Some of our writers have been working with a gentleman by the name of Jared Kessler.
This article and call summary would be a great resource for anyone who is looking to hone their writing skills and processes. Creatives, managers, and business owners alike can all benefit from Jared’s thoughts on creation and methodology.
[Reading time: Approximately 14 minutes total]
Don’t have 14 minutes to spare? Skip below to the section that you need the most. Below you will find recommendations for:
- A- Eliminating Errors & Editing Processes
- B- Time & Creative Energy Management
- C- Capturing the Client’s “Voice” and Creating Great Content
- D- Gaining Confidence in Your Writing
A Quick Background on Jared:
As a university student, Jared studied psychology but after he graduated, he found himself working with a various marketing agencies that had access to high-level clientele. Eventually Jared transitioned to working on his own, forming Jared Kessler Creative (JKC) in Seattle, Washington.
Jared has 10+ years of experience as a professional copywriter and has worked for brands such as HP, AT&T, Hyatt, T-Mobile, and many more. Before he was exposed to the larger brands of North America, Jared also worked with a few agencies that dealt with smaller clients, giving him insights on the entire spectrum of organizations, from large to small.
Our Objectives Going into the Call:
Before our call, Jared sent us a series of questions to mull over, hoping to get to the source of our most prominent needs. Below are the questions and our answers:
1.What are you struggling with?
-Proofreading and Editing
-Time management when dealing with multiple writing projects
-Productivity -> planning to compensate for highs and lows of creativity and mental energy
-Changing mindset or “voice” for various clients / identifying the audience
2. What are your expectations?
-Gain tools/insights/strategies that we can implement immediately from an experienced copywriter.
3. What do you want the outcome to be?
-Successfully implement advice and incorporate into the Hiilite processes for other writers to benefit from.
-Create content with fewer errors.
-Minimize the amount of time spent editing.
-Increase writing confidence.
Jared’s Thoughts on Editing:
One of our largest pain points that Jared identified was editing. He empathized with this himself as he is very much a creative and not much of a natural editor. Jared went on to explain that all creatives have strengths and benefits. After gaining some experience and working with a wide range of clients and assignments, writers should be able to identify where their strengths lie and where they may be lacking. Once these areas of strengths and weaknesses are identified, some of the pressure can be taken off of each contributor as they seek help from others in the agency. If you are an amazing “ideas person” but seem to find yourself creating content with errors quite frequently, perhaps teaming up with a true student of the English language could be beneficial. If someone on your team can edit your creative content, in return, you can provide them with a creative flare when they are stumped.
A- Reducing Errors and Streamlining Editing ->
-Use Grammarly-> There is a free and a premium version. The premium version may be a worthwhile investment for a team of writers.
-Edit last -> Even if you have a million tasks to get, you can’t let your mind wander and worry about creating mistakes. Let the creative process take hold, let the words flow, and when you are done, and ONLY THEN, do you worry about editing. By doing this you will create higher quality work and might even decrease natural errors when your mind is at ease.
-Editor -> As an organization grows and the amount of content going out on a daily basis increases, it may be a good idea to designate an individual who enjoys the finer details of the written language as the Editor. Alternatively, a formal Editor may have to be brought onto the team in the future to help sift through the growing workload.
-Try different mediums -> If you are really struggling with errors, try printing your work out on paper. Content plays completely differently on a screen versus in physical form. Read it out loud or tape it to the wall and read it from a step away. You can read a sentence on screen 100 times and miss an error that is blatantly obvious on a printed out sheet. This should not be done for every single task as we care deeply about the environment here at Hiilite- make sure you recycle the paper when finished ????
B-Time and Creative Energy Management->
-Take a break -> As a writer, or any creative for that matter, you need to be mindful of when your ideas are flowing and when they are not. We all have highs and lows when it comes to creative energy and we need to respect those moments throughout our day.
“Many people think they are productive just because they are sitting behind a desk for 8 hours.” – Jared Kessler
When you are on, dive into your work and enjoy the moment. When your attention or creativity begins to wane, take a break. Get up and move. Watch a funny Youtube video. Go get a coffee with a coworker. Schedule these moments into your day if you have to. You are not doing your company, your client or yourself any favours by trying to power through tasks when you are not productive. The end goal is to create great work, not to create mountains of mediocre content.
-Construct a timeline -> When a project kicks off, construct your own timeline as soon as possible. Break it down into different writing mindsets such as brainstorming, idea formation, rough drafting, writing, reviewing and editing. Everytime you step away from a piece and come back to it, your fresh eyes will catch mistakes and new ideas may come to you. This of course is for larger projects and content pieces. For the smaller recurring tasks perhaps set yourself several tasks.
-Mix the Mandatory with the Fun -> When you work at an agency or any business really, there is some client work that is less than exciting by nature. These clients keep the lights on and allow us to chase our creative pursuits but as writers. Look at your task list for the day or week and try to mix these dry pieces of content with the projects you are actually excited about. By bouncing back and forth between these two types of writing, you will keep your brain alert, creative, and the day will pass by much easier.
-Ideas Are Like Butterflies-> These little buggers can be so damn beautiful but if we don’t catch them, they fly away forever. Just like a master butterfly hunter…scientist…(what are the dudes that catch butterflies called?) you need to equip yourself with a wide range of tools to capture your amazing, fleeting ideas.
