The Society of Professional Consultants

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The purpose of this blog is to provide information to help consultants and solo professionals. Please contact us if you're an active SPC member willing to provide content for our blog. 

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  • Tuesday, April 02, 2024 3:56 PM | Patrice Davis

    I often tell the story of the mild anxiety I used to feel as a new consultant when I read a prospective client’s email. It wasn’t because I wasn’t happy to get the email. It was because I was knee-deep in client delivery mode. I was already working on a client deliverable, had a proposal to create and send, and a few meetings to schedule.

    I wanted to respond immediately but felt obligated to maintain the momentum of the task at hand. Far too often, I would respond several days after they made the initial contact and, who knows, maybe if I'd responded sooner, I could have had more clients.

    This scenario is what life was like for me as a new business owner who hadn’t yet learned the joy of automating certain business processes to save time, eliminate anxiety, and accelerate sales.

    What is automation?

    According to the International Society of Automation, automation is the creation and application of technology to monitor and control the delivery of products and services. IBM describes automation as the use of technology to perform tasks where human input is minimized.

    In a consulting business, automation can be used for functions such as marketing, customer relationship management, scheduling, financial management, payroll, project management, transcription, and more.

    How automation is used in my consulting business

    At Grants Works, automation is used for lead generation, lead qualification, lead nurturing, scheduling, onboarding clients and team members, email marketing, social media management, and research. There are other processes I plan to automate as the company grows.

    How automation saves time 

    It’s not hard to imagine how automating repetitive tasks can save time. Creating automations means you can keep business processes flowing while you’re in a meeting with a client, devising plans with your team, or completing on a client deliverable.

    How automation increases revenue and ROI

    Quite simply, automation increases revenue by shortening the sales cycle. Deskera defines the sales cycle as a series of steps that a company takes to turn a prospect into a customer. So, automation either drastically reduces how long each step takes or may eliminate a step or two in the cycle.

    Automation can also increase your return on investment (ROI) because the application can complete many tasks over a shorter period than it would take a person or several people to complete those same tasks. So, instead of paying a person to send a marketing email each time a lead is engaged, the application does it…automatically. 

    Automation also allows you to upsell or cross-sell products which means--more revenue. It allows you to segment and customize marketing messages and even price points based on what you know about the prospective client.


    Patrice A Davis is the founder of Grants Works Consulting, a government grant compliance consulting firm and the founder of Ready Set Go Consult, a consulting business accelerator for freelance or independent consultants who want to build, grow, and scale their consulting businesses. We teach strategies on how to operationalize their businesses, use their intellectual property, build thought leadership, and more. To learn about the accelerator, watch our free training on the Ready Set Go Consult website.

  • Monday, April 01, 2024 2:41 PM | Erica Holthausen

    Stories are powerful. But they aren’t the only effective way to share your ideas with your audience. And if you are afraid that you are not a good storyteller or aren’t telling stories the right way, this emphasis on storytelling might be holding you back.

    Yes, the power of stories is undeniable.

    Stories bring data, facts, and figures to life by giving them context and meaning. They help us connect with our audience emotionally and intellectually, and that connection allows us to get our message across in a way that is not only memorable but persuasive. A good story can capture people’s hearts and change their minds.

    But have we taken this emphasis on storytelling too far?

    Stories can help, but they can also harm.

    When we think about stories, especially within the context of business storytelling, the underlying assumption is that stories are good for our clients, good for our businesses, and good for the world.

    But stories are not inherently good; they are merely tools.

    A well-told story has the power to engulf our minds. It can help us see the world differently and open our minds to new ideas and possibilities.

    When the message the story imparts is positive, a story can make that message clearer to the audience. It can help the reader understand the idea by giving it form and substance. Moreover, it can compel the reader to take action and implement the idea because they see how to do it and know what they expect if they do it well.

    But what if that message is not true?

    In an interview on HBR’s IdeaCast, the literary scholar and author Jonathan Gottschall raised concerns about the “storytelling industrial complex.” An entire industry has been built around teaching businesses how to tell more memorable and persuasive stories. Many talk about the potential of a good story to “go viral.”

    It’s an apt metaphor.

    Stories don’t care if the message you wish to spread is true or not. The job of a well-told story is simply to spread the message encapsulated within it. And because stories are so powerful, a good story can inspire good people to do horrible things.

