“My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see.”
Words have power. Words are tools. Words can make us feel confident about our lives or doubt them. And words are the foundation of your business, your art, and your branding. Lots of business owners say: “But I’m not a good writer. I can’t write. I don’t like to write.” Of course not everyone is Stephen King or William Shakespeare, but we are all touched daily by words, and improving your writing skills just a little can have big payoffs.
Unless you have been living in an alternate universe for the last 20 years, you’ve noticed that social media has changed everything in our lives. Today you need written words for almost every aspect of your business: to tell the story of why you started making jewelry on your website, to share the inspiration for a new bracelet, to articulate your design philosophy, to craft a post on Facebook, to write a blog, to pen descriptions on Etsy, and the list goes on and on. Choosing and using the most powerful and appropriate words in your daily business operations can have a real impact on your sales.
Applying a few simple practices can help you get your best message out there. And who knows. You just might discover that writing is not so bad. Here are ten tips on ways you can improve your written communications, whether you’re engaging with your audience on Facebook, selling something on Etsy, or coming up with a new tagline.
- When we first start working together I have all of my clients start collecting words. Words that are strong, tell a story, paint a picture, and are visual. Words that describe their “brand” (who they are) and what their artist statement or design philosophy will encompass. You should start by making a list of 25-40 words or short phrases that express your artistic influences, your processes, your designs, and your materials. Write, but don’t edit…yet. Don’t write in sentences yet either. Just make a list of words and phrases that speak to you. This is your opportunity to let the ideas flow without any judgment. As you collect words for your artist statement also start to collect words for each of your collections. You might discover a crossover in the words you choose.
- Invite some friends over. Have them sit down and relax as you lay out your collections. Ask them the first words that come to their minds when they look at your work. Write everything they say down.
- Never use these two overused words: “nature” and “unique.” Almost all jewelry and art on some level is inspired by nature. Push yourself to get more specific. Try using words such as celestial, seashore, garden paths, floral, furry animals, mountain ridges, fir trees, even sphagnum moss, instead. As for the word “unique,” it just doesn’t mean anything. If it is a work of art, unique is implied. Get more specific and visual. Say your work is handmade, one-of-a-kind, personal, or created in your artistic voice.
- These words—and eventually statements—should be concise, cohesive and something you use again and again to get your story in front of any potential customer. You want to stay on message, as the politicians say. Use the same words in your marketing materials, when you are writing on Facebook, and when you get interviewed by Vogue magazine.
- Now that you have a couple of lists going you can start to get selective. Choose the words from your lists that best describe what you are doing and how you view your business. Write a sentence. Then write a 100-word paragraph. Then write a 250-word paragraph. The sentence should be something you will use on everything you print. It is the concise definition of what you do; it is your one-sentence pitch. The 100-word paragraph is your longer pitch, and the 250-word paragraph is your biography.
- The words you choose should quickly give the reader/listener a grasp of what you do and what you have to offer. In the business world everyone talks about the elevator speech, which is a short statement about who you are, your product, your services, or your art that is under 60 seconds, or the time it takes to complete a short elevator ride. It has become so important that MIT has a competition every year giving emerging entrepreneurs an opportunity to make their elevator speech in front of possible investors. In their book, Branding Yourself, Erik Deckers and Kyle Lacy suggest that even a 60-second elevator speech is too long. “The problem is they’re about 25 seconds too long,” they write. “If it takes you 30 seconds to explain yourself to someone, you’re probably not going to notice their eyes glazing over after the first 15 seconds.” So keep it short. Keep it simple.
- Your words and statements should also explain how you and your product/service are different from others. This is called your differentiator, and it should be a critical part of every message you put out there.
- One person I talked with who is very successful on Etsy said she discovered that the stronger the jewelry descriptions on her site, the more successful her sales. The design and your definition of it go hand-in-hand. Pay attention to every piece of writing that describes your work, no matter how small.
- You also want powerful, descriptive words on your website and blog so you will rank higher on Google listings when people search for a subject that pertains to your work. This is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO. The more descriptive and specific your words, the better your ranking. It is as easy or complicated as that. This is also an opportunity to experiment with words and groups of words. See which ones generate a better response and which are too generic.
- Having a strong list of words is also a powerful tool for you personally and professionally. It helps keep you focused on the direction your work is taking and the cohesive look you want it to have. Take 15 of your favorite words, print them in 24-point font and hang them above your desk or workbench as a constant reminder.
Your first job is just to start collecting words. Get them from any place and anyone. Write them down. Review them. Then begin creating little masterpieces that tell your own individual and highly personal (see, I didn’t use the word “unique”!) story.