Additional tools and recommendations for Creative Management:
- Keep an active list of ideas or projects on the Notes app on your phone. When you think of something throw it in their right away. Review this weekly.
- Keep Post It notes around your desk and home. This when when a brilliant idea strikes you can write it down. Do you have a new project or theme that you want to expand on? Write that on a note and stick it somewhere that you will see it often (bathroom mirror etc.)
- Waterproof paper. Stay with me here. Have you ever had an amazing idea in the shower and by the time you get out and dry off its evaporated with the steam? There are waterproof paper/pen systems you can get for the shower. I’ve followed Jared’s recommendation and purchased one and I’m never going back. He recommends this product specifically -> Aqua Notes Waterproof Notepad. With a catchphrase like, “No more great ideas down the drain”, can you really go wrong?
C- Capturing a Client’s “Voice” and Creating Great Content ->
-Gather Everything You Can -> If you are working with a new client, the writer assigned to the project should 100% be involved in kick-off meetings. The more you can interact with the client and the individuals that represent that brand the better. In addition to face-to-face time with the client, ask for their brand guidelines and any past marketing materials they can share. Dive into their social media accounts and subscribe to their newsletters- the more interaction you can have with their brand the better.
-Ask What’s Working (and find out what’s not)-> Interview the client and discover what marketing materials and content have worked so far and build off of those pieces. You should also ask for any examples of ideas or campaigns that have flopped.
Sometimes you can gain access to the client’s analytics for this purpose if you are lucky! Ask nicely and explain the purpose if you are not the one who control their website/social media. If you do have access to their site internally, ask a developer for some help if you are unfamiliar with the process.
-Don’t be Discouraged -> Perfecting the “voice” of a client or company is incredibly difficult. Give yourself some time to find your groove and have some fun with the process. Try to picture the brand, logo, or company as a person or character. What do they look like? What would they say? Jared recommends taking some time to free write in the client’s voice or tone before diving into any actual projects. Remember… some of the best writers in the world take a couple months to fully incorporate and develop a voice for their client. Great things take time.
-Boil it Down-> Once you have done your research, try to boil each client down to 3-5 words. This is the essence of the client and a great guide and test for you and other employees to use. For example, you might define a client as “Bold, Cool and Classy”. Once you have this distilled version of their voice, you can always ask yourself…”Is this content that I have just created bold, cool and classy?”
D- Gaining Confidence in Your Writing ->
-Positive Reinforcement Works-> Writing is a little weird. As writers, our output is often directly judged by clients and coworkers which is not always the most pleasant experience. All creatives go through this process, this is one of the reasons why designers and writers get along so well. Developing the habit or culture of positive reinforcement is extremely important for all creative teams- it keeps the spirits high and inspires continual improvement.
How can your team do this?
1- Enforce the habit yourself! When you see a coworker (or even a client) has created something amazing, tell them! When you see room for improvement in their work, first highlight what is right and great, then gently approach the issue at hand and provide thoughts and recommendations. Giving criticism without constructive suggestions doesn’t help anyone in the organization.
2- Share the end result! A massive project requires many moving parts. Writers, designers, devs, project managers, photographers; we all work together to create great work, but the problem is that many of us don’t see the final product or hear what the client has to say.
-Research Competitors- If you are writing for, let’s say an airline, you might think to yourself, “ I’m not a pilot, an engineer, or a flight attendant, what do I know about the commercial flight industry?”
One way to gain confidence in an unknown market or project is to see what the competitors of your client are up to. Imagine for a moment that you have just been awarded a project from Southwest Airlines and you have been tasked to write a series of social media posts for an upcoming campaign. A great place to start is on the Facebook page of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. Jared is not suggesting that you steal their ideas; this is simply an opportunity to get a feel for the industry, providing insights into what works and what falls flat. You might be surprised at some of the content that knocks it out of the park for some of their competitors. Delta Airlines made a video with the text “Drink local. Fly global. Enjoy National Beer Day in flight with one of our local favorites” and received over 30,000 views! Find comfort in remembering that this is not rocket science and have fun with the process!
-Fall in the Love with the Art and Science of Writing- If you want confidence in your writing, fully embrace your role as a writer- it sounds simple but it works. If you adopt a curious mindset that never stops learning and developing, your confidence will increase exponentially. By reading blogs, books, listening to podcasts and talking with other writers, you will acquire new techniques and viewpoints that will greatly increase the quality of your work and give your confidence the boost it needs.
Jared Recommended Resources:
- High Income Business Writing Podcast with Ed Gandia (Jared was actually a guest on here, check it out) -> #151: Jared Kessler on ‘Upleveling’ Your Copywriting Business
- Copybloggers Blog
Additional recommendations from Alex
- The Tim Ferriss Podcast often features amazing writers and creatives, here are a few to get you started -> Tim Urban, Niel Strauss, Cheryl Strayed
- Books that will change the way you approach writing: Writing Down To The Bones, The Artist’s Way, The War of Art, Stephen King: On Writing
There you have it! A wonderful collection of recommendations and insights that you can implement right NOW to increase the quality of your work and your value as a writer.
Happy Writing ????
Still not sure where to start or need to hire a writer?