Welcome Nicola Wilson - Words that Make you Money!

This Forum invites a number of experts to be a guest for one week and control discussions on specific topics. The public can gain a great deal of free information from reading the posts, but only members may write posts, add to discussions and ask and answer questions. I hope that everyone enjoys the forums and topics that will be featured.
Barbara Gabogrecan
President

Welcome Nicola Wilson - Words that Make you Money!

Postby Barbara Gabogrecan » Wed Apr 25, 2012 2:56 pm

ImageThese days we all have to write, whether it is a letter, a blog, information for our website, a newsletter - we need to know how to get the best from our writing skills. Our expert this week is Nicola Wilson. She is a professional writer specialising in business writing and copywriting. Her mission is to make the written world a better place!

It is unusual to find an accountant who likes to write – yet that is Nicola! She commenced her career as a chartered accountant, but showed skill in reducing waffle to professional and concise plain English, ensuring that the reader could understand the message ‘loud and clear’.

Nicola works for herself from a home based office, after working for such corporations as Ernst & Young, Caltex and Fairfax. She writes copy for websites, articles for a local magazine and helps small businesses to develop business plans (from financial projections through to communicating where the business is going).

If you are wondering if the skills Nicola is about to share with you will suit your type of business, let me assure you that her support to businesses varies greatly, including:-
plastic surgeons
surveyors
accountants
photographers
dentists
lawyers
swimming pool makers
kitchen renovators
personal trainers
car and truck sales teams
massage therapists
bedmakers
glass fitters

And just to add to her level of interests, Nicola is also a marriage celebrant and takes part in Sydney Philharmonia choirs and is a member of Australia’s longest running musical society, in Mosman, Sydney

You know the old saying “if you want something done go to a busy person” – who would have thought that Nicola would find time to write a post in our Forum, every day for a week! Make sure you join in and read, ask questions and add comments. As an author, I can't wait to read her posts which commence on Monday 30th April!
Barb
Barbara Gabogrecan assists HBB's to market their business online
http://www.HomeBasedBusinessAustralia.org

Barbara is an artist specialising in silk painting; her video is on page one of You Tube http://youtu.be/1ZA9HObN_Go
http://www.SilkPaintingByGabogrecan.com/

Having survived a stroke and a brain tumour, Barbara wrote a book titled 'Thank God I Had a Stroke' to motivate and inspire others suffering from similar afflictions.
http://GabogrecanStrokeRecovery.com/
Barbara Gabogrecan
 
Posts: 341
Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 12:57 pm

Re: Welcome Nicola Wilson - Words that Make you Money!

Postby Nicola Wilson » Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:11 pm

Thanks Barbara for your kind introduction and for inviting me to be this week’s expert. I’m looking forward to sharing information and to answering any questions or feedback.

My first topic is an introduction to the importance of quality writing in your business, and what’s in store in my upcoming posts. With so many communication methods available to us these days, we constantly fight to read, retain and reply to the many messages fired at us. Effective communication is more important than ever - our intended reader can so easily hit “delete”.

When writing for your business you are most likely aiming to attract or retain customers. Alternatively, your written information may be aimed at attracting investors, suppliers, employees or potential business partners. Your written information may be the only chance you get to make a good first impression and persuade the reader to act. If you want people to invest in you, then invest in good writing – whether that investment be time or money. Don’t let your professional image be associated with sloppy spelling, punctuation or grammar, poor phrasing, waffle or out of date content. Lead your reader through a smooth, logical and informative path that ends in them naturally taking the action you want.

Over this week I’ll be giving some tips on website copywriting, effective email communication, the art of brevity, and writing a business plan.

But first some quick rules that apply no matter what medium you are writing for, that will help to make sure your message is read and understood. My 5 C’s of writing;
Contextual – The topic may be front of mind for you, but is it for your reader? Do you need to help your reader to put your message into context before making your point?
Concise phrasing – Have you used 200 words when 100 would do?
Clarity of message – Is your point clear, and does your reader know what action to take next?
Considerate – have you been polite and friendly, or abrupt or overly formal? Would you enjoy reading what you have written?
Careful – Otherwise known as review and edit! Whatever you write, run it through the spellcheck and then wait at least 15 minutes, re-read and look out for the nasties that spellcheck doesn’t help with (e.g form and from, “not able” and “ no table”...).
More on these in the next few days.
Nicola Wilson is a copywriter, business writer and proofreader with Wordonomics, a home based business. For more details go to www.wordonomics.com.au or http://www.facebook.com/wordonomics
Nicola Wilson
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:04 am

Re: Welcome Nicola Wilson - Words that Make you Money!

