Layout Image

Archive for Work strategies

The core of your business.

Recently as part of my personal development I finally, finally figured out how to identify my ‘core values’. The words that describe the things that are most important to my life.

How did I do this? I Googled ‘core values’ and read some things. I didn’t find them helpful. I downloaded a list. I printed it out. I circled some things. I crossed some things out. I made some notes on the side. I added a word that wasn’t there. I made a list. I rewrote the list. For about a week I had this piece of paper in the main work surface of my desk, and I’d read the list I wrote yesterday, I’d look over the words, and I’d make some more changes. Now I think I have the ones that really drive me.

So why am I writing a business blog about this?

Because I am an entrepreneur and my business is part of my life, not separate from it. Even though those core values are personal development, every day that I use them as a guide they help me make the right business decisions for my life.

Teaching- I like to teach. I like to share my knowledge. So I have a blog. Actually, I have several blogs. Every day that I find I’m thinking something over and over, or every time I have several clients that get the same explanation, I try to write a blog about it. If I have several clients who need to learn something, then others probably do to. Blogging isn’t just about marketing.

Integrity- This is huge for me. Am I walking my talk? Am I advising people for their highest good, or mine? Am I offering my services because that’s what I do, or because I really think I can help this person? So sometimes, my advice to a potential client is “I’m not your girl”.

Nature- I’ll admit that this one plays a little less in my business life. Except that my office is lit with natural light light bulbs. It’s painted a color that relaxes me. I have pictures of the outdoors that inspire and relax me on my bulletin board. And I always open the blinds and look out the window as much as possible.

My people- The terms ‘family’ and ‘community’ were both on that list, but neither of them said the right thing to me. Some of my people are blood, some of my people are customers, and some of my people are cats. They get priority. Sure, sometimes I have a real tight deadline, or an appointment, but I try to be sure that time is rescheduled so those important to me never, every doubt that they are important. It also helps me realize that time-to-cuddle-the-cat is an integral part of my life, that I value and cherish. It is not an ‘interruption’ of something ‘important’. It is the something important. How wonderful that my job lets me work from home where I can focus on that.

Fun- I want my job to be fun. I like what I do. I like to write. I have 3 personal blogs on top of the many blogs I write for customers. I like my clients. I take my ‘spidey-sense’ very seriously and try to never sign a client that I don’t think I can have fun with. Sure, there are parts that I don’t love and I don’t find fun, but as my business grows you can be certain that the not-fun parts are the ones I’m most urgently planning to outsource as the resources become available!

Those are my values. Each and every one of them helps me make better business decisions, according to my definition of ‘better’. What makes me happier and more satisfied? What makes me more eager to start work each day? I urge you to look over your core values and make sure that you are applying those to your business choices. Your business is part of your life. Make sure it reflects what is important to you.

30 Seconds-Go!

In the world of small business marketing, there is this thing known as the 30 second commercial.

I shudder at the very name.

Really, the name is a problem. If you think about it as a commercial you’re going into it with the wrong approach. You want to think about it as your Brief Introduction.

You can’t sell me in 30 seconds, so please don’t try. Most people are trying to cram their entire business profile into those 30 seconds. It’s full of jargon, carefully constructed (can you say convoluted?) intricate sentences and it is obviously rehearsed, because no one talks that way.

Much like a commercial. Usually, your 30 seconds sounds just as fake as the woman who loves mopping the floor.

Those 30 seconds shouldn’t be your sales pitch. They should be a teaser that makes me say “I really need to talk to her when we break.” Use that time to interest me, to engage me, to show me what a fun person you’d be to work with, and give me enough information to generate some questions. If I need what you do and I think you’re fun and interesting, I’ll hunt you down. So lets rebuild your introduction.

Shortly after I went into business for myself I learned that whatever it is that we’re selling, what we’re really selling is “I’ll take care of that for you.” So what will you take care of? What problem are you fixing? What pain will you take away? But then turn it into something unexpected. Instead of “I write blogs.” I like to start with “I want to tell your story.” Make me wonder where you’re going with that so I’m still paying attention when you get to the end.

Then make sure people can relate by sounding conversational. I could say “I offer developmental editing services to business professionals looking to increase their credibility by becoming published authors.” Sometimes I do say that. More often in a networking setting I’ll say “I work with professionals to get that half finished book off your laptop and out into the world where it can make a difference.” Give me an example. If I need your service, make me see myself in your description.

Once you’ve gotten my attention, then give me a few more details about the kinds of things you do. What makes you different? Why should I pick you?

