathered.
When I handed in my mock proposal, my lovely advisor, who also taught the class, told me it was, “challenging,” (code for: the worst thing you’ve ever written). Needless to say, I hadn’t quite hit the nail on the head.
Luckily, I’ve been able to redeem myself since college, and have been instrumental in the preparation and submission of several successful grant applications. Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing your own application for funding.
1. Manage your time
Granting and philanthropic organizations haven’t exactly kept up with the times when it comes to user experience online. Many organizations’ online submission interfaces are buggy, cumbersome and redundant. Some government agencies and other orgs even still require…*gasp*…hard copies.
Make sure you leave enough time before the deadline to workshop your narrative (more than once-over!), compile supplementary materials, and enter the information into the interface.
BONUS TIP: Be mindful of word and character counts! Most narrative questions have them, and spaces and punctuation may or may not be included. Having to shorten your answers on the fly under pressure from a deadline is not fun.
If you do change something in an interface, change it in your working document too. Your document should have all the same information as your final submission, for archival and future application purposes.
2. Prepare your app in a word processor.
Make a document to hold all elements of your application when you first begin work on it, in a program like Word or Google Docs. Copy the application interface ver batim into your document, then reformat it so you know which questions to answer and how. Interfaces often have finicky saving mechanisms, and you don’t want to lose your work!
3. Keep scans of relevant documents close at hand
Know where you have filed important documents like organizational bylaws, identification, tax forms, budgets, receipts, contracts, etc. Granting organizations often ask for these as supplemental materials. Make copies and keep them with the grant application, either digitally or in hard copy. My organization keeps everything associated with individual grants in specific folders on Google Drive.
4. Confirm eligibility
Make sure to research and verify that the organization and grant program you’re applying for funds and prioritizes projects like yours. Read FAQs, calls for submissions, and granting organizations’ websites and funding priorities.
Some organizations will require that you fill out an eligibility quiz before continuing with your application. Make sure you know basic information about your organization and your request like tax status, grant history, total budget, request amount (as compared to the average award for the program) and populations served.
Nothing is worse than wasting time preparing an application just to find out you weren’t eligible in the first place, or get rejected because of poor fit due to lack of reserch.
5. Know the anatomy of a grant application going in.
Grant applications have a pretty standard structure. The order in which these sections appear, or how extensive they are may change, but many grant applications have some or all of these sections:
Organizational Information: Things like name, tax ID numbers, organizational structure, budget, and primary contact information.
Budget: May be for the specific project, or the organization’s entire fiscal year if you are requesting general operating support.
Narrative/Request Information: The lengthiest part of the app, includes an explanation of your project + request, key players, performance metrics, etc.
Supplementary Materials: Organizations often require uploads of various documents to verify claims, eligibility and fit. These may include financial statements, board list, tax documents, contracts, work samples, photos, or other means of augmenting your application. Some materials will be mandatory while others may be optional.
Certification: Most grant apps will require an official signature of either the individual applying for the grant or someone in a leadership role if the applicant is an organization, certifying that everything in the application is true and complete, and that whoever submits the application has permission to do so.
There is grant money out there for all kinds of stuff. If you can dream it, you can probably ask someone else to pay for it. These are five things to keep in mind when pursuing grant funding.
Need help applying for grants? I can do that! Reach out to me and tell me about your project and the program you want to pursue, and we’ll craft a killer app together!
Starting a small business can feel overwhelming. There’s a super steep learning curve, whether you’re switching industries or starting completely from scratch.
The good news is, the vast majority of small business owners don’t have MBAs (myself included) or much, if any, formal training on how to start and run a business.
You’re a scrappy entrepreneur with a product or service you know the world needs. You eat, sleep, and breathe your offering. But sometimes you feel bogged down in the details, all the stuff you knew would be a part of running your business, but you weren’t quite sure how to do it yourself, and you don’t have the capital (yet!) to outsource it.
You feel stuck. You feel discouraged. You wonder if you should just give up already.
BUT WAIT! STOP!
