Writing (& More) for Small Businesses Delivers Big Opportunities

I’ve always loved to write.

While most kids were playing with blocks or dolls, I was publishing magazines or newspapers with feature articles, ads, sports box scores and all.

In college, I majored in Journalism and Mass Communication, but I took every writing class I could—business writing, media writing, creative writing, copywriting. I wanted to be well versed in nearly any writing discipline, so I could pursue numerous avenues in my career.

I Jumped at Every Opportunity to Write

As I started my career, I jumped at the opportunity to handle any writing opportunity. While I was pursuing my love of writing, I was also gaining more attention at work and building my portfolio (unknowingly at first).

Before long I was ghost writing for my manager and members of our executive team. As I continued to write, I developed a reputation throughout our company (a $350 million company with around 115 employees) as a go-to writer and editor. Eventually, I was published under my own byline in our company newsletter, which was a thrill.

You Can Pick Up a Lot By Asking Questions and Listening

As my career progressed, I started to think about my future. What did I want out of my career? A corner office and impressive title? Or something else?

I worked at the corporate headquarters of a franchising company, so my job involved interacting with and supporting small business owners around North America.

Every day, I was learning more about running a business, even subconsciously. I’m naturally curious, so I would ask questions while communicating with our franchise owners. People like to talk, especially about themselves, their businesses, and their accomplishments, so you can pick up a lot by paying attention, asking questions and listening.

Guess Who Some of My First Clients Were?

While I was helping our owners, I noticed some of them were looking for affordable marketing and writing services beyond what our company offered. They knew they needed help in these areas but couldn’t afford to hire large marketing agencies.

After nine years of honing my skills and building a professional network in corporate America, I left that company and struck out on my own. Guess who some of my first clients were? The same people I had been helping.

Starting My Own Business Seemed Like a Crazy Dream

While it was a long road, the idea to start my own business came during an aha moment 15 years in the making. (I realized I wanted to write for a living while I was in high school, although I couldn’t see myself—a country kid from an unincorporated village—as a writer.)

One day at work, I realized that so many small business owners don’t know how to market themselves and couldn’t afford traditional agency fees. With my diverse background in marketing, I could start a business offering professional marketing services and experience at affordable rates.

I could give brands a voice via marketing, writing and social media services, so business owners could focus on the reason they’re in business, and not struggle with marketing decisions, writing copy and developing social media strategies.

After I realized I could start my own business, it still seemed like a crazy dream. But I did start thinking about it a lot. The next day, I began thinking about business names and what would make my business unique. The more I thought about it and talked about it, the more it became a real possibility.

At a company event, I finally made the decision: I had to go out on my own. A year later, I left and never looked back. On May 15, 2012, Clearly Conveyed Communications (CCC) was born.

You Learn a Lot About Running a Business When You Jump Out On Your Own

When I started my business, I never dreamed of today—eight years down the road. I was just trying to get through each day. Eight years later, I’m still trying to get through each day, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.

You learn so much about running a business when you jump out on your own. (I know I did!) As much as I researched and planned (and you should research and plan), at some point you have to jump in and learn as you go. (Here’s some lessons we’ve learned over the years.)

To get started, I focused on the professional network I had spent the previous nine years building. I reached out to contacts I had made and relationships I had built over time to let them know I was in business. Not only were these people potential customers, but they were also connectors.

In addition, I worked out an extensive transition plan with my former employer. It helped them maintain their services as we hired and trained my replacement, and they were my first paying client. It was nice to have income as I was building my business and looking for more clients.

I Didn’t Foresee that Businesses Would Want to Outsource Their Social Media Management

While I planned on starting a marketing company that focused heavily on writing services, I didn’t foresee the interest in businesses outsourcing their social media management. I started receiving so much interest in this area that I added a new page to my website.

Today, social media management and content creation is a significant part of my business. In turn, they’ve led to additional writing opportunities.

Offering an array of services as a marketing company allows me to present a full-service front to my audience.

The inaugural Tweetup we organized for the firefighters.

For example: We partnered with a fellow marketing company, owned by a volunteer firefighter, to handle FDIC’s (Fire Department Instructors Conference) social media for six years. (See picture above.) We developed a year round social media presence for them, so firefighters could connect, learn and train virtually, too.

A Trend in Content Marketing: Long-Form Content

While my company creates a variety of content, we’ve noticed a trend in content marketing for long-form content, and we’ve jumped on it. It seems counterintuitive to our short attention spans and the constant state of information overload we live in today. However, quality long-form content performs well online, draws traffic and gives you a lot of content to repurpose.

The key is to make it readable (and skimmable) with appropriate visuals, short paragraphs and different sections, or headings. White space and proper formatting are your friends on screen.

SEO is important, but remember to write for people, not search engines, because they’re the ones actually reading it. You can still include keywords and appropriate tags and code while making your writing readable—by humans.

While we enjoy creating long-form content, CCC pursues all types of project-based work and programs. For example, we love writing all the copy for a new website or managing a company’s entire social media presence (as opposed to only creating content). These projects and programs pay more, so we can devote the time and resources to producing our best work. They’re also easier to schedule in advance, so we can utilize our time as effectively as possible.

Putting Our Clients First Helps Us Grow Our Business

Having said that, we will take on small programs, including minor content editing and distribution, or some one-off projects, to make more contacts and build more relationships.

Doing good work for people and helping them with their needs, however minor, can result in referrals.

We’ve been fortunate to be referred several times, resulting in new customers and opportunities.

That’s why we always put current clients first. It may seem better to focus more on business development, because small business owners usually don’t have the resources to wait for new customers.

However, we’ve found that by putting current clients first, we’re their first call—for any marketing activity. As we continue to help them with their needs, they continue to come back and refer us to their clients, business associates and friends.

In fact, we work with some businesses through our clients. They can expand the services they offer without hiring full-time employees or making a significant investment.

For example, a company who sells branded merchandise and printing services can add writing, social media and additional marketing services to their service offering to truly become a full-service marketing agency. As long as we work closely together, it’s a win for all three companies—CCC, our client and our client’s client.

Marketing: What to Consider Before Expanding Social Media Platforms

How do we market our marketing and writing services? We practice what we preach—although sometimes we’re a little slow to take our own advice.

We always advise clients to consider their resources before jumping into social media. It takes time and dedication to build an active, engaged community on a social platform. You don’t need to be on every social platform available or jump on the latest trend.

While social platforms all have their own strengths, they tend to copy each other. Has a new platform grabbed your attention? What features do you like? Wait a minute, and they may appear on a platform where you already have an engaged community.

For example, Snapchat become a darling in the social media world, and then Instagram (and later Facebook) added ephemeral content, or Stories. TikTok has exploded in popularity over the past year, but Instagram has recently announced that it’s rolling out a new TikTok-like feature, Reels, to new markets and expanding its capabilities.

This feature isn’t available in the U.S. yet, but we’ll probably see it eventually. There may be reasons you want to expand to new social platforms, but think about it first and make sure you have a strategy.

When CCC started, we jumped on numerous social media platforms and overextended our resources. Slowly, we reassessed and cut back to where we are today. That has allowed us to focus more on original content creation and distribution for ourselves instead of mainly curation.

Curation is important, because it introduces you to new people and delivers a wider range of voices to your social media communities. However, original content will help you stand out and bring on new clients.

Why Writers Should Have a Blog

If you’re a writer, you probably have a blog, or at least you should. Your blog serves as a place to showcase your writing, and it can lead to partnerships or business opportunities.

Try to set up a consistent publishing schedule based on when the most readers are stopping by your blog. While it’s important to be active, only commit to what you can do. If you’re on your own and spend a lot of time on client work, then you may only be able to publish once a week or twice a month. Don’t try to publish too often for the sake of publishing; your content will likely suffer.