Choose wording that comes naturally to you. This may get me blacklisted from the editors guild, but don’t worry so much about complete sentences and grammar. In conversation, some times an incomplete sentence, or something humorously grammatically incorrect, stands out in a good way for emphasis. Speak the way you normally would, but at your best and most eloquent. You have time to practice after all.

Do practice, and then practice some more. The only way to sound natural is to rehearse. Just think about some great speakers, or how about great performers? Have you ever heard a comedian do a stand up routine? They sound as if every word is just made up on the spot. If you attend their show again tomorrow, it will be the same laughs and stories, and it will still sound completely natural. That brilliant, easy assurance comes with practice. Once you’re really good at one version, mix it up a little, choose a different point to highlight. Then practice again. Like a politician, have your sound bytes ready for every opportunity.

When it’s your turn to stand up, smile and watch your body posture. When you smile and relax, the people you’re addressing will also relax. If you can get them smiling, you’re on your way to building a relationship, and that’s where the sales happen.

So if you’re me, your brief introduction looks something like this:

My name is Pamela Potter and I want to tell your story. You know that half finished manuscript on your laptop that you’ve stopped looking at? I work with professionals like you to get those manuscripts finished and out where they make you look good. You know those blog posts that you don’t write because you don’t know what to say? I write those so you don’t have to. Speeches, articles, all those ways you could be getting your message out to the world, but don’t? Well, not everyone gets to be good with words. I do, so lets work together to get your story out where it can make a difference. I’m a ghostwriter and editor and I want to help you change the world.

No list of services. No details about my methods. Just telling my story of how I’m going to fix something that you don’t like. If I touch on a pain that you feel, you’ll make a note. If I intrigue you, you’ll ask for more information. If I don’t resonate, then you aren’t my client and we’re good. Listing the details of everything I can possibly do isn’t going to change your gut reaction.

Most people buy with the heart, not the mind. So reach out to them there. Ditch the details.

Get focused.

I’ve recently been working with several customers who are having some trouble with the idea of the target market. I really, really understand this because it was an issue I struggled with for quite a long time.

Here’s what you really need to know.

Identifying your target market isn’t a limit, it’s a focus.

Suzanne Evans is a coach who really resonates with me. Her approach to helping you find your target market is “who can you help the most”? Who are you driven to serve? Given your knowledge and life experience (not necessarily formal education) who are you best equipped to help succeed in their own journey?

Where can you do the most good?

When I was looking for these answers for my own business, all I could see was that by defining who my target was, I was excluding everyone who didn’t fall under that umbrella. Which causes panic and anxiety in a new business. All those people who can’t be my customers! But that isn’t really how it works.

By clearly defining my target, I know where to look. I have a way to decide which networking events to attend. I know how to phrase my own story about what I do. I know who I want to be reading this blog article. I have some selection criteria on how to choose who to approach at an event. I have a focus.

It does not mean that I have to turn down a client who is outside my target. It doesn’t mean I exclude. My target is generally educated professional women between 40-60. Does that mean if I’m approached by senior gentleman wanting to write a memoir about being enlisted military that I’d say no?

Not a chance. I’d love to work with someone like that. If you know one, please send him a link to my website!

Your target market won’t be written in stone either. You should reevaluate it regularly. Have you had some clients that didn’t work out as well as you’d like? How are they different from the ones who work brilliantly. Are there similarities you can use  to refine your focus? If you started helping older women but you’re finding that your best clients are young mothers, then by all means, adjust things and go after them. Don’t get rid of the great customers you already have, but as you go out to find new clients, use your new understanding of who you love to work with as a guide.

After all, we’d all like to be so busy that we have to pick and choose carefully who we work with. Understanding your target is a way to help you get there.

 

The first rule

The first rule of professional writing is “have it edited”. I don’t mean for writing professionals, I mean for anyone writing professional copy. Websites, workshops, handouts, fliers, if you are creating something for the whole world to see, have someone, almost anyone, read it for you.

When you look at something you wrote, you can only see what you think it says, not necessarily what is really there. You’ll catch some mistakes, but maybe not the most important ones.

Of course, there are limits. I’m not suggesting that your Facebook posts on behalf of your business need outside editing. They are usually quite short, so any errors are easy to see and generally at the level of a typo, and Facebook viewers are remarkably tolerant of typos. I’m not really talking about blogs. Heaven knows if I had to wait for a 3rd party to edit every blog post I write, I’d never get anything posted. Blog posts, until you become tremendously famous, are usually light and chatty and your audience is likely to forgive a small error or two.