Postby Barbara Gabogrecan » Mon Apr 30, 2012 5:32 pm

I really do relate to your last point re leaving your work for 15 mins then re-reading to make sure it is what you want to say. Since having a stroke I have been left woth a condition called 'Alexia without Agraphia' which simply means that I can write but cannot read. But have you ever tried writing a couple of pages of information and not being able to read back what you have written? Boy, does it make you stress out! I have to get my husband to read for me, but because I am always trying to read I am improving - though I doubt I will ever be able to speed read as I was able to before the stroke.

I try to check what I have written (when it is made up of a short number of words) and often find I have missed a word, missed a letter or even written the wrong word. What used to be typos or spelling mistakes to look out for, now I have added to them a form of dislexia - I confuse some letters e.g. 'b' and 'p'. So, even though I agree with what you have said - may I add that in some instances you may need the assistance of a friend or a paid writer to simply 'go over things for you'. Perhaps there is a business there (if you can keep the payment low enough)!
Barb
Barbara Gabogrecan assists HBB's to market their business online
http://www.HomeBasedBusinessAustralia.org

Barbara is an artist specialising in silk painting; her video is on page one of You Tube http://youtu.be/1ZA9HObN_Go
http://www.SilkPaintingByGabogrecan.com/

Having survived a stroke and a brain tumour, Barbara wrote a book titled 'Thank God I Had a Stroke' to motivate and inspire others suffering from similar afflictions.
http://GabogrecanStrokeRecovery.com/
Barbara Gabogrecan
 
Posts: 341
Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 12:57 pm

Re: Welcome Nicola Wilson - Words that Make you Money!

Postby Nicola Wilson » Tue May 01, 2012 12:51 pm

Thanks for your comment Barbara, and I’m really sorry to hear of the difficulty you are having. It must be very frustrating and upsetting for someone who obviously values the written word.
Proofreading is a service that I offer, as do many others, and I would definitely recommend it for a longer document, or when the outcome is likely to be significant! A fresh pair of eyes is invaluable in spotting those irksome errors.

EFFECTIVE EMAILS
Today’s topic is effective email communication, and this is so important I’ll cover it over two days. Email is a major method of business communication and of course has its pros and cons. Our challenge is to make sure our emails are easily understood, and solicit the response that we want.
So here are my top tips on context and getting responses. Tomorrow I’ll continue with tone, length and email manners!

Context
Have you ever started watching a movie without knowing what it was about? For the first few minutes your mind processes clues to work out the genre, main characters etc. But if you’ve seen the trailer, you have an idea what to expect.
Similarly, if you open an email without any expectation of the contents, it may take a few sentences or even a few reads to work out what it’s about and what, if any, action you are supposed to take.
So give your reader some clues – a meaningful subject line, a brief introduction that tells them the purpose of the email and what action you’d like from them by what date. If you don’t want action or a response and the email is just to share information, then make that clear too.
If you are using an old chain of emails to copy the distribution list, copy the names into a new email, or at least change the subject line. It’s really confusing to get an email with the subject line “Awards ceremony” only to find out your contact is looking for a local plumber...

Responses and action
Ask for them! State clearly whether you need a response or other action, such as visiting your website or signing up to an event. Use the “to” field for people who need to take action, and the “cc” field for those who don’t. If you need an urgent response, put it in the subject line so that it has more chance of being read.

So to take my own advice, please feel free to post a comment or ask a question!
Until tomorrow, Nicola
Nicola Wilson is a copywriter, business writer and proofreader with Wordonomics, a home based business. For more details go to www.wordonomics.com.au or http://www.facebook.com/wordonomics
Nicola Wilson
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:04 am

Re: Welcome Nicola Wilson - Words that Make you Money!

Postby Nicola Wilson » Wed May 02, 2012 11:49 am

EMAILS PART 2

Yesterday I introduced the topic of effective email communication, and today I’m going to continue with tone, length and ‘email manners’. Some of these tips and rules also apply to other forms of writing of course.

