I write a lot. Some of it even makes it on paper. By paper I obviously mean MS Word or the notes section on my iPhone. Conservative estimate, I’d say I’ve written about 150,000 words in the last month. How much of this has made the messy, bloody passage into the real world? Half to three quarters. It’s not because what I’ve been writing isn’t good (said she, the embodiment of modesty). It’s because a lot of it is just me talking to myself. My notes are my thoughts. It’s not a diary. It’s not nuggets of entrepreneurial wisdom. It’s not the cerebral equivalent of verbal diarrhoea. (Okay it’s not just the cerebral equivalent of verbal diarrhoea).
I write for a living; whether it’s translating a document from one language to another or writing an article, a sales letter or an About Me page for a client, my life is all about the words. (Sorry if you’re now singing that in Megan Trainor’s voice. Should I link? Yes, I’ll link). So anyway, back to those 150,000-odd words – what were they about? They were about the world as I view it, the world I’m in. And some of them were odd. Some of the writing was plain old reminders to do stuff. Some of it was saying the things I couldn’t say to a Real Life Person. So sometimes my writing reminded me to be brave. Reminded me to use my inside voice on the outside too. Still other times it was writing for clients – helping them get their voice, their unique style, out into the world.
When you’re putting your content out into the Real Life World (normally I advise against unnecessary capitals but this kind of merits it, no?) it can be tricky to find your voice. Or, maybe you know your voice but think that your industry or clients would have a medium sized canary if they read something in your true, authentic, inside-your-head voice. Perhaps you’re worried about your family reading it. Aunt Eliza did choke on her Murray Mint that time your nephew dropped the f-bomb. But you know what? When it comes to getting your ideal client, Aunt Eliza doesn’t really come into play. When it comes to attracting the type of readers that you want, speaking in your real voice is your A-Game.
Your audience is not stupid. They will figure out pretty quick that you don’t walk the walk, regardless of how you talk. Let’s say you get them on the phone after they read your amazing, buzz word burdened epistle on leveraging synergies; if you don’t immediately strike that same register they’re going to think you’re a fake. While we’re on the subject, don’t talk about leveraging synergies. It just makes people roll their eyes. And vomit.
Whether you write all your own copy or get help with it, you still need to figure out the way you want to say things. Is your style casual? Tongue in cheek? Or is your deepest desire to be taken seriously as an industry expert? You can be all of these things. One does not push the other aside. Sometimes, your ability to present serious information in a playful way can actually highlight your knowledge of a subject. It’s like you are so comfortable with your expertise you can even make cool in-jokes. (Bear in mind, people do need to get the jokes. Think rock star, not rocket scientist).
Your content or copy communicates your message to the world – whether you’re selling a product, a service or yourself (not that way obviously) is irrelevant. Are you doing that completely Hans Solo or with a little help from a social media expert, a business coach or a copywriter? Doesn’t matter. You’re the one with the message, you’re the one with the voice – figure it out and get it out there.