On the other hand, I recently attended a conference and was very impressed with one of the speakers…until I saw her event flier. I was still impressed with her vision and presentation, but it was tempered by her lack of attention to detail. There were 2 major errors that would have been caught by just having one other person look the material over before printing. When you are putting materials out that represent you and your business, you can’t afford to be sloppy in the details. It is counter productive.

Even as a seasoned professional with years of editing experience, I stick by this rule. On the very rare occasions that time pressures cause me to be over confident? It seems that it always comes back to haunt me. Which is very embarrassing. Have your work edited by someone you respect. It doesn’t have to be a paid professional, but it has to be someone other than you.

Should you bite your tongue?

I’m constantly amazed at the things people feel it is acceptable to ‘say’ via email and social media that I don’t think they would ever, ever come out and say to your face. Maybe they would and my friends are just unusually polite and restrained…but I don’t think so. Restrained isn’t the first thing I think when I consider the people dear to me. So it is probably something else. Here are a few techniques you can use when conflict and nasty communications are forced upon you.

Don’t take it personally. Often there are multiple ways to interpret something in writing. Reread the offending piece a few times and see if you can find a way to take it that isn’t offensive. Even if you’re pretty sure they meant it the offensive way.

Consider not responding. What will really happen if you just let this go? Will it really hurt your business? Are there real world consequences? If not, let it pass.

Keep it cool and professional. If you do need to respond, make your responses temperate and professional. Try to choose words that don’t provoke. Don’t escalate the situation; respond as neutrally as possible. If you must, you can say you find the situation unprofessional, against current policy, contrary to normal guidelines. Don’t say they are idiots, ill mannered morons, or liars. Even if you are quite certain they are all of the above. Call your friends and be honest some other time. When you reply, be professional.

Be brief. In conflict less is more. Let them bluster if they must. Make your points count and then withdraw. The longer you engage the more hostility that can come up and the more opportunity they have to drag you down to their level. Answer any salient points they offer, and stop. Don’t respond to anything but facts.

Stay off the phone. If you must engage the conflict, do it in writing. That gives you more space to think about what you’re going to say, and possibly to run it by someone you trust before you respond. If you’re on the phone it’s easy to let your mouth run away with you in the heat of an exchange. Email also gives you a record of the conversation, should you need one.

Just one more word to the wise. When writing a cathartic email, write it in word, in note-pad, anywhere but an actual email . Then you, or someone helpful, can’t accidentally send it before editing. Don’t be a cautionary tale.

 

 

A few tips for better blogging.

Blogging is an important way that we market ourselves, our businesses, and our beliefs. Everyone feels the need to have one. The question is, are people reading them? Here are five things you can do to improve your readability.

Keep it short. One idea per blog. Say what you have to say and move on. If it starts to exceed about half a page, then you should review it and see if maybe you have enough to say to make it 2 blogs.

Within your audience, keep it informal. Obviously if your audience is corporate lawyers then your tone and vocabulary should stay more formal than for the home puppy training set, but even then, you want to be a relatively easy, quick read.

Don’t forget the personal. Why is this relevant to you? Why do I come to your blog rather than someone else’s blog?

Proof, but don’t fuss. As a professional editor and writer, I know better than most how important it is to be grammatical and well written, but frankly, if it isn’t horrible, then most of your readers won’t notice. Blogs are the one place that I break my own rule about always have someone else proof your work. I read, re-read, and then post. If I’ve made an error, someone will gleefully point it out. If I take too much time, the blog doesn’t get finished, and I don’t make my posting goals.

Stockpile when you are in the mood. I’m not always in the mood to blog. I don’t always feel inspired. Sometimes you have to make yourself write something anyway. I get around this by writing more than one blog on the days I’m really inspired and saving them as drafts until I need them. You’re more interesting when you’re interested. Save it up.

 

 

Are you using the force?

Getting everything you want in life is simple, but it isn’t easy.

Mel Robbins

Mel Robbins does an excellent presentation about getting up off your…chair and putting yourself outside your comfort zone to make the changes you really want in your life. Well worth your 20 minutes.

Inertia is so easy. So easy to do what you’ve always done.  And if you already have everything you want, then I suppose that works. But if you want something new? That isn’t going to cut it.