House your blog on your website. It will be easy for your readers to learn more about your services, and your fresh blog content will help optimize your site’s search performance. While I’m not a big fan of consistently removing content (which is a trend today), updating older content helps boost your blog’s performance. Fix any broken links or missing videos you come across, and add any relevant, new information on the post topic to inform your readers.

Don’t Publish Your Content and Wait for People to Find It

Producing quality blog content can be time-consuming, but there’s even more work ahead after you publish. Distributing your content is important, so it’s seen by a larger number of potential readers.

Don’t publish content and wait for people to find it. You have to actively and consistently promote your content, because there’s such an overload of content today.

Don’t just blast your content across various social platforms in one format at the same time. Share each article in a format best suited for each platform. Repurpose your content so you get as much mileage as possible out of it.

Write a long-form article? Share bite-sized tidbits on Twitter, each time driving more traffic back to your article.

Record a video sharing highlights of the article, and post it on your LinkedIn profile or Page.

Share your article as a link preview post to your Facebook Page or group.

Share behind-the-scenes content while you’re writing to tease a new blog article in your Stories and to let your audience know when it will publish.

Content is king, but distribution is queen—and she rules the roost.

Meet Your Readers Where They Are

Some readers will prefer to read your content on these distribution channels instead of subscribing to your blog. We’re living in the age of assistance, so you need to meet people in the moment—where they are.

Building active, engaged communities on social media takes time, but these communities are full of potential readers and people who will share your work.

Use your social presences to interact with your audience and request their feedback. Instagram Stories has numerous stickers you can use to interact, while Twitter offers polls and the ability to have conversations with people around the world.

Facebook Groups have become increasingly popular, as you can offer a smaller part of your community first access to your projects, advice in a specific area (i.e. non-fiction writing tips) or a community of peers for fellow writers to bounce ideas off of. Depending on how you utilize Facebook Groups, you may be able to monetize them.

While CCC receives most of our work through referrals, social media and content creation are crucial in our marketing efforts. Even when you are referred for an opportunity, people will often look you up online first.

Do you have a strong presence on LinkedIn? Is your website up-to-date? What comes up when people Google you? Make sure you have a strong digital presence, so people actually contact you when you are referred to them.

What To Do When Your Writing Business Slows Down

If business has slowed down, spend more time creating and distributing content. Be even more active in your social media communities and work on growing them. Genuinely engaging with others will help you grow your community and may lead to new opportunities.

One of our larger clients watched our social efforts for some time before reaching out to us. Everything you do online is visible, so make sure you’re being your best self. Setting aside 10-15 minutes per day on a platform, including reading and commenting on other blogs, will help you make new connections and grow your communities.

We’ve had success utilizing these tactics, even though they take time. Social media is a long-term game; don’t expect success overnight. Instead of trying to create content that will go viral, focus on building and delivering value to your audience one day at a time.

This year, we’ve focused on creating more original content and distributing it more. By cutting back our overall social presence, we have more time to focus on our current communities and how we can help them.

By doing so, we’ve landed a few new, smaller clients. We’re excited to continue helping them, so we can grow these accounts into larger ones. You never know where an account or new opportunity might lead.

How Writers Can Expand Their Services

Speaking of opportunities, expanding your services or collaborating with fellow writers, editors and marketing agencies (or even fellow small or local businesses) can help you grow your business as well.

Are there additional services you can offer that make sense with your current business? Or maybe you already offer them, but people don’t realize that you do. If you see a trend in your industry or notice interest in a particular service, highlight it on your website and social channels.

Working with other companies who complement your services can help you land larger clients and opportunities. If you write copy for the web, look for a designer to partner with so you can offer complete website solutions.

Or look for companies that you can refer your clients to for related services, so they always come to you first. Building relationships with fellow business professionals and owners will make them more comfortable referring business to you, too.