Tone
Talk to your reader as a person! Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in conversation. That means don’t use email as a cowardly way to avoid hard messages, and don’t use overly formal language or jargon that you wouldn’t use face to face. More on this in other posts.

Length
Think about your audience. Write your message, reread it and ask yourself whether your reader(s) needs to know everything you have said. Are you telling them the important facts they need to make a decision, or are you having a rant? Use bullets and headings to break up the message so that it can be easily scan read.

Email manners
Email is often used for an instant response and if you know your reader will have a rapid fire exchange with you it’s OK to cut a few corners like you would in a phone conversation; you don’t have to include an intro every time.
But if there is a chance your email won’t be read for some hours or days, be more conscious of using full sentences and starting with a greeting so you don’t sound abrupt or impatient. Something I noticed in my corporate days was colleagues dropping a few words for brevity’s sake, which had the effect of sounding quite harsh and negative. For example instead of;
“I am not going to be able to finish this...”
“Not going to finish this...”

It’s a subtle difference, but an email littered with this style will take on a less friendly tone. In some cases it can make the reader think they are seeing an instruction rather than a statement, for example “Don’t....” versus “I don’t...”

An oldie but a goodie - if you write in capital letters it can appear like you are SHOUTING. Ouch!

And finally, except in some rapid fire conversations, it’s more friendly to sign off in some way with ‘thanks’ or ‘regards’ rather than an unfriendly signature template. And reiterate if you’d like a response so that they don’t forget.

On that note, have a good day!
Nicola
Nicola Wilson is a copywriter, business writer and proofreader with Wordonomics, a home based business. For more details go to www.wordonomics.com.au or http://www.facebook.com/wordonomics
Nicola Wilson
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:04 am

Re: Welcome Nicola Wilson - Words that Make you Money!

Postby Nicola Wilson » Thu May 03, 2012 11:11 am

Short is Sweet

In my posts on email communication I touched on length, and this holds true for all forms of business writing (prose is a different matter!). A short, succinct, informative and well structured piece of writing will always be more impressive and more memorable than a long and waffly one that jumps around. The shorter your document, the higher your chances that the reader will make it to the end! But of course it has to still make the appropriate points.

Here are my top 5 tips on how:
1. Plan what you want to say before starting
Planning your key points with a mind map diagram or bullet points will make your document more ordered and logical, and help you to eliminate waffle.

2. Focus on your reader
Really think about what your reader needs to know, not what you want to ‘share’. Don’t explain the process of how you got to where you are, just how the current situation benefits your reader.

3. Lose ‘dead words’
For example use “and” instead of “as well as”.

4. Use headings and bullet points
This helps to cut out long sentences and introductions and will make your document easier to scan and absorb. Lead your reader along a logical path to a conclusion or call to action.

5. Edit!
Here’s a challenge - write your document, check the word count and take out 20% of the words without losing your message. In the example below I’ve reduced a sentence from 22 words to 6. It’s a made-up example and a little OTT, but scarily not that far from what I see in promotional materials every day.

Which of these is more likely to get a positive response?
“Within five days clients will begin to be able to master the basic skills to allow them to complete a green run.” (22 words)
OR
“Learn to ski in 5 days!” (6 words)

Feel free to challenge me with a paragraph!

I’ll be back tomorrow with copywriting for websites.
Bye for now, Nicola
Nicola Wilson is a copywriter, business writer and proofreader with Wordonomics, a home based business. For more details go to www.wordonomics.com.au or http://www.facebook.com/wordonomics
Nicola Wilson
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:04 am

Re: Welcome Nicola Wilson - Words that Make you Money!

Postby Debra Jarvis » Fri May 04, 2012 12:29 pm

Hi Nicola
Thanks for your words of wisdom! And I didn't know what the first sentence meant.
Great example of take out the techy speak and use words everyone understands.
Debra :-)
Debra Jarvis
 
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 5:02 pm
Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Re: Welcome Nicola Wilson - Words that Make you Money!

Postby Nicola Wilson » Fri May 04, 2012 2:39 pm

Websites that Work!

Is it really Friday already? Today I’m going to cover website copywriting which is a huge beast!

Your website is often a potential customer’s first impression of your business, so make sure it’s a good one.

Why is your website copy important? Well, it ‘talks’ to search engines so that you can be found, and then ‘talks’ to potential customers to convert site traffic to sales. No matter how much time, effort and cost you put into driving traffic to your website, you’ll only generate a return if the reader is engaged and can find the information they want easily.