I set myself some ambitious goals this month about making some internal changes for my business. Progress is pretty good, as long as I stay off the couch. But if I sit on the couch? Suddenly the inertia is overwhelming and hours can pass without actually accomplishing anything further than bonding with the cat. Which I consider important, but it shouldn’t really be my dominant accomplishment for the day. I’ve been experimenting with ways to get myself back off the couch once I’ve sat down. And experimenting with different ways to structure my day so that I never go over there. Which means not working from my laptop until late in the day no matter how much I tell myself it will be fine and it is perfectly possible to have a great productive day from the laptop.

I’m sure it is, but not for me, not right now. Not until I’ve broken the habits I built during a grieving phase where I used the laptop to escape. Escape was then. Productive is now.

What tricks do you use to keep from getting sucked into a seemingly innocent behavior that is actually a productivity black hole? And what is the ‘force’ that you use to get yourself back up out of it?

An uphill battle is the wrong one.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that life is going to be easy or that we don’t have to work hard for what we want to achieve.

Recently I had one of those situations where every time you think you are making progress another road block throws itself squarely in your way and you have yet another problem to mess with. You never quite feel that you are really making any progress at all. It is exhausting and frustrating.

Those situations should be your first clue that you are going about it, whatever it is, the wrong way.

If you think about it I’m sure you’ve experienced the other kind of progress where you put your full effort into a situation and suddenly you’ll meet just the right person or find just the right website with exactly the information you need or you’ll get a sudden flash of insight. The work isn’t less, but it is more productive and more satisfying. You get the help or inspiration that you need to keep moving forward with your plan or project. You get energized by each little success and it spurs you on to work even harder.

Those are the right battles.

Today I’m promising myself that the next time I find myself in a two-steps-back-for-each-step-forward uphill all the way battle I’m going to take a moment to sit calmly and focus on what other ways this topic could be approached and try it that way instead.

And I’m telling you all about it because I’m pretty sure I’ll forget that promise the next time I’m in a tizzy. So please hold me to it!

I had forgotten…

Do you ever have a really good work day and realize that you’d forgotten some aspect of your work that you really, really enjoy?

I had a day like that today.

I organize things professionally because its who I am. I organize, I sort. Pity my poor husband. Its not something I learned to do as a profession. Like so many other solopreneurs, its something that I do naturally that I turned into a business. Homes, offices, its about the mindset, not the space for me.

Today I remembered what I love to organize more than anything, and that is words.

Words?

I know, its a little odd to think of writing and copy editing as ‘organizing’ words, but to me that’s what it is. Is this word doing the proper job here? Or should it be some other word? Does this paragraph enhance the flow of the idea here? Wouldn’t it work better two pages down? I know this anecdote is lovely and fun but its cluttering up your idea, I’m afraid it will have to go.

To me, that’s organizing. And its almost play.

How lucky, to get to earn a living doing things I’d really do anyway.

Honey still works better

You remember your mother saying “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?”

It wasn’t really about flies.

My last post was about a problem I had and what to keep in mind when fixing things for your customers. Considering how surprised the nice customer service rep was that I wasn’t irate and screaming, I thought a few tips for the customer side of things were in order.

1. Don’t yell at people who can’t help you.

If you’re angry about a situation, chances are excellent that the first person you get on the phone doesn’t know anything and can’t help you. Wait until you reach the right pay grade.

2. Be clear on what your problem is, and when appropriate, what you’d like the resolution to be.

‘I’m really unhappy’ is not a good complaint. Give them a chance to actually help by providing clear details. Have your paperwork handy.

3. Don’t assume everyone is out to get you.

Business don’t stay in business by intending to deliver a shoddy product. (I don’t want to talk about government departments right now.) Approach each problem with the assumption that it was an honest mistake and they’d like to fix it for you. There’s plenty of time to get irate later if its necessary.

4. Control your temper.

Even when losing your temper is appropriate, don’t. Either the person on the other end of the phone really wants to help you, or they don’t. Screaming about it isn’t going to change them one way or the other. Honestly, when I’m pleasant and restrained most customer service reps I deal with are so shocked that they’re happy to bend over backwards just because I’m nice.

5. If you need to escalate, go right ahead, but don’t assume.

Everyone wants to talk to a supervisor or the manager. That isn’t always necessary. Often anyone in customer service can help you. You’ll always have to wait for a manager, and when you summon one specifically, they’re already on the defensive. Of course, if you get someone who isn’t competent, your issue is complicated, or you’re not getting anywhere, then don’t hesitate to ask for a supervisor, and then let the supervisor know you tried to handle it at the lower level, but it wasn’t working for you.

Mostly, I think a generous application of Calm Down would improve most customer service issues immeasurably.