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Building a Network: Working from Home Doesn’t Mean Working Alone (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who left her HR career behind to pursue freelance writing and to spend more time with her young daughters at home. This article is based upon her own entrepreneurial journey and balancing family and work.


Building a Network: Working from Home Doesn’t Mean Working Alone

The flexibility of working from home appeals to many people and is a great way to fit your job around your lifestyle. However, it can be isolating and difficult without a group of colleagues immediately on hand. Luckily, it’s easy to get out there and make connections.

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Shared Office Space

You will be able to find office rental space in almost every city, with options to suit every budget. You get a desk, Wi-Fi, coffee; all the essentials – but most importantly, colleagues right on hand to problem-solve, brainstorm, and connect with. Even if they don’t work in your specific industry, they will have transferable experience and broad networks of their own which you can plug into and take advantage of.

Social Media and Networking

If physically sharing office space isn’t for you, then it’s time to get active on social media. Social media is great for building your brand’s image and engaging with customers, but it is equally useful for making vital connections with peers in your own industry. Social media isn’t just for youngsters, it can be useful for all generations who are setting up in business. Create profiles on platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter to find other people in your field, search out possible mentors, and follow businesses and organizations with which you might want to work. Search for groups and forums, but don’t be afraid to also approach people individually. A personal touch can really make the difference!

Conferences and industry events

Keep tabs on what the big events are each year in your industry, and make time to attend them. Research ahead of time what talks, events, or trade stands are offered, and set up some meetings if you can. This will make sure your visit is worthwhile, and that you don’t end up browsing at random with nothing to show for it when you go home. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation and be sure to talk to everyone you can, exchange contact details, and then follow up when you get back home. A little effort goes a long way.

Take every opportunity

It’s important not to limit yourself to your own specific area of business. Other industries will need your skills and expertise, and at some point you’ll find yourself in need of something they can provide, especially with a growing business. For tasks like accountancy and tax returns, it’s easier and more efficient to use specialists rather than struggling yourself. If you have busy periods, you might need to bring in temporary workers to make sure everything is completed on time. Already having a great network means you have every situation covered!

Do you work from home? How do you actively build a network of fellow business owners and vendors? Share your thoughts by commenting below. 

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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4 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

This week’s blog is written by the newest member of Bennis Inc, Danielle Gouger. Click here to learn more about Danielle’s passion and expertise related to PR, photography and writing!


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4 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

As the daughter of a talented writer, I believe I may have gotten the creative writing gene from the person I admire the most, my mother. Throughout my life I have always had a way with words and the ability to let them flow onto a page naturally, as I enjoyed journaling from a young age. English was always the subject I excelled in throughout my education, however it became clear to me later in life that If I was not passionate or excited about what I was writing, I would sometimes struggle more through the process.

This past year I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime. I was given a job/mentoring offer that would allow me to merge my creative side with writing, all while learning and navigating the fascinating world of Public Relations. Here is a look at some of the lessons I have learned throughout this process and would like to share these tips in hopes they can inspire someone else to also become a better writer.

Find Your Rhythm

Finding your rhythm in writing is not always about finding your voice. In fact, I believe that the most important components to being a better writer have a lot to do with your environment. For me, I need to have a peaceful and inspirational space to be able to thrive when writing. I can write to my full potential when I have little to almost no distractions and a specific time that I can set aside just for writing. This may not be the same for everyone, so explore different environments and note that ones that help to get your creative juices flowing.

Write, Write and Then Write Some More!

Consistently writing is probably one of the most important things I have learned this year in my new position as a Public Relations assistant. There is a lot more writing involved in my position than I originally predicted, but I am always up for a challenge! Just like with any other craft or skill, they say “practice makes perfect.” I have found this to be most definitely true with writing. When you can get going on a good writing streak, don’t stop! Keep writing regularly, daily if possible, and you’re far less likely to hit a writer’s block. But if you do…

Break Through That Writer’s Block

I have found that the biggest obstacle that a writer can face is the infamous “writers block.” There are many different ways to go about trying to overcome this hurdle in the daily life of a writer. What I have found to be most helpful, if I am stuck on where to begin or where to go with my writing, is to take a step back. You won’t break through your writer’s block by sitting there and pounding your head through it. Rather a little time and space from your writing will give you a fresh mind and renewed patience to approach the task from a different angle.

