A Recipe for Small Business Writing Success

A Recipe for Small Business Writing Success

Writing is a major pain point for many entrepreneurs. It takes forever. Causes major angst. And – despite all that time and energy – often doesn’t turn out that great.

Which is inconvenient considering there’s more pressure than ever on small businesses to crank out copy (web copy, blogs, social media – oh my!) – and it isn’t going away any time soon.

You might be tempted to outsource your writing. There’s nothing wrong with that – if you want to. But it’s not your only option.

With the right knowledge, tools and framework, anyone can learn to create decent (if not fantastic) copy for their business – quickly and with confidence.

It’s about understanding the fundamentals, using proven techniques and best practices, and executing using a strategic, no-fail process.

So what are these magic ‘ingredients’, you ask? Here’s an overview of my proven recipe:

Ingredient #1: Understand what ‘good’ is in a small biz context

When it comes to writing, ‘good’ can mean very different things depending on what you’re writing and who you’re writing it for. When it comes to a small biz, your goal is to create copy that’s:

  1.      Clear, because confusing someone is the fastest way to lose them.
  2.      Authentic, because people want to work with, and buy from, people they know, like, and trust. So we have to let them get to know us. We do this through what we say, but also how we say it.
  3.      Customer-focused, because this is the small biz ‘secret sauce’. Your goal, with everything you write, is to put the focus on your customer and demonstrate that you ‘get’ them. THIS is what’s going to make them want to read more, to get to know you, and become a loyal customer.

Ingredient #2: Know your customer

You can’t write effective customer-focused copy if you don’t know who your customer is. So it’s important to be really clear on three things: your dream customer’s demographics, psychographics, and their need, want, or situation.

People tend to cast a wide net here, but they shouldn’t, as Natasha explained beautifully in this article. I tell my students to imagine a single, real person that meets their description, and to think of this person when they write – because it’s much easier to write when you think of it as a conversation with one person as opposed to a speech to the masses.

Ingredient #3: Authenticity

Oh authenticity. So important yet such a buzzy and mysterious word. First things first: what is it? I like how Brene Brown describes it: “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be, and embracing who we are.”

This is SO important when you write. Your goal is for your words to read like a conversation with you. If this is a challenge at first, try dictating and transcribing. A good test of whether you’ve nailed it: read your words aloud. If they flow and sound natural, you’re good. If they’re clunky and awkward and ‘not you’, back to the drawing board.

This is one of those things that feels impossible at first, but WILL click – and once you’ve found your voice writing becomes so much easier.

Ingredient #4: The tricks of the trade

People have a ridiculously short attention span for reading these days – especially online. So we have to make it as easy and enticing as possible for them. Let’s break down three main goals and how you can work towards each of them in your writing:

  1.      Visually appealing and not overwhelming – Avoid big chunks of copy any which way you can – make paragraphs short and sweet, use bullets, lists, and sub-heads where you can, and add visuals and photos. Anything to break up big blocks of text and add white space!
  1.      Engaging and creates connection – the best way to do this is to focus your words on your customer. There are many techniques for this, but a quick and easy trick is to make sure you use ‘YOU’ twice as much as ‘I/WE’. Don’t worry about it while you write (see Ingredient #5).
  1.      Easy to understand and digest – if you’ve got someone reading, the last thing you want to do is confuse them. So speak your customer’s language and, whatever you do, avoid jargon, industry-speak, and mysterious acronyms.

Ingredient #5: A process that works

What to write is important for sure. But HOW you write is just as important. In fact, most writing frustrations boil down to one super-common mistake: trying to write and edit at the same time.

That’s because writing is a creative pursuit whereas editing is a logical one. So it’s critical you separate the two - or your logical brain (the bossier side) will take over and make things clunky and difficult.

So if you do nothing else, be sure to separate your writing from editing. Write quickly, without editing, looking things up, or analyzing – and then leave it. Ideally for a day, but a few hours will do. Then, come back and take your time editing – this is the point where you want to make sure you’ve hit all the marks I mentioned under Ingredient #4.


So that, my friends, is the recipe at a VERY high level. If you’d like to learn more, including a ton of tricks, tips, and techniques, join me for a free live webinar, HOW TO WRITE FOR SMALL BIZ: A five-step ‘recipe’ for better, faster, easier DIY copywriting’, on Tuesday Sept 27 or Wednesday Sept 28. Hope to see you there!


Janet Nielsen is a long-time member of Mamas & Co., and owner of Janet Nielsen Small Business Communications. She also runs the Entrepreneur's Writing Lounge Facebook Group.

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