The other day I had to think about what I offered to people as part of my brand. I think it was an exercise in one of Tea Silvestre’s newsletters. I came up with these two statements.
- I help writers earn more money by providing sustainable solutions for building writing careers (that’s what this blog is about).
- I help clients reach their customers with excellent writing tailored to their needs and chosen media.
But then as part of this month’s Word Carnival, the idea was to reveal our quirks. When I started thinking about this I realized that I am really lucky – and maybe many other writers are too. All the quirks and weird interests that made me a girly swot in school, to use Enid Blyton’s terminology, have turned out to be positives for my current writing career. Let me give you a few examples.
The Grammar Gunslinger
I can spot a grammatical error at a thousand paces – don’t ask me why, that’s just the way I’m wired. Blame it on years and years of reading voraciously – not to mention learning grammar in several languages (English, of course, but also French, Spanish, German and even Latin). And I loved it. That translates (get it?) into being able to identify and eliminate weaknesses in my clients’ source copy and into being able to write clearly understandable copy of my own. That ear for language also comes in handy when switching between varieties of English – that’s why many of my American clients are surprised to find out I’m a Brit by birth.
Nerdy – and Lovin’ It
I’m a word nerd. I read books about language for fun and I find the origins of words fascinating. I love learning new ones and I love sneaking them into client copy even more. That means my clients are likely to get copy that’s fresh and new (don’t worry, I also know when clichés are appropriate, not that I’d recommend them). That, along with my language background, usually means I’m great at sniffing out nuances – useful when you’re trying to work out what clients really want.
Know what else I can spot a mile off? A misplaced comma or apostrophe. That makes me a pretty good proofreader. Although I don’t usually offer this as a stand alone skill, it comes in handy for editing ebooks and the like. I still occasionally get someone to read over my work, especially if I’ve been staring at it for a long time. But luckily this runs in the family – my go-to person for this is my sister, who is an excellent copywriter for a national health store chain in the US and is one of the few I trust to check my work (she’s just as ruthless as I am).
From an early age, I’ve been uptight about punctuality. Someone said to me the other day: “You’re like me: 5 minutes early is on time, and on time is late”. That’s pretty much true. My clients benefit because they all get their work on time and if there’s ever a change to the schedule they know about it early – ask them and they’ll say I don’t miss deadlines. But I also don’t like to rush good writing, so I usually build in a couple of days between the drafting and polishing stages so I can approach my writing with fresh eyes.
And here’s the biggest one – and it’s why I remain pretty much a generalist. I’m a polymath or multipotentialite – that means I love learning about and tackling new topics. I’m a voracious reader of an eclectic bunch of stuff. I learn something from all of it – or at least get new questions to ask. This helped me a lot as an academic and as a journalist – and it helps me now as a professional writer and blogger. I love spending time on research and making sure the information is verifiable from multiple sources – triangulation should be my middle name. And of course, I love asking questions – ask anyone I’ve interviewed recently. (By the way, I stole that last subhead from my friend Rebecca Leaman).
Beyond the Quirks
So these are my quirks. I’m sure I share at least some of those with other writers but they make me the person – and writer – that I am. And there’s one final thing. It’s not so much a quirk as the way I like to live both my personal life and my professional life. I believe that my word is my bond – I don’t make promises that I know I can’t keep. That means my friends know they can trust me – and my clients do too. I will never sell them a service they don’t need or knowingly let them go down the wrong path – and I can sleep at night.
What trait that people considered weird or nerdy in your youth is part of your brand today?
This post is part of the May 2012 Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners started by Tea Silvestre, the Word Chef. Check out the rest of this month’s excellent lineup here. (Image: Paul Downey/Flickr)