This has been a stressful and trying year, so we hope everyone is pulling through it as well as you can. It may be the time to try a new idea, launch a related service or partner with another company. We wish everyone the best of luck moving forward in 2020 and beyond.

* * *

A version of this post was first published on WriterCEO.com. Thank you to Colleen M. Story for sharing our writing and marketing tips!

Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Making a list and checking it twice? You’re busy preparing for the holiday festivities, so we’re here to help. Download our free writing guide, The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results!

Download our free writing guide!

Are you expected to contribute to your company blog? Are you establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry?

More people are expected to write today than ever before, but some people just aren’t comfortable with the written word. We hope this writing guide helps you become more comfortable with your craft and achieve the results you want.

While you’re here, check out our writing-related blog posts, or peruse the CCC blog for fun, insightful content on writing, marketing, social media and the small business experience. Have a question? Leave it in the comments or contact us, so we can get you an answer.

Of course, some people would rather focus on what they do best and leave the writingmarketing or social media to someone else. If that’s you, we’d love to help. Let’s talk to see if we’d be a good fit for you.

Cheers to quality writing and a wonderful holiday season!

CCC’s head writer,
Jaime

Let’s get social!

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A CCC Christmas and Your 2017 Favorites

It’s our favorite time of the year at CCC!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from CCC!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from CCC!

We’ve been enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday season while finishing client projects with care. As we count down toward Christmas Day and the New Year, we wanted to showcase your favorites from throughout the year. Enjoy!

Top 5 Most Read Posts of 2017

5 Years In: Life as a Small Business Owner

We're celebrating 5 years in business!

 

Content Marketing: A Crucial Component of the Customer Experience

pexels-photo-296878

 

Understanding Social Media Etiquette with Real-World Scenarios

Not sure if something is appropriate online? Translate it into a real-world scenario.

 

4 Ways to Add More Fun (& Productivity) To Your Events 

Promotional product ideas for meetings & events

Don’t forget the fun! Events shouldn’t be all work and no play.

 

4 Ways Running Can Help You Run A Business

The author finishing a 5k

How did you find us?

  1. Search Engines
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook
  4. Android mobile apps
  5. Foxweber

Top 5 Most Visited Pages 

  1. Come on in… Our Front Door
  2. Contact Us
  3. Marketing Services
  4. The Voice Behind CCC
  5. Pay It Forward

Top 3 Countries of Visitors

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada

Top 5 Tags & Categories

  1. Business category
  2. Marketing tag
  3. Business tag
  4. Writing tag
  5. Writing category

Milestones Celebrated in 2017

20,000 Views 

12,500 Visitors

CCC’s 5 Year Anniversary!

 

Thank you for your support this year! We appreciate every visitor, click and share, and we’re looking forward to providing more valuable content in 2018. A special thank you to our clients, who are amazing to work with!

Comment Here

What was your favorite post of 2017?

How did you find jaimeshine.com?

Which page(s) do you visit most often?

Which tag and/or category do you visit most often?

What type of content do you visit the CCC blog to read? Are there any topics you’d like to see written about more in 2018?

We appreciate your feedback and enjoy incorporating it into future blog and content decisions.

Best wishes for an enjoyable holiday season to all.

Merry Christmas from all of us at CCC!

Jaime

Let’s connect:

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Small Business Saturday: FREE Writing Guide

It’s Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving that is set aside each year to celebrate and support small businesses. We appreciate the love, but we hope that you support small businesses the rest of the year too.

Blue

Why?

  • Nearly 80% of small businesses are self-employed individuals.^
  • Businesses with fewer than 5 employees make up 62% of all businesses in the U.S.*
  • Small businesses employ nearly half of the U.S. private workforce.`
  • Since 1995, small businesses have created 64% of net new jobs in the U.S.`

Who are small business owners? Your sister, father, cousin, landscaper, handyman, dog groomer, designer, accountant and friend. We live in your neighborhood, vote on local issues and help strengthen the local economy.

