• Advice

Play your strengths: Leverage your communication skills

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

This morning I read my daughter Emily’s primary college application essay – she’s a high school senior and knee-deep in the process.And while you know how much I hate to brag, I have to tell you, it was stunningly good. So much so that my first thought was not my usual, self-aggrandizing, “Just like her daddy.” Rather, it was, “Wow, she has an unfair advantage.”

Here’s what I mean…

Emily is a great writer. And so when she writes an essay, not only is she attempting to present the best of who she is – as is every other kid – she’s doing it in a format that plays to her strengths.

When it comes to college admission, kids who don’t write well – regardless of their qualities and accomplishments – are at a distinct disadvantage.

Guess what? The same applies to newsletters. If you’re a lousy writer – or just hate it so much that you never do it – you’re also at a distinct disadvantage. Am I suggesting that newsletters aren’t effective? Please, that’s like Donald Trump’s hair suggesting that windy days are not problematic. What I’m saying is that, whether newsletters are generally effective or not, your newsletter needs to work for you in particular.

When you expand the definition from “written newsletter” to “sharing useful information in a way that positions you as a likeable expert,” you open up other options. Suddenly, a newsletter can be a speech, a graphic, an illustration - even a song!

One terrific example of an alternative to the written newsletter comes from Jonn Karsseboom, a garderner and founder of The Garden Corner in Tualatin, Oregon. He doesn’t write them – he creates videos. Here’s a sample.

Jonn works in a visual business and he happens to be unbelievably inviting and natural on-camera. Where he might not have succeeded in a written newsletter, his “how to” videos are hard to resist.

I’m a good 3,000 miles away and yet every time I watch one I find myself toying with the idea of blasting across the country to shake his fertilizer-covered hand in person.

Here’s the bottom line. If you like and are good at writing, great, keep doing it.

But, if you hate and/or stink at it, find another means for getting yourself out there. Like Emily and Jonn, when you leverage your natural skills, you become really, really hard to compete with.

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Michael Katz is a Boston-based marketing consultant and founder of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in developing email newsletters for professional service firms. Download a free copy of his latest book, "It Sure Beats Working: 29 Quirky Stories and Practical Business Lessons for the First-Time, Mid-Life, Solo Professional," when you subscribe to his free, twice-monthly newsletter here.

Michael Katz Michael Katz is Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in developing email newsletters for professional service firms. Sign up for his free newsletter, The Likeable Expert Gazette.

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