Find Your Confidence

I have always been told how articulate I am, but sometimes have had a hard time believing that in myself. The more I write; the more confidence I find not only in my writing, but in myself as a person. Putting your thoughts and feelings into words for countless others to read is enough to conjure up securities in anyone! I have gained confidence by writing like I was talking to a close friend. Rather than trying to write something that will please a huge audience, I write to relate to just one or two people I know. The end result is writing that is genuine, relatable and accurately reflects my inner voice. Who wouldn’t be confident in a finished product like that?

What other tips do you have for becoming a better writer? Share your insights by commenting below so we can all improve our writing skills!

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The Art of Storytelling: Why This Tactic is so Valuable for Your Business

storytelling

The influence of storytelling can be found in all aspects of our lives. First, think of how we are entertained. We watch television and movies, read books and surf social media. All of these components include storytelling in one way or another. Now think about how we mentally and emotionally connect with the world around us. We share our day’s events with our friends by recounting them through a story. We read news stories in print and on the web. And we reminisce about old memories through stories that evoke every emotion imaginable.

Do you now see why storytelling is such an essential – and powerful – means to communicating a message? It’s important to remember that storytelling is anything but new. Before civilization knew how to write, we told stories as our only way of learning and passing along knowledge to one another. In fact, a good story teller was among the most respected and revered people in a community!

Before I turn this into a history lesson, I’ll finish with one thought. While our label for the modern day “storyteller” has many names, the gifted storytellers among us still rise to the top as charismatic and effective communicators. They are deemed likeable, influential and wise. There are several things we can all learn from these storytellers and apply toward our own business communications. Here are 5 ways to incorporate storytelling into your public relations and marketing efforts:

  1. Give the sweet and condensed version

People don’t want to read the next great American novel when learning about your business. They would much prefer the Reader’s Digest version that highlights the most interesting, impressive and important details, while skimming over the things that are basic and obvious. Say what you need to say in the fewest words possible and carefully select those words to have the greatest impact. The “less is more” theory absolutely holds true to your marketing content. Rarely will people spend more than 7 seconds trying to understand your message if it is not clear. Keep it simple and keep their attention!

  1. Call upon personal experiences

Bring the characters of your story to life by sharing their personal experiences – both triumphs and failures. This adds that “human element” that allows your audience to connect with your story on a deeper level. Another strategy is to write the story in first person, allowing people to hear your voice and associate you as the storyteller – not some anonymous third party. Not only does this add credibility, but it shows you are involved with your business on a very personal level and your customers can expect this same level of personal attention.

  1. Focus on evoking one emotion

So often business owners want to describe their services with numbers, statistics and cold, hard facts. People don’t connect with – or remember – this approach. Instead, people remember only how you made them feel. Take control of the emotions you evoke with your storytelling by thinking strategically and planning your content appropriately. Most importantly, select just one emotion and focus the details of your story on this emotion. For some industries, humor is the most effective. For other industries it’s pity or fear. And the list goes on and on. Do your market research to see what your target audience receives well and use this as the theme that brings your entire story together.

  1. Don’t make yourself the hero

In many cases, you as the business owner will play a role in your story. You can certainly be a character, but avoid making yourself the hero. Instead, focus on the people or the lesson. Speak directly to your target audience with your story by making it conversational and asking rhetorical questions. Or focus on teaching them a valuable life lesson by sharing your struggles as well as your successes as inspiration for what they might achieve. While you might very well be the hero of your story, take a backstage role and let your audience bask in the lime light.

  1. Remember your audience

Finally and most importantly, remember to whom you are telling your story. Sure, you are speaking to people, but what kind of people? Get inside their minds and figure out what makes them tick. Maybe they are tech-minded, science geeks. Speak their language! Don’t try to appeal to them with romantic, flowery language. It won’t work. For any type of marketing, you need to understand your target audience. Apply this knowledge toward how you shape your story.

Now that you have 5 strategies to keep in mind when crafting your own business’s story – take it and run with it! Tell a story that sets you apart from your competition. Tell a story that makes you relatable and likeable. Tell a story that inspires people that they can also achieve success against all odds. Let’s continue this beautiful tradition of storytelling and respect it with stories that are worth remembering for a lifetime!