Think about what you want your web visitors to do. For most small businesses your website is really an online brochure. The goal is to get that visitor to contact you. So they have to think you are useful to them, plus like and trust you.

So here are my lucky seven website rules.
1. Your web visitor has a short attention span and you have about 7 seconds to engage them. So grab them with a good opening line or heading.
2. It’s not about you. Not even the “About Us’ page! Focus on answering your reader’s questions. What did they come to find out?
3. Your home page must be very clear on what you do, and how to contact you. If you have a retail shopfront, don’t forget to show the address!!!!
4. Be a good host to your visitors. Lead them around your website just like you are giving them a tour of your home. Don’t let them end up in the wrong room. Asking questions will help.
5. Talk to your reader directly and in the active voice. Address them as “you.”
6. Solve a pain point. If you sell beds, tell the visitor they will have a good night’s sleep without backpain. Don’t tell them how you constructed the bed.
7. Edit, review, edit. Sloppy spelling and punctuation or inconsistent use of grammar tells your potential customer that you don’t pay attention to detail.

Tomorrow I’ll have some tips on writing a business plan. One to read with a glass of wine ;)

Have a good weekend!

Nicola
Nicola Wilson is a copywriter, business writer and proofreader with Wordonomics, a home based business. For more details go to www.wordonomics.com.au or http://www.facebook.com/wordonomics
Nicola Wilson
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:04 am

Re: Welcome Nicola Wilson - Words that Make you Money!

Postby Nicola Wilson » Sun May 06, 2012 5:00 pm

Business Plans - making them useful!

Apologies for missing a post yesterday. Today’s topic is writing a business plan.

Business plans can be a useful planning and monitoring tool if prepared and used well, but they are a complete waste of time if they are treated as a one-off chore and then ignored and hidden away in a drawer for eternity. So make your business plan a living document that you consult and update regularly.

Often a business plan is used for internal use only – to set your own goals and a roadmap to reach them. It can also be used to assess the viability of a business, or to educate your team on your direction. Sometimes it will be requested by external stakeholders such as a bank, a potential investor or business partner, and then it must impress!

So here are my top four rules when writing a business plan;
1. Your executive summary is THE most important part of the document. It is your ‘elevator pitch’ to persuade the reader that you have a compelling proposition. By the end of the first page, your investor/ lender should have made a gut decision on whether to give you the money you have asked for. The rest of the document gives them the logic to support that decision.

2. Be clear and concise. As a general rule, aim for approx 10 pages for an introductory document, and then if you are asked for a more detailed plan, no more than 25 pages. Your internal operational plan can be as long as you like, but a document intended for an external party should tell them just what they need to know, in a way that is easy to follow.

3. Take your reader on a logical journey by breaking the business down into components, and explaining how they all work together. Start with the big picture and drill down into areas that need more detail.

4. Make sure you clearly articulate how the business will make money, who will be in charge of making it happen, and what research you have done to ensure there is a market for your product or service at your proposed price.

5. Include some ‘sensitivity’ analysis or ‘what if’ scenarios that look at worst case outcomes. “What if the price assumption is wrong by 10%? How would that affect the bottom line?”

You can get some good templates online that help with structure. Always get someone independent to read it to make sure you have got your message across and haven’t missed out the obvious facts about your business model.

My final topic will be a wrap up of tips, and I’m looking forward to answering your questions.

Have a great week
Nicola
Nicola Wilson is a copywriter, business writer and proofreader with Wordonomics, a home based business. For more details go to www.wordonomics.com.au or http://www.facebook.com/wordonomics
Nicola Wilson
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:04 am

Re: Welcome Nicola Wilson - Words that Make you Money!

Postby Peter O'Connor » Sun May 06, 2012 5:15 pm

Hi Nicola

I have been reading your posts eagerly.......waiting to see how "Words can make me money".

You have given us some really great tips and advice on writing techniques to keep the potential customer engaged, but I am still waiting to see how it can make me money. Have I missed something in your posts to date?

Cheers for now

Peter
Peter O'Connor, is a retired accountant and is involved with teaching home based businesses how to build and manage their own websites.
http://www.HomeBasedBusinessAustralia.org
Peter O'Connor
 
Posts: 79
Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 10:12 am

Next

Return to Guest Experts

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron