Every writer has a dream and no writer’s dream is exactly the same as any other writer. Some writers aspire to write novels. Others want to write for magazines; and still others wish to write online or for newspapers or other publications as freelancers. My goals as a writer span a couple of areas. My first and foremost goal is to publish a novel or novella (and hopefully more after that). My second goal is to make it as a writer in the business world. The first one is in progress. The second? I feel like I’ve done it.
Of all of the goals listed above, making it as a writer in the business world may seem the most attainable. And perhaps it is. Somehow, after the struggles of the recession, the years I spent as a server and bartender during said recession, the years I spent in school perfecting my craft, somehow I found a job. Then I found another job. Even better than that, I actually kind of like these jobs!
During the recession, I never thought it would happen. I lost faith in myself and in my skills as a writer. I had all but given up. But someone else believed in me. I had a friend teach me how to interview, how to be confident. And it worked!
When I got my first full-time job offer as a copywriter, I’d been out of school for three years and was driving down the street. I had to pull over on the side of the road and ask the HR rep to repeat herself when she called to make me the offer. I still get teary today thinking about it. Because of her, I had the chance to finally start my life. That first job was in the for-profit sector, one of the most recognizable names in the gifts business. Today, I’m a Communications Specialist in higher education. I never thought I’d end up working for a school, but it has been really great. I’ve always been an academic at heart.
No matter where you work, it’s the writing that matters. Perhaps you are like me and writing is your favorite thing, your greatest skill and you can’t imagine doing anything else. I know exactly how you feel. Writing is an important skill and craft, particularly in the realm of business. Here are my six tips to making it as a writer in the business world.
- Learn to be Your Own Advocate
This is number one on my list because it was the number one lesson for me. To be frank, most people in the business world undervalue writers. They don’t see what we do as art and they don’t think it is special even though 90% of their other employees can’t craft a decent email. In order to succeed, you must believe in yourself. You must sell the importance of your skill and this starts over the phone on that first interview and it continues into the meeting room during that face-to-face interview and it doesn’t quit once you get the job offer. Being your own advocate is the most important thing you can do for yourself.
- Don’t be Afraid of Edits
Learning to deal with critique and edits, particularly from people who aren’t writers/editors was a really hard lesson and is also the second most important thing to finding success as a writer in the business world in my personal opinion. As writers, we’re close to what we write. We work hard to craft a sentence, to make thoughtful word choices and build an appropriate message that is tailored to so many aspects of the communication and not everyone recognizes the amount of thought and work goes into something. Even something that is only a couple of hundred words long. Sometimes people will edit for you because they are your boss. Sometimes they’ll edit for you because they own the project you’re helping with. Or sometimes, they’ll edit for you because it’s their product you’re helping to market and even though there are grammatical errors in their copy, they prefer it simply because they wrote it (I really have had that happen). In this last instance, compromise is a plus. Or, if you’re good at explaining why you choose to do something, do that. This returns us to point number one above, I think.
- Don’t Give Up on Your Personal Writing
Sitting down in front of the computer again after a long day at the office is sometimes excruciating and it’s the last decision I want to make. I won’t lie to you either. I don’t make this choice as often as I should. But I don’t give up. I keep going and I get in what I can whenever I am able because it’s an important part of who I am.Though I love my job and I get to write all day long, I’m not necessarily doing the type of writing that fills me up. I get to interview fascinating people and I’m always learning something new which is fantastic. But there is something about a poetic-like sentence, writing fiction and creating worlds of my own that cannot be replicated in my job. In my fiction, I have complete control over what happens and how the story is told. I wield the pen (or keyboard) at work, but I am restricted to a certain voice, a certain grade-level of readership, a certain audience and more.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Push the Envelope
This will obviously depend on how receptive your employer is to new ideas. If your employer wants everyone to stay in line, I would be hesitant to suggest this tactic. But, if you are in the happy circumstance where your viewpoint and ideas are valued and taken into consideration, congratulations! Go for it! People who have worked at a company or an organization for a long time get really bogged down in boundaries. It takes the fresh eyes of a new person to move things forward. Right now, I’m working on a project to help modernize a certain publication that goes with one of my employer’s biggest events of the year. I’ve been super involved with the whole event, and while there are boundaries to be mindful of, I have suggested ways to modernize and make the printed publication more appealing.
- Be a Second Pair of Eyes/Find a Second Pair of Eyes
In the day-to-day rush of work, it’s easy to dash off an article or press release and barely give it a glance. Don’t do this. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone needs an editor. Take the time to let someone else have a glance and if someone asks you to be their second pair of eyes, take the opportunity and do a great job. Being viewed as a good editor is an invaluable asset and can help people remember you for future opportunities or projects.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Take on New Projects
In my current job, I’ve taken on a lot of new writing styles. This is admittedly intimidating. But I love to have the opportunity to build my skills. I think of all the different types of writing I have done so far in my career, and I envision dozens of notches in a leather belt. Most recently, I was tapped to write voice-over scripts for a series of videos for my employer. It’s one of the hardest projects I’ve ever taken on and I’ve endured numerous rounds of rewrites and friendly critique; but I’m glad that I’ve done it. I have learned a lot about how the written word affects someone, especially when it is spoken aloud. I’ve also gotten to experience how images enhance or affect the spoken words and have been working with colleagues to synthesize images with my writing.
Being a writer in the business world is hard. Don’t let anyone get you down about your writing skills. They are valuable and an asset to any successful business. It is possible to find both success and happiness and perhaps to even leave the world to be a little more grammatically correct than when you first found it 😉
Do you have any special tips for finding success as a writer in the business world? Please share!
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