In honor of Small Business Saturday, we’re giving away a FREE writing guide, The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

More people than ever are expected to write today (i.e. blogging, company newsletters, social media), but some people just aren’t comfortable with the written word. We hope this writing guide helps you become more comfortable with your craft and achieve the results you want.

Of course, some people would rather focus on what they do best and leave the writing, marketing or social media to someone else. If that’s you, we’d love to help. Let’s talk to see if we’d be a good fit for you.

Now let’s hit Main Street and support some small businesses today!

A proud small business owner,
Jaime

p.s. Let me know what you think of the writing guide!

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Sources:
^ NASE | * US Small Business Administration | ` Inc.

Editing: Your Path to Divinity (and Divine Writing)

Prewriting ✓     Drafting ✓     Revising ✓

Don’t put down the red pen yet. Now, it’s time to edit.

Edit your writing!

Editing is messy work, but the results are worth it!

Wait, didn’t we just do that? No, we revised our writing. Revising and editing go hand-in-hand, but they focus on different results. While revising makes your work sound good, editing makes your work look good. In the world of writing, both are necessary.

We’ve heard it all before: spelling, punctuation and grammar are important. Blah, blah, blah… But before you file away this grade school knowledge, consider this: grammar, spelling and punctuation can be the difference between your writing being read or not. Why?

  1. Proper punctuation and structure help tell your story. New sentences, paragraph breaks and choosing a hyphen over a comma (or vice versa) help the reader navigate your road map to your point. Imagine trying to read a blog post with no punctuation — one long block of text with no signs where to pause, stop or anticipate a new idea.
  2. With every missing comma or spelling error, you’re asking your audience not to take you seriously. People are interested in what you have to say because they think you know what you’re talking about. But that’s only half the battle; presenting your knowledge is just as important as having it.
  3. Spelling, punctuation and grammar make you look polished, which is important if you’re trying to present a professional image. Stand out from the crowd in a positive way by dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s (and knowing the difference between a hyphen and a dash.

So the next time you’re in a rush and tempted to go straight from writing (step 2) to publishing (step 5), remember Stephen King’s words of wisdom. “To write is human, to edit is divine.”

Sound Off on Editing

What mistake do you always catch in editing?

Do you prefer to edit on screen or on paper?

Share your favorite editing advice below!

If you’re too busy with what you do, we’d love to help you edit your work. Contact us so we can discuss your writing-related project or answer your questions. We may not be all-knowing, but we are here to help. 🙂

Your Editor-in-Chief,
Jaime

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The Power of the (Red) Pen

“To write is human, to edit is divine.”  -Stephen King

When I was in school, there was nothing I hated more than the red pen. Teachers would use it to correct mistakes on your paper and make suggestions. As a perfectionist, I attributed any red marks to failure, which was not high on my to-do list. As much as I hated the red pen, I now understand its importance.

Revise, revise, revise!

Maybe I still haven’t gotten over the sting of the red pen in school. I use black, even for revisions.

The basic writing process has five steps: prewriting (thinking/outlining), writing, revising (rewriting), editing and publishing. Did you notice that 40% of the writing process is dedicated to revising and editing? That’s why, in my humble opinion, it’s the most important aspect of writing. All of the steps are necessary, but not doing a proper job of revising and editing your work will turn readers away. Have you ever read an article that goes on forever — well past its point? Or a blog post saddled with poor grammar and spelling errors? It’s enough to make me walk away.

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” -Stephen King

What makes me want to read your work (and others too)?

  • Revise, revise and revise some more. Eliminate unnecessary words.
  • Strong punctuation and grammar. A lack of one or both makes reading difficult.
  • White space (especially on screen). Use short paragraphs, quotes, images and lists for easier reading.
  • Reduce your adverb dependency. These suckers lead to passive writing and empty word use.
  • A clear point. What are you trying to say?

