Tag Archives: business writing

Why Businesses Need Freelance Writers — Not Employees Who Also Write

By Stacey J. Haseleu

failure or success

Recently I went to a networking event.  I was speaking with an attorney that works for the government.  Long story short,  I found out that a lot of Social Security claims that get denied are done so after a lawyer reviews the medical documentation and decides if that individual is capable of gainful employment or not.

I worked in the disability management field for 8 years and NEVER knew this information.  My good friend, who is a practicing nurse and legal nurse consultant, was also a participant in the conversation.

After the networking event we sat at the stools of our local Applebee’s having drinks and expressing our utter shock and disapproval of this procedure.  How are attorney’s qualified to decide if an individual is medically impaired?  How is it even fair to the attorneys to make them read medical documentation and render an opinion without proper knowledge and education in the medical field?  Isn’t their time better served focusing on the legal aspects of their positions?

What a waste of legal resources, money, time, and, not to mention, how unfair for those people that are being denied based on medical information that’s not even reviewed by a medical professional.

The more I thought about this situation, the more I realized how much it parallels what most businesses do (or try to do) in today’s corporate world with writing and communication tasks.  They assign workers with no training or experience in writing to do a writer’s job.

For example, in my previous job as a Benefits Administrator, I was hired to manage leaves of absences (short-term disabiliy claims, FMLA, military, child birth leaves etc) for the company.  My major responsibilities included counseling managers, employees, and HR Business Partners on corporate policy.  I communicated claim determinations to employees and managed our disability vendors who reviewed the medical records.  My everyday job functions did include some writing and communication, but not original content creation.

During my employment, I was asked to lead a team in re-writing all of the department’s employee correspondence letters.  While I was excited at the prospect of dabbling in writing (what I longed to do professionally anyways), I found it very difficult to juggle my daily responsibilities while focusing on creating the best written product possible.

The company put together a team comprised of myself, my manager, and a (very pricy) consulting firm who didn’t specialize in writing, just document creation.

Soon I found myself in 2-3 meetings per week.  Each meeting lasted between 2-3 hours.  Something had to give — either I needed to stay extended hours to complete my other work, or the quality of my daily tasks was going to suffer.  I ended up staying overtime (without pay) in order to complete my daily tasks.  But the quality of my everyday tasks still suffered.  And the letters weren’t my best specimens of writing either.

Looking at this scenario, what the company ultimately ended up with was an over-worked employee providing mediocre customer service and performing her daily tasks at a lower level than normal.  The letters they got at the end of the project were usable, but not up to the standards they could have been.  And the project took over 10 weeks to complete.  Not to mention the hefty bill from the “consultants” they hired who, between you and me, only really slowed the process down.

Wouldn’t it have been much more cost-effective to hire a freelance writer to create the employee correspondence letters?  In doing so, I could have kept up the superb quality of work in my everyday functions.  The company wouldn’t have needed to hire a “consulting” company, and the final product would be polished, professional letters.

You see it all the time; businesses trying to “cut back” on expenses by tasking out multiple jobs to individual employees to “save” money.  What they don’t realize is that, in fact, they are costing the company more money than if they were to hire a professional contractor/freelancer to do that specific project.

This is especially true in the field of writing.

Instead of paying overtime wages to a benefitted employee they could just pay a flat fee to a writer.  Not to mention the consultant company wouldn’t be needed (major savings for the company). The writer would be able to focus squarely on the writing project at hand; thus, the employer would end up with a quality product in a shorter period of time, for less money.

You wouldn’t go to a bank if you broke your leg and needed a cast, why would you task out writing to anyone besides a professional writer?

 

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5 Reasons Written Communication Skills are Crucial to Your Career Reputation

By Stacey J. Haseleu

Texting on a qwerty keypad phone

What you write directly affects your reputation.  Although this statement seems pretty obvious, you would be surprised how many people think they can somehow get away with ineffective communication just because they’re writing and not speaking.