How have you benefitted from the art of storytelling in your own business or personal life? Share your experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Become a Better Writer

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To excel in any profession it takes both dedication and talent. From doctors and lawyers to singers and actors and everything in between, you must continually practice to stand out in your respective field. Writing – whether as a profession or simply as an everyday skill – is no exception.

Writing is the core of my profession, but it’s also an essential skill I use well outside of what earns me a paycheck. This is why I am always on the search for ways in which I can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of my writing.

Thanks to technology that directs us to resources and connects us with fellow writing professionals, there are more opportunities than ever to improve your written communication. So how do you narrow them down? Really, it’s trial and error to find the triggers that inspire you to become a better writer. I know I have spent years trying to find my own. While what works for one will not work for all, these are five launching points that provide a solid foundation for overall “good” writing and will help point you in the right direction.

Understand your purpose

Diving into a writing project before you fully understand exactly “why” you’re writing is like shooting an arrow before you’ve seen the target. Maybe you’ll get lucky and end up with a well-crafted piece, but the outcome that is far more common is mismatched content that reads more like a stream of conscious than strategic and intelligent thoughts.

To understand your purpose, first put it into words before you write anything else. For this very article, I organized my purpose and main points before I started writing. The title and bolded sections (the bones) were formed before I filled it in with content (the meat). If you struggle to identify a purpose, this is a big red flag that indicates a weak idea and lack of organization.

Find passion

Purpose is one very important component for quality writing, but so is passion. An article can have a clear purpose, but passion is what draws readers in and makes them want to consume the information. If you’re passionate about what you’re writing, you will be excited to sit down and put your thoughts into words. You’ll also enjoy reading and re-reading these words until they say exactly what you want them to.

But finding this passion can be a mental challenge. So often the fear of putting your thoughts into words, or a lack of confidence in your ability to do so, can overshadow your passion. Overcome these roadblocks by shifting your focus back to you – not your critics, competitors or writing idols – simply you. When you are writing for self-satisfaction, you will be open to embracing the same passion with which people dance when they think no one is watching.

Do it for yourself

For writing to become an enjoyment and not a chore, you must learn to do it for yourself. This is the point I just touched upon above, but I wanted to dive a little deeper into exactly how you learn to write for yourself.

If you have complete freedom to select your topic, first choose a topic about which you’re knowledgeable, curious or passionate. In doing so, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in the topic – and enjoy it! All good writers are able to gain some level of enjoyment in their writing. If your topic is strictly chosen for you, the angle with which you approach it becomes ever important. It’s possible to take the driest topic and turn it into something you enjoy (even if only slightly) and make the writing about you!

Put the effort into proofreading

One essential component of good writing that we can’t tip-toe around (oh and I’ve tried) is proofreading. Yes, it’s that element of writing that simply isn’t as fun as dreaming up big ideas and writing from the soul – but it’s absolutely necessary. Proofreading can be intimidating because it takes time and a very specific knowledge of a complicated topic, making it all the more valuable of a skill for good writers to have.

Aside from hitting the books to brush up on your grammar, you can also turn to technology to provide you with some pretty helpful tools. Google can serve as a quick spell check, but it won’t catch the more complex errors. I often use Grammarly for proofreading because let’s face it, the English language is challenging enough to speak, let alone write. What I really like about this particular tool is that it teaches you why you’re making common grammar mistakes so you develop into a better writer – not a lazy writer.

Stop overthinking it

Finally, in order to become a better writer you quite simply need to chill out – relax! When you’re stressed and hyper-focused, your writing will reflect this. It will seem rigid and anxious. Writing is an art form after all, and it requires organic creativity that is only able to freely flow when you’re relaxed.

Before writing, take a deep breath. Close your eyes and find a relaxed space in your mind. Don’t look at a clock or agonize over how long you’ve been staring at a blank page. If you’re feeling blocked, take a break and walk away. You can’t force good writing and the grade school philosophy of “sit there until you finish it” will only turn your temporary writer’s block into a lifelong fear of the written word.

