Is Your Writing Ability Holding You Back in Business?
Despite it being a common problem, lack of writing skills is still a sensitive subject. Regardless, I want to bring it into the open because I can’t help anyone if I don’t.
There is some sensitivity around this issue, particularly in the home improvement industry so I would like to clarify one thing. This website is specifically for businesses that supply products and services for homes. I have not singled them out as a group that has an issue because of lack of intelligence. That’s who I write for and who we work with, so we know from experience that this is a widespread issue.
The necessity of writing skills is a social construction.
We live in an era where written communication is essential in almost everything we do, particularly because in the last few months more businesses have transitioned to doing more online. In caveman days, those who were more manually capable would have ruled the lands while the scholarly types would have struggled to survive. The ability to build, make and hunt would have been of more value.
Nobody is better or worse just because of their academic skills. We are all just different.
How does writing ability affect business?
Let’s be clear. I know that many people run successful businesses even though they may struggle with writing. It only comes into question when you lose work because of it. I’m not suggesting that customers will choose a supplier who can write over one who can’t. The problems arise if a business owner doesn’t attempt to do tasks that require writing skills. He/she adapts the business to fit the level of skill. If you are doing that, you could be missing out on business.
From talking to several business people about the problem, I’ve compiled a list of self-imposed limitations.
1. Not quoting or tendering if the customer requires detail.
Sometimes the effort of written quotations seems more than it’s worth, especially when there is no guarantee of business resulting from it. This applies regardless of writing ability, but some people do find it easier than others. Whether you write well or not, these processes benefit from being automated. Most paragraphs are repeated in every email, yet people write them out again every time. There are many ways to store paragraphs so that you can use them again, leaving just one personal paragraph to be written. Most accounts packages have a quotation facility that you can do this with. You can also use email signatures to store reusable quotes and letters.
2. Not answering emails if it requires a long answer.
If you can’t face answering the email, there are other ways to respond. Often what happens is that it is put aside with the intention of dealing with it late. Then it becomes so long ago that it is easier to ignore. This leaves the customer feeling as if you’re not interested. There are several alternative ways to deal with this. You can pick up the phone and speak to them directly. If it still needs a written answer, you can tell the customer that you will write to them but it won’t be pretty. Admit that your writing skills leave something to be desired but your superpower is installing kitchens, windows, conservatories or whatever it is that you’re good at. Your customer will appreciate your honesty and that you were willing to be vulnerable so that you can be of service to them. It’s difficult for good writers to know if poor writing standards are because of laziness, dyslexia, lack of academic education or just modern times. When they know that you are willing, they will make allowances.
3. Visiting to measure and then going away to quote so that the customer can’t see that writing is poor.
As with number 2, if you are honest with the customer, they don’t mind. Make it as easy as possible for yourself though. Have a standard form created that means that you will only have to tick boxes and write numbers. If a customer is ready to buy, you want to be ready to take the order.
4. Not attending training in case there is writing involved.
The reason for writing this is because of the number of queries I receive, asking me if there is writing involved. Any instructor or learning facility has workarounds for those who find it difficult to write. They are certainly aware of varying levels of ability and how to adapt. You should never feel that you can’t have an open conversation about it. Learning abilities vary regardless of writing ability. People process information in different ways. Just because you don’t write well doesn’t mean that you will not catch on as quickly as the others.
5. Being scared to learn new things in case the tutor thinks they are thick. (Not my words.)
I believe that this is a matter of self-confidence and that instructors do not think that way. Unfortunately, old playground taunts stay with us into adulthood. If you felt like you were not encouraged at school, it’s not surprising that you would lack the confidence to try as an adult. Get started in smaller ways. Just about everything can be learned on video and audio now so if you want to learn something, learn that way. Udemy has millions of short courses on just about everything. Youtube is a massive source of free information.
6. Being stuck with an old website because a new one would need copy written for it.
If your website is not working for you, it is costing you money. You can hire a copywriter, who will be able to take notes from you and write the copy. The web designer should be able to tell you how many words on each subject and the copywriter can quote based on the word count.
7. Not doing enough marketing on social media because of concern that someone will criticise spelling.
Marketing is the only way that you will grow your business in the way that you want to. You can hire virtual assistants for any level of help, at reasonable rates. At the least, you could use a scheduler to design your posts in draft form and arrange with a friend or partner to edit them before they go out.
8. Not creating new content or articles, not just because of writing ability but also knowing what to write.
There is a lot of help out there in the form of people who work from home offering various services, just as if they were your office assistant. You can use them just to check an edit what you write, research and come up with ideas or create a specific number of posts or blogs for you.
9. Not making the most of free opportunities such as bios on profile pages and local listings.
Some of these things don’t get done, not just because of writing ability, but also because of time. The time factor can be made worse if a simple task isn’t actually as simple as it should be for someone who doesn’t write well.
I’m not going to tell you that you should learn to write better. That is entirely up to you. You don’t need to be skilled at writing any more than you need to be a skilled accountant or bookkeeper. You wouldn’t bother to learn those skills, you would hire someone. You can do the same for any of the tasks that require writing. You do what you’re good at and use the services of others to do what they’re good at.
I’m a good writer and I can read instructions but that doesn’t mean that I would attempt plumbing or electric work myself. Everyone has their own unique set of skills that are no better or worse than anyone else’s. We are all just different.
Survival mode, where you accept any work whether profitable or not, is the road to personal and professional disaster.