“The biggest illusion about communication is that it’s taking place.”  -George Bernard Shaw

Yes, rules are made to be broken, but you have to know the rules first. The more that you know (and follow) the “rules” of writing, the easier your writing will be to read. So what are these rules? They differ depending on who you talk to or what you’re writing, but Mr. King’s Top 20 Rules For Writers are a great place to start.

More people are expected to write today than ever before (social media, blogging, etc.), and some just aren’t comfortable with it. I hope this post and upcoming series on the writing process will help. (p.s. Fellow writers, feel free to chime in along the way!)

Of course, I love writing. If you don’t, let me know. I’d be happy to help.

FREE Download –> The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Reader Feedback

What are your most important rules of writing?

Is there a rule that you routinely break?

When did you start writing?

Who’s your favorite writer?

A writer at heart,
Jaime

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On Writing…

Writing. It’s something we all learned to do at an early age, but some people are more adept at it than others. If you’re trying to improve your writing, here are a few tips I’ve picked up since I started writing at age 3. 🙂

I still love filling notebooks with my thoughts and chicken scratch.

Write often. Then write some more. It’s amazing how much more confident you feel about your writing when you practice, practice, practice. Blogging, notebooks, a journal or your Mac, the platform and audience doesn’t really matter. Just keep writing.

Can’t write? Read. Even if you’re not an avid reader, find something — or someone — you like. It doesn’t have to be business-related or in your field. As much as I enjoy psychology and sociology books, my favorite author of all time is Stephen King, a master of words. I’ve learned so much from reading his works.

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” –Stephen King

Say something. Seriously. Read what you just wrote and ask yourself what the takeaway is. If you can’t come up with anything, then neither can your audience.

Don’t waste words. While the type of writing depends on your audience, platform and objectives, never waste words. If a word or paragraph doesn’t add anything to your work, leave it out. Being eloquent doesn’t have to mean being wordy.

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Proofreading isn’t optional, even in the era of instant publishing and smartphone communication. Poor spelling, grammar and punctuation reflects poorly on the author, no matter what platform. It’s usually helpful to have others proofread your work, but if that’s not possible, at least try to walk away for awhile. It’s amazing what fresh eyes can see.

Grammar can change everything.

So grammar’s not important, huh?
Photo credit: Writers.com (h/t Kathy Yoho)

Beat writer’s block. It happens to anyone who writes sooner or later, but there are actions you can take. Get moving. A brisk walk, an energetic game of basketball or an afternoon hike can be just what you need. They also draw your attention elsewhere. Sometimes when you try so hard to think about something, your brain locks up. It’s not a coincidence that so many great ideas, from novels to solving a client’s issue, happen in the shower or during a run. Think about something else, and the words will probably start flowing again.

Carry a notebook. While I’m old school and love to fill notebooks with my chicken scratch, you may prefer the digital domain. Either way, always carry a notebook (even if it’s your smartphone). You never know when, or where, an idea will strike.

Related reading: Things I Carry: Pen and Paper

Write to your audience. It’s helpful to know who your audience is so you can write to them. Speak in their language, play to their interests and use words they understand. Have you ever read something that seemed like it was written just for you? That’s the power of writing to your audience.

Pay attention. The world is full of writing topics; you just have to see (hear, smell, feel or sense) them. Pay attention to your surroundings, even during mundane tasks. You’ll be surprised what can come out of a walk in the park or your daily commute. I’ve had ideas for blog posts pop into my head while driving through a local metro park and making leg lamp cookies.

What tips would you add?

Where’s your favorite place to write (or read)?

Have you ever read writing outside of your ‘comfort zone’ and loved it?

While we’re all expected to be writers these days, some people just aren’t comfortable putting their thoughts on paper (or screen). Is that you? Then I’d love to work my magic for you

Writing away,
Jaime

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