The secret to beating those uninspired feelings is to realign with the “why” that motivated you to start your business.
This is also good to get a handle on if you haven’t launched your small business yet, but you’re feeling like you might be onto something that could change lives, both for you and your customers.
To realign with your business “why”, ask yourself two mirrored questions:
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
What keeps you up at night?
The answer to question 1 is the first part of your “why.”
It may be as practical as, “I need to provide for my family” or as profound as, “I need to share what I know with the world.” Try to distill it down to one or two words.
Family. Health. Art. Home. Love. Justice.
Either way, something makes your feet hit the floor when the alarm goes off.
And something [else?] makes you feel valuable and inspired. Follow that when making decisions about your business.
Any person who has suffered from depression, ADHD, or any number of other disabilities and chronic conditions will tell you: Anticipate periods of lesser energy by planning and automating and systematizing when you feel at your best. Check out this post I wrote about following your natural rhythms if you need prompting to recognize these higher-energy times.
The answer to question 2 is your pain point. Up in the morning is joy, up at night is pain/fear.
This might be something like, “I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere,” or “I worry about being a good partner,” or “I don’t have the right skills to do what I want to do.” [Surprise, these are some of mine!]
Consider whether you would purchase your own product or service. Are you serving a clientele who have the same fears and struggles as you?
When you’re a writer, you might hear people advise you to “write what you know.” The same applies to conceptualizing your business. Sell a product or service that solves a problem that you, a loved one,or your communityhad, before your offering came along. That way, you will understand your ideal customer’s pain points intimately. Your content will feel authentic and you will feel fulfilled in offering a solution.
Your joy plus your pain/fear is what motivated you to start your business.
Think of it like this:
[what brings you joy] + [the problem it solves] = YOUR BUSINESS WHY!
In taking the leap to start your small business you decide to start living according to possibility rather than obligation.
What’s your business “why”? Still not sure? Contact me to uncover your vision through a collaborative visioning document and company style guide!
Vale Zmeykov on Unsplash I am not a morning person. At all. I say regularly that the only thing I want to get up before 6am for is air travel. As the pandemic has pushed that singular motivation further out of reach, I find myself struggling with getting out of bed as early as I need to to accommodate family schedules.
Oddly, once I am awake, my sleep-addled brain tends to be more creative when it comes to idea generation. Rory (my wife) recently playfully quipped that I am in fact a morning creative.
I also find that many of the activities I find myself doing while half asleep facilitate ideation due to a large portion of their mental load being second nature. These include activities like showering or driving.
Unfortunately, these activities don’t easily facilitate me writing my more creative ideas down in my bullet journal or adding tasks to Google Keep or Asana. I just recently got fed up with my brain being super productive while driving, and set up my Google Assistant to take voice notes for me, hands free.
I figure Google has everything they need on me already.
So, now, if you were to listen in on my car rides, you would hear me having whole conversations with myself, but also practically screaming HEY GOOGLE?! at Google Assistant to record my sleepy ideas for blog posts and business systems.
One of the central lessons I’ve learned as a person with cerebral palsy is to ignore how other people expect you to act if it hinders your ability or comfort. Sit on the curb. Prop yourself up. Always be adapting.
My point? Honor your natural rhythms, and don’t worry about doing things the way others do if your brain doesn’t work like that.
When do you feel most creative? How do you conceive and remember ideas for your business? Contact me to put your vision into words. Words become actions, actions become profits!
2020 was an extremely isolating year for many, and an unprecedented challenge for small businesses. As we maintained distance, even more commerce was shifted to online retailers, leaving brick-and-mortar stores scrambling to adapt.
Restaurants got creative with outdoor seating and modified their menus to accommodate fewer staff and increased demand for takeout. Bookstores and hobby shops set up online ordering and ice cream shops spent the summer bringing orders out to the sidewalk.
While the upside of increased vaccination and a return to something resembling “normal” may be that fewer people will be utilizing e-commerce than at the height of the pandemic, it’s still important to put your best foot forward online as life emerges from lockdown. The majority of new customers will find you online, even if they don’t purchase until they’re standing in your store.
