Business Communications - Why a Business Needs a Freelance Writer
Business Needs Freelance Writers
Businesses, large and small, farm out a lot of work. They hire accountants, lawyers, web developers, IT specialists, computer technicians, and advertising firms. They hire plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and painters. They hire independent office workers, cleaning services, and heating and air conditioning firms.
They hire all of these folks for two reasons. First, it's cheaper than paying them as salaried employees. No benefits, no sick days, no vacations, no FICA, no hassles. But the main reason businesses farm out work is because they need special talents, expertise that's beyond the skills of existing employees.
Bad Writing Costs Businesses a Fortune
The American College Board did a study in 2004 of 120 major corporations in the Business Roundtable. The study was updated in 2013. The study was not a small sampling. Questionnaires were sent to over 120 human resource executives and the response rate was 53.3 percent. These companies employ over four million workers. Take a sip of water. The study found that over one third, that's about 1.33 million employees, are deficient in writing skills. More than 40 percent of the firms surveyed say they offer or require remedial writing courses for their employees. One respondent estimated that his company sends 200 to 300 employees annually for remedial writing training. This translates into an enormous amount of money wasted by American corporations. The study, which was headed up by former Senator Bob Kerry, also found that the price tag for poor writing is about $3.1 billion dollars a year. It costs $3,000 per employee just for remedial writing training.
Do You Have the Talent on Staff?
Business Writing - Not a Do-it-Yourself Job
A business communicates with the public and with its existing customers. If it doesn't, it's no longer a business. Whether it's a press release, a policy change announcement, or a holiday good will message, a business must communicate - or die.
Yet there is one area of specialized skills that most managers think they have in-house: communicating with the written word. They wouldn't dream of setting a staffer loose on a legal or tax question, but they think that every employee knows how to write. But we're in a world of flying thumbs and Internet shortcuts. We're in a world of communications such as : "c u l8 ter."
Many executives and business owners don't think that writing is a specialized skill, just an application of a basic education. And this is how a business often gets into trouble. As the Business Roundtable study found, there is a crisis in writing skills in American companies. So even if a manager would like to assign writing assignments to current employees, he or she has a very limited pool from which to draw.
Even if a company has an employee who is a talented writer, chances are that person was hired to perform other valuable tasks. For example, a skilled programmer from the IT department has to set his work aside to tackle a writing assignment. Who does his job while he is writing?
Writing is a craft, a specialized set of skills. A professional writer knows that writing means more than a sentence with correct grammar, although that's essential. It means more than correct spelling and punctuation, although they're essential too. A writer knows that writing means communicating a message, telling a story. What is a press release? It's a story. What is a letter to customers or clients? It's a story. What is a business plan? It's a story.
What Writers Know
Writers know how to tell stories, fictional or nonfictional. Writers know that a story has to grab a reader's attention in the first couple of sentences, and then keep the reader's eyes on the page until the end of the story.
Writers know that sentences need to have an impact, not just correct grammar, punctuation and spelling.
Writers know that needless words are needless.
They know that the active tense is almost always better than the passive.
They know that excessive use of adverbs is lazy writing and bores the reader.
Writers know that the right word can mean the difference between a good message and one that falls flat.
Writers, at least the good ones, know that they write for the reader, not themselves. They know that it's not their job to call attention to themselves with cute phrases or million dollar words. They know it's their job to talk to the reader.
Writers know these things because they practice a craft, the craft of writing.
Does it Make Sense for a Business to Use Freelance Writers?
Yes, it does. I mentioned the problem of Internet writing and the trashing of the language for the sake of speed and brevity. Twitter, useful as it may be, creates havoc with the English language, and a lot of other languages at that.
So yes, it makes sense to hire freelance writers. A company may have a few excellent writers who have the time to devote to writing, but the odds are poor, as the Business Roundtable study suggests.
What Kind of Assignments Are Appropriate for Freelance Writers?
Here are but a few:
- Press releases - Say it wrong and you may as not well make the announcement.
- Annual reports - They're on paper. You need to get it right. These reports are read by investment advisors as well as individual and institutional investors. Not a place for an amateur writer.
- Business Plan - A lot of cooks make this stew, and one of them should be a professional writer.
- Announcements to customers or clients. Most of these are wordy snooze inducers. Writers can make them powerful.
- Speeches. A good writer knows that a speech has to grab an audience just like a reader.
- Any letter of significance to a customer, supplier or potential partner. Screw one of these up and a fortune can be lost.
- Website content. So many websites never change because management never gets around to adding content. Let a writer do it.
- Blog posts - If you can't say it well, don't post it. Let a writer handle the task.
- Facebook posts - Like blog posts, Facebook, the mother of all social media sites, screams for good writing.
- Tweets - A good writer can pack a lot into 140 characters.
- White Papers. A white paper, sort of a how-to manual, is an article of about five to ten pages. It's not as blatantly sales orientated as a product brochure, but rather is intended to educate the reader on an issue, an issue that's related to your business.
Corporations and professionals hire freelance writers for a reason. They recognize that their message, indeed their brand, requires a professional touch.
© 2013 Russ Moran - The Write Stuff