What have you found to be the most helpful tips and tools for becoming a better writer? Share your advice in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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The Repercussions of a Word Smith

broken pen inkI didn’t always have the gift of the golden pen. At least I never considered myself as anything but an average writer throughout my earlier years. I would do the assignments asked of me in school, but rarely did I earn high marks or a place on the honor board for my work. Outside of the classroom, I wrote silly poems and experimented with “novel” writing, but I’m sure if I could find these journals now I wouldn’t be inclined to ship them off to a publisher. However, at some point during the awkward years between Junior High and Senior High school, a much deeper physical transition took place. Somewhere in my brain, the part for creativity and the part for words finally synched.

We all look forward to the point in our life when we tap into a natural talent. Raw and uncharted, we anxiously explore its depths and push its boundaries. For some this is football, piano, dancing or math. For me this was writing. Though I had always earned good grades, this was the first time that writing courses were almost effortless. It seemed unfair that though I scored about the same in my math and science classes, I had to put in so much more effort and time to do so. The thrill I got out of writing is the reason I continued to make it an integral part my college major and the career I now enjoy. As my passion for both written and oral communication became clear, all other subjects blurred into the background.

As I’ve grown to accept this as my given talent, I’ve also realized some curiously common situations that seem to unfold for most gifted writers I know. I see these as the “repercussions” of a word smith. Really it’s a small price to pay for a talent that is useful in almost every line of work. But whether you’re a fellow writer or someone who has benefited from knowing one, I’m willing to bet these sound very familiar:

Group projects somehow bear only your writing – Group projects are already miserable for so many reasons, but when you’re identified as a “good writer” they become even worse. No matter how hard I tried to prevent this from happening, the end result was inevitable. I would either have to start the project from scratch or rework the less than stellar writing of my group partners. By the end of it, the writing always seemed to be my own. Sometimes this was me being taken advantage of, sometimes this was for the good of the group (and our group grade), but sometimes this was just me being a writing control freak. I can admit it…finally.

You’re the go-to “first drafter” – With my school days now behind me, the repercussions of a wordsmith have still kept in tow. Rather than the finisher for group projects, I have now become the go-to person for taking the first stab at letters, short bios, resumes and blog posts for family and friends. I’m always happy to offer my two cents, but creating something from scratch requires a bit more energy and effort than just two pennies worth of my time. As you might expect a dentist to get tired of hearing about tooth ailments on the weekend, writers also like to be just people from time to time.

Heck, you’re the go-to “final drafter” too – Though revising a final draft takes a different set of skills than the initial writing of one, it still requires a good deal of energy and effort if you want to do it right. Sure I can quickly review a document to make sure the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed, but it’s hard to tone down a skill set that, when used for my livelihood, is kept at high octane. If I see a poorly written letter, I can’t not fix it. I’ll sit there and pour hours of my life into a document I shouldn’t have more concern over than that piece of chewing gum I just threw away. But when you’re passionate about something, you do. When you ask your writer friend for a “quick once over,” just remember that he’ll give you the same quality of service that he would give a client or put into his own work. A thoughtful thank you from time goes a long way.

Greeting cards and party invitations get sent your way – Much like the first and final drafter, a wordsmith is also often called in for input on Christmas card phrases, meaningful words for a thank you note and creative rhymes to put on a birthday invite. This is the fun stuff! And personally the stuff I love creating the most. But it can become a burden when you receive these casual requests on top of a pile of mounting client work. Also I tend to put pressure on myself to come up with the most perfectly witty or thoughtful lines – a pressure that is not intended or required, but a habit I’ve developed all on my own.

It becomes seen as an endless fountain of creativity – As I mentioned above, it’s an exciting experience to explore the depths of a new found talent, but I don’t assume it is indeed endless. My hands and mind do get exhausted to a point where eventually I slump into a couch pillow and stare at the wall for a little while during a busy writing day. It’s a compliment to have so many family members and friends turn to me for my opinion and input, but I do feel the need to conserve my creativity or at least let it refill from time to time. After all, what would I do for a living if it somehow ran out?!

I hope these “repercussions” of a word smith have resonated with you in some way or if not, at least made you smile. Though my talent is with words, I know these situations are not unique to writers. I imagine doctors, artists, athletes and politicians all have similar gripes about how their talents have made them feel like a mere resource to the world around them. The best we can each do is to celebrate each other’s talents by not only utilizing them, but also by giving them a day off from time to time.

What are some of the repercussions your own talent has brought you?

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Business & Success

 

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