Today I will describe three things a writer should do to survive in business if they have a full-time job. The object is to contribute to the success of the company and become a valued employee while keeping your sanity and a reasonable amount of free time (especially if you want to do other types of writing after hours). Yes, many workplaces are grim these days, but a lot of people are still finding challenges and having fun.
Strategy #1: Never Become a Manager
Some writers in business are articulate and likable, and these poor souls are in danger of becoming managers. Don’t be tempted. I have worked for many wonderful managers, but I was always very clear about what they were and what I am. Managers manage, writers write. How do you want to spend your time? Managers generally make more money, but not necessarily in the long term.
And situations vary enormously. I have a friend who is very experienced and specializes in working for small startups where he is the only writer and, in effect, his own manager. He adds value because he understands what kind of pieces a young company needs, and he has the stimulation of always working on new material. In large companies, senior writers are often pseudo-managers who edit and mentor younger and less experienced writers, which can also be very rewarding.
Strategy #2: Constantly Search for New Writing Techniques
The only constant in business is change, for better or worse. If you want to keep your manager happy and yourself employed with bonuses and salary increases, you will need to keep up with current trends. Make sure you are the writer who knows about the latest technologies so you get the plum assignments writing about them. Also find out about the latest tools (there will be plenty of companies ready to sell them to you) so you can request company-paid training on them. One easy way to keep up is to join an organization such as the Society for Technical Communication, which serves as a source of information and training on new trends for technical writers and technical marketing writers.
Examples abound of technology transitions. Years ago, for example, all companies provided printed manuals. Few companies still do, and the emphasis now is on online help facilities using new tools. Today manuals that are written are usually no longer printed, but delivered as PDFs. However, small introductory pieces (e.g., “quick start” guides) still need to be written and printed.
Possibilities for technical writers are now far more interesting and varied, and also include designing tutorials and usuability testing. You have to make sure you are the one who works on these new projects as they come up – and perhaps even proposes them.
Know the Latest Marketing Tools and Trends
Marketing is always coming up with new techniques that need written pieces. A simple example is the move from printed to online ads and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Another example is the newsletter. Few companies mail traditional newsletters now without providing the option of receiving an email notice and a link to a downloadable PDF version. Other companies provide a newsletter email with a set of teasers and links to the actual articles. This strategy not only provides the ability to track which articles are most read, but also allows articles to be picked up by search engines, which can drive more readers to the company website.
Need I mention social media? Although proponents (and entrepreneurs) like you to think they’ve created something totally new, the way the message is delivered is newer than the writing slant itself. Helpful customer pieces, rather than self-serving marketing pieces, have always been the most sought after by prospects and customers.
Make Sure You Have Access to the Marketing Automation Software
You may have noticed even more email offers than ever before in your Inbox. Companies are now using marketing automation software such as Eloqua and Marketo to develop emails more quickly and track them more accurately. If you are writing promotional emails already, your techniques won’t change much, but you need to be the person who knows how to use the tool and who works well with graphic designers if you don’t want to be left behind.
Strategy #3: Write Something for Yourself Every Day
Some days writing in business is as meaningless as raking leaves. If you live to write, you need to write something for yourself every day – whether it is a journal or a letter or email to a friend or a page of a novel or some creative non-fiction. If you do this faithfully, you will not only keep your business writing fresh, but you may be able to quit your day job some day and write what you choose all the time.