The arrival of spring and summer coinciding with the vaccine rollout will mean consumers have more energy and resources that might be spent at your business. But first, they will likely search for what they want online. That’s where a brand refresh comes in.
Here are some ways to refresh your brand post-pandemic. Reimagining your copy can help you emerge from the pandemic, dust yourself off, and hit the ground running into summer and beyond.
1. Overhaul your site copy
Re-read all the text on your website and see if it still accurately reflects what you sell and how.
To refresh your website copy, you might consider:
Adding a statement regarding your company’s response to COVID-19 that includes what has changed, what’s here to stay, how your staff have remained or moved on during the pandemic, and gratitude for your customer base who have supported you through this hard time.
Referencing how your business handled/is handling the transition from isolation to vaccination in any new job descriptions or listings you may post on your site or elsewhere; potential employees will want to know how your company responded to the crisis.
Refreshing your mission statement and About page, as this crisis has made people acutely aware of the shortcomings of how things were done in the past, and has changed many people’s lives drastically.
Making sure you know the popular search terms that you want to lead customers to your site, and that they are included in your copy in a natural way.
When looking over your site copy, make sure it is accurate, complete, and brings to the forefront the feelings you want your customers to associate with your band.
2. Make a new plan
If your life and business have been turned upside down by the pandemic, maybe it’s time to take stock of what’s working and what’s not, and use your creativity and what you’ve learned over the past year to devise a new business plan or organizational documents. If you are looking for investors or support for a new or restructured business, these documents are a crucial tool in securing support. If your management, values, or organizational structure have changed, now is a great time to reimagine the guiding principles and pillars of your business.
3. Feature testimonials
Adding a page to your website or making a point to feature testimonials and case studies (written, data-driven success stories) on your social media channels is a great way to build trust and let customers know that you’re still here, and as good as ever at what you do.
Mine your Google Business reviews, Yelp reviews, or personal conversations for strong quotes speaking to the quality of your service. Ask to interview a client about how your service or products have helped them succeed.
4. Update your email list
If you have an email list of supporters that haven’t heard from you in a while, now’s a great time to pop into their inbox to remind them what they signed up for! Email addresses are a precious commodity, and if someone gives you theirs, it means they care about staying updated on what you’re doing.
Update your subscribers on what’s new, what’s changed, and when they can see you again. Don’t be afraid to get a little personal. Humanity sells, and reminding people that there’s a person behind the brand will encourage them to support your next chapter, post-pandemic.
5. Run a promotion
With decreased foot-traffic to physical stores, and e-commerce booming, you have a lot of competition when it comes to getting people in the door, physical or virtual, of your business. Running a promotion or sale specifically celebrating a change in the direction of “normal” creates content for your social media channels, and takes advantage of consumer’s excitement as restrictions begin to lift.
Consider featuring new products, services or menu items born of the pandemic that you intend to keep around,
6. Generate new blog content
If your site has a blog already, a good post to write may be one about what you’ve learned or what has changed about your business during COVID. Make it clear what changes are permanent and which were temporary but valuable learning experiences.
If your site doesn’t have a blog, this content may be better as a social post, or integrated into your introductory pages. A singular post floating on a Blog page makes the blog look like an afterthought rather than a valuable resource for clients. Consider adding a blog if you think your customers may be interested in reading ongoing content. Blogs help cement your expertise, give customers a feeling of being well-informed when they choose to purchase from your business, and generate content to share on social media.
If you’ve been feeling a lack of clarity around your brand, this transitional time in many industries is a perfect opportunity to establish yourself as a forward-thinking expert in your field, and attract new customers with a brand refresh, starting with a copywriting overhaul.
Let’s come out the other side of this unprecedented time stronger and better together. If you need help with copywriting for your website, social channels, promotional materials, or business documents, contact me for a creative briefing and an itemized quote. I can’t wait to work with you.