Working in the corporate world for the first 8 years of my professional career taught me a few things about communication.  One of those lessons is that people seem to become more brave and less careful when they communicate through writing than when they talk on the phone or face to face.

I would argue that effective written communication has more of an impact on your professional image in this day and age than verbal communication does for the following 5 reasons:

  1. Digital media is permanent; it can’t be “taken back.”  In the age of e-mails, text messaging, and “tweets” as the new tools for communicating important thoughts and ideas, people have become lazy.  They feel like they aren’t held directly accountable on the spot for what they say because they’re interacting with a computer rather than another human being.  How many of you have typed up an “angry email” in a fit of rage when you were completely frustrated by a work situation?  I bet ten minutes later you regretted sending that message.  But with the new digital age, taking back what we say is impossible.  What we write becomes even more important because it can essentially be preserved for years, which brings me to the second reason written communication skills are more crucial than verbal…

  2. Body language isn’t apparent through an email.  When you email a colleague, client, or your boss, even if you think you’re being cute and witty, that person may not take what you write with the same humor that you wrote it with.  I’ve seen it many times.  Someone writes a comment to a co-worker thinking it’s a funny, sarcastic way to end an email and World War III erupts in the office.  When you write your business thoughts, you have to be extremely careful not to try to insert wit, humor, or sarcasm.  These are qualities that can be appreciated in verbal interaction through body language and voice intonation, but as of yet, we don’t have a way to convey these emotions through emails and text messages (especially since emoticons and text-speak like LOL and BTW aren’t appropriate in the business world).

  3. Most first impressions are made through written communication.  When we apply for jobs, the first form of communication we have with our potential employer is through our resume and cover letter.  If we don’t make the right impression through these documents, we can forget about an interview, let alone getting a job.  The words we choose and how well we convey our thoughts and ideas is crucial to perspective employers and to moving up in the company we’re currently with.  If you can’t communicate effectively in your resume and cover letter, then chances are you won’t advance in your career.  If you need help making the “write impression” with your resume contact me for a free quote.

  4. Written communication is more difficult than verbal communication.  When you meet with a client, colleague, or boss, you have the ability to interact back and forth and to ask one another questions to clarify statements you make.  While this is still possible through written communication, it can become tedious and time-consuming.  With that being said, when you initially send a written communication to someone, it’s imperative that your writing to be concise, comprehensive, and clear.  People have a tendency to write in code, that is, they don’t write what they mean to say.  Written communication can make people turn into clumsy communicators, trying to use large words to impress their audience.  Instead they end up looking stupid because the audience understands the communication would never be used in a verbal conversation.

  5. Written communication has a larger audience.  The one thing you’ll always hear me preach to my clients is that “audience is king.”  Everything you write should be tailored to your audience’s specific needs.  When you speak to a group of individuals, narrowing down your audience is easier than when you write.  When you are speaking, your audience is directly in front of you.   You are able to take into account age, ethnicity, and usually corporate status (ie is this a CEO or a mail delivery clerk?).  When you write, though, you cannot tangibly see your audience in front of you.  And this is where most people make the mistake of thinking that because they can’t see their audience, they don’t have to tailor their writing to any particular demographic.   Since your communication has the potential to be spread to more than one audience, it becomes crucial to recognize all of the possible individuals who may read your communication.  If you use large words you may lose some members of your audience.  If you write with an informal tone, you could offend your superiors.  All of these aspects can be taken into account when verbally communicating without much effort.  Written communication is challenging in this aspect because without seeing your audience, you must be aware of any potential viewers of your piece.  You must always take into account that whoever reads what you write has the potential of “forwarding” what you wrote to another audience (a secondary audience or even a third group).

With the evolution of business communication shifting from face-to-face interaction to emails, LinkedIn accounts, and text messages, understanding the importance of written communication is crucial.  So the next time you sit down to write an email to a colleague, client, or superior, remember the 5 tips above.  Would you say what you write to your boss face to face?  If not, you may want to rethink what you wrote.

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