    Purdue Pharmaceuticals is the now-defunct manufacturer of OxyContin, one of the highly addictive painkillers at the center of the opioid overdose epidemic. Its marketing strategy was based on an uplifting story about helping those with chronic pain get back to the life they love. This story was bolstered by countless studies, underwritten by Purdue Pharmaceuticals, that claimed the drug was effective and non addictive.

    What doctor wouldn’t want to help their patients live a fuller life? What salesperson wouldn’t take pride in helping people live without pain? When the only story you hear is one where you are the hero, it’s hard not to get excited.

    Stories are tools, and like all tools, they can be used to help or harm.

    Not every article needs a story.

    We know that stories are powerful tools, especially when you’re trying to share your message and capture the fleeting attention of your audience.

    But many articles don’t need a story.

    If you’ve ever looked for a recipe online, you’ve experienced the unnecessary story phenomenon.

    All you want to do is make Mediterranean chicken for dinner. But to get to the recipe, you have to slog through a long, pointless story about the food blogger’s entire family, the time they spent in Greece as a college student, their son’s gluten allergy, and their super-picky daughter who, shockingly, loves this particular dish.

    Sharing a story before sharing the recipe is not inherently wrong — so long as it is relevant. But many food blogs share pointless stories that are way too long in order to boost their SEO (search engine optimization).

    Your reader’s time is worth more than yours.


    If a story doesn’t serve your reader, if it doesn’t add real value, or worse, it detracts from the point you’re trying to make, delete it.

    Stories aren’t the only way to illustrate your point.

    As humans, we use storytelling to make sense of the world around us. And we’ve been telling stories for as long as we’ve had language.

    We all know how to tell a story.

    But today, there are countless books, articles, and businesses dedicated to the art of storytelling. You can read about the Hero’s Journey, developed by the mythologist Joseph Campbell, dive into Donald Miller’s StoryBrand framework, or check out the framework promoted by the good people at Pixar. And if none of those work for you, plenty more people can teach you how to tell a good story.

    But the truth is, we’ve over complicated things.

    And that has created a false story about our ability to tell a good story. The fear that we aren’t telling a story the right way and the belief that we are not natural storytellers stops us from sharing our ideas, experiences, and wisdom. And that’s a disservice to those with insights to share and those who wish to learn from those insights.

    If telling a story feels intimidating, try reframing it. Focus on sharing illustrative examples, scripts, or case studies that help your reader understand the point you are making in your article. Write about the client you worked with who had the same challenge you’re addressing in the article. What were they struggling with? How did you help them? What was the result? And what can your reader learn from your client’s experience?

    Debra Roberts, a conversation expert, regularly writes articles for Because she is teaching her readers how to initiate and navigate difficult conversations, she often shares a simple script or sample dialogue to demonstrate how a conversation can escalate into an argument and how to interrupt the pattern to keep the conversation from escalating. These practical examples give her readers a place to start when fear of saying the wrong thing keeps them from engaging in critical workplace discussions.

    Whether you make your point through a story, illustrative example, script, or case study, keeping the reader in mind is essential. Only use these tools when they help your reader and make it easier to understand and implement your ideas. You are writing to serve your reader. Eliminate anything that doesn’t directly serve them — even if it’s a damn good story.

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Harvard Business Review, Inc., and Entrepreneur. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Thursday, March 21, 2024 11:19 AM | Frieda Wiley

    Regardless of whether you consider yourself a writer or enjoy writing, you likely know that it takes a bit of mental equity to put pen to paper. Nowadays, not only has content remained king, but its “kingdom” continues expanding—largely fueled by drivers such as increased consumer demand and the enhanced use of artificial intelligence. As a result, consultants need to explore new avenues to work smarter and not harder while demonstrating their value.

    One of our colleagues, Erica Holthausen, has written extensively on how writing can increase your credibility—a fact that writers can further monetize into additional consulting opportunities. But how can you do so efficiently without burning out? Gridding offers one plausible solution.

    Gridding is a term I’ve borrowed from my journalism ventures. It describes how you can repurpose one idea, pitch, or concept without significantly increasing labor or workload.

    Allow me to illustrate this concept by using an important milestone in my career as an example. In 2019, I wrote an article about sickle cell disease for the now-defunct-yet-still-highly respected Hearst media publication, O, The Oprah Magazine. At the time, the magazine was one of my dream clients.

    The piece required me to identify experts and conduct a great deal of research to write the article. Ultimately, I had amassed far more information than I could include into an article of ~1,000 words—regardless of how concisely I wrote. Determined not to let those unpaid labor hours and omitted content go to waste, I pitched concepts based on the unused information to additional publications and organizations that might find it of value.

    Doing so successfully required me to understand how to tailor my language and concepts to each organization’s perceived needs. For example, Oprah Magazine was a consumer magazine read by primarily women between 40 and 60 years of age. While the audience included professionals and people of affluence, most readers had limited backgrounds in science or medicine.

    Therefore, I had to simplify my writing and focus only on information the readers would find relevant. Any other information was omitted (and I had quite a bit of it). I used the excised information to pitch various on the same topic tailored to medical trade journals. Because those audiences comprised medical professionals, I wrote my pitches (and subsequent articles) using sophisticated jargon typically used in the scientific community. Doing so increased the likelihood the editors would accept my pitches by demonstrating that I understood how to engage their target audience. And, of course, sharing that I’d previously covered the topic demonstrated my credibility and the newsworthiness of the piece.

    One of my pitches focused on the ethnic idiosyncrasies associated with sickle cell disease, as it typically affects communities of color. Another article addressed issues with medication access, as the three new medications that the Food and Drug Administration had approved for sickle cell disease that year bore six-figure price tags.

    Ultimately, I placed three additional pieces on this topic in separate publications. Not only did this more than quadruple my revenue from what began as a single article, but my increased familiarity with the topic allowed me to write faster and with greater authority. I could pull unused content from interviews, research, and content without doing much additional work beyond writing the article. The pieces also expanded my influence. One reader, who happened to be on faculty at the State University of New York (SUNY), invited me to speak at a global health panel hosted at her institution.

    For all its glory, gridding does come with one important caveat. Some writing and consulting projects may have contractual stipulations in which the client claims ownership of all materials created. So, the prudent consultant must review the contract or consult an attorney before making that content work harder. In my case, Hearst required that I receive permission to use unused material, and I was fortunate. Not only was the editor on board, but she showed genuine interest in knowing what other organizations published my articles and the extent of their influence.

    That said, gridding definitely gives more weight to the saying, “The riches are in the niches,” doesn’t it?

    Frieda Wiley, PharmD is the founder of Medvon Media and Consulting, LLC, an communications and strategic consulting firm. An award-winning writer, best-selling author, ghostwriter, and speaker, her client history includes O, The Oprah Magazine, WebMD, the National Institutes of Health, Pfizer, Merck, and many other notable organizations. Her book, Breaking Crazy: Working From Home Without Losing Your Marbles, is available through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and wherever else books are sold. 

  • Tuesday, March 05, 2024 10:22 AM | Laura Burford

    You pick-up the phone and hear…

    ​“I was referred to you. I understand you are the expert, the Go-To-Person. I believe you might be able to help me.”

    ​As you listen your face lights up. You get off the phone. You are ecstatic. The person who called understood your focus, that one thing for which are known and the person who referred you understood your expertise. That is GREAT!

    ​Has this ever happened to you?


    I love it when a client calls to say it has happened to them. I can hear the joy in their voice and their face is glowing. They talk about how easy the conversation was and how the next steps include a discussion about a consulting opportunity.

    The first step to becoming a successful “go to” consultant is having clarity as to your WHAT, for want you want to be known, and WHY, the reason for doing what you do.

    Determining your focus requires self-reflecting, assessing, and evaluating you in three areas:

    • Understanding who you are and what matters to you.
    • Leveraging your experience, expertise, and strengthens.
    • Determining what a client needs, desires, and open to paying for assistance.

    Determining your FOCUS, your What and Why, is a balancing act.


    But before I discuss each in more detail, let me clarify what I mean by FOCUS.

    Focus is your consulting business’ FOUNDATION.

    Think about the foundation as the base of a house. Getting the foundation right occurs before a builder can add the frame, roof, and windows. If the foundation is not properly set, the overall structure is weakened.

    The same holds true when establishing a consultancy. You want ensure the foundation, your focus, is solid because it impacts just about every major decision you make within your business starting with how you define and find an ideal client to engaging with and building long-term client relationships. Clarity as to your focus helps you find people who want to work with you and for whom you want to serve.

    Get you focus right and you can soar. Get it wrong and it is very possible you will struggle or even fail.


    When I started my own business, my focus was too board. I was considered the Jack of all Trades, the Master of None. I heard comments such as you have a great business plan; with your experience and expertise you wouldn’t have any problems; and you might want to connect with a ___________ (fill in the blank).

    Looking back, I wish someone had pulled me aside and offered hard love questioning my focus because my focus was not that one thing that would make me soar.

    Overtime I narrowed my focus down to an area of information technology for which I knew people needed and wanted assistance. I knew they were willing to pay for help but there was one problem. It was not an area of information technology that I enjoyed.

    My internal compass was not aligned with the external need and no matter how hard I tried my heart wasn’t into it. There was no joy in running the business.

    It took me time to get my focus right. I wish I could say I was unique but I am not. Many consultants struggle with clarifying their focus.


    Below is an approach to help you clarify your FOCUS – your What and Why. It is the approach I discuss in the Consulting Mastery program. It is an approach that requires you to self-reflect, assess, and evaluate.

    Start by understanding who you are and what matters to you. This requires you to

    • assess who you are and want to be,
    • evaluate what matters to you and is important to you, and
    • determine the effect you want to leave on others

    You define who you are not only based on what you have done in the past professionally and personally but also based on what you want your life to look like in the future.

    You evaluate what you like as well as dislike to do. Ask yourself what lights up your face when you talk about it. People say to me that when I talk about helping people become successful consultants, my face lights up.

    You contemplate how you define success, success on your terms, not someone else’s. So often we define our success based on someone else’s definition.

    Understand You is all about you. This is “Your Zone.” It is where everything seems just right for you. Life feels and is comfortable.


    Next Build on You. This is not about reinventing who you are. Rather it is about building on what you have already done. Many of us have done things because we needed to do them or people expected us to fill certain roles. As you assess your experiences, expertise, and strengths, you may need to change your mindset.

    Start building on you by assessing your professional and personal experiences. Highlight what experiences brought you joy as well as those that you wish you never experienced.

    Evaluate your expertise. Has someone put you on a pedestal because of your expertise? If so, why? You might be surprised to learn that the place on the pedestal, is an area you have never considered.

    Finally, assess your strengths. You want to leverage your strengths and place your weaknesses on the sideline.

    Don’t be surprised if you experience an “aha” moment as you evaluate your experiences, expertise, and strengths. The first time I seriously evaluated them, I did.


    Finally, evaluate the Demand and Desire. It identifies what people are open and willing to pay to get your assistance. It is a merger of their need and want. The easiest way to illustrate this area is to describe a scenario which I’ve encountered several times and you may have as well.

    During a meeting, a person describes something that they would like or they want. They continue by saying they really need that something and provide a reason. However, the more you dive down and discuss that like, that want, and their need, you realize they are never going to be open to paying for any assistance. You might even realize they will never do anything. There is a need and a want, but no demand and desire to pay.


    The Small Sliver

    ​After assessing you, evaluating your experiences, expertise and strengths, and the demand and desire of people, combine your findings. Evaluate everything and look for areas of overlap and mergers. Keep evaluating until you find a point where all three intersect. This intersection is a small sliver of everything you have reflected on and evaluated.

    This point, this small sliver, is where you will find your FOCUS.


    Key: You could end up with several “things” in that small sliver. If that is the case, and that is common, ask yourself what are you most interested in. Often what you are most interested in is the problem you want to solve or the problem you solved for you.

    If you follow this approach, can I guarantee that you will get your focus right the first time? No, I can’t. But I can guarantee you will be closer to determining a focus that you will enjoy, built on who you are, your experiences, expertise, and strengths, and it iwll be something for which people not only need assistance but for which they are will pay.

    What I can ensure is that by following this approach will move you closer to determining that one thing for which you become known as the expert or the "Go To" person.

    Sara Blakely said it well,

    “Differentiate yourself. Why are you different? What’s important about you? Why does the customer need you?”

    My question for you: Do you have clarity as to the one thing for which you want to be known?


    Laura Burford helps solo-consultants create sustainable consulting businesses. She is the founder of Laura’s Consulting Guide and the creator of the Consultant's Blueprint and Consulting Mastery program. Check out her YouTube channel and sign-up for Consulting Insights newsletter.   

  • Friday, March 01, 2024 7:05 AM | Erica Holthausen

    High-quality, original articles position you as an authoritative expert. They capture your readers' attention and add to critical conversations about today's world. But how do you know if an article is good enough to pitch to a high-visibility publication?

    I developed the CORD Framework™ to help my clients evaluate the editorial quality of their articles. Refer to this framework when you rewrite your article and again during the editing process, and share it with anyone who reviews your work before you submit it. As you review your article, evaluate each of the four elements of the CORD Framework.

    Is your article cogent?

    Writing is not about the ink; it’s about the think. And a big part of that think is determining the best way to present the information you are trying to convey to your audience. A cogent article appeals to the mind. It is clear, logical, and convincing.

    A cogent article presents a compelling case in support of a specific position or viewpoint. It starts by providing the reader with the context they need to be able to understand and apply the actionable insights presented. A cogent article makes it easy for the reader to understand the point you are making and to follow your argument. It is useful to the intended reader and gives them the tools they need to change their mindset, thinking, or behavior.

    Is your article original?

    High-visibility publications only publish original work, which means work not published elsewhere, including on your website or social media. But the fact that your article hasn’t been published elsewhere is insufficient to ensure it is worth publishing.

    Every idea has a lineage, so your article doesn’t have to present ideas that have never before been considered. (That would be a prohibitively high bar.) It does, however, need to demonstrate independent thinking.

    An original article presents a strong voice and a clear point of view. It builds upon your experience and positions you as an authoritative expert. It may go against the grain or point out where others in your field oversimplify or overcomplicate the matter.  

    Is your article researched?

    If you want your articles to build your authority, they must be based on more than mere conjecture. While it is not necessary to conduct an in-depth study, it is essential that the insights you present in your article be based on evidence and grounded in fact. To accomplish this, you might conduct desk research and cite other experts in your field or share anecdotal evidence related to your own experiences.

    Every project you tackle is an opportunity for you to conduct field research. It is an opportunity to observe the process you and your clients underwent to diagnose and treat the problem. It is an opportunity for you to deepen your learning so you can share that learning with a broader audience. 

    Is your article deep?

    A high-quality article adds to the conversation, not to the noise. It doesn’t skate along the surface of an issue but explores the nuances, offering insights not found elsewhere. Because articles are only about 1,000 words, each piece must explore a narrow issue to achieve any depth. That specificity, however, allows you to approach the issue from several angles, each serving as the foundation of another article.

    High-quality articles meet each of these criteria. This type of writing requires more effort and cannot be outsourced to generative AI. But that effort pays dividends. Writing and thinking through your ideas is tremendously valuable regardless of whether your work is published. When you publish your work, it not only helps you build your reputation as an authoritative expert but also creates an appreciating asset that you can reference and share repeatedly.

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Harvard Business Review, Inc., and Entrepreneur. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Friday, February 23, 2024 12:48 PM | Vanessa Khan

    Transitioning to a new career may seem overwhelming, daunting, and even fear-inducing. Even as a solopreneur, pivoting our business offerings and embracing various opportunities to generate new streams of revenue through diverse industries can be challenging. It will take confidence, perseverance, and fearlessness to delve into new territory. However, if you are ready to take charge of your own career path, there is no time like the present! There are three main reasons for changing careers; opportunities that come to us, opportunities that we seek out, or changes imposed upon us. What do these scenarios have in common? You. You have the power to shape and control your career path and to construct what success means to you. If you are seeking a career change, here are 3 tips to get you started!

    A) Define What You Want

    In the age of information and social media, time is the new high-value commodity. When we think about the notion of time as a commodity, the reality is that many of us work at least 40 hours a week. Wouldn’t it be great if those 40 hours could be spent toward a career that you are passionate about? The pandemic presents an opportunity, if we allow ourselves to see it, to change careers and embrace a new path. This is a great opportunity to think about your dream career.

    Start by defining the role you want, and the key motivators for switching careers. Are you motivated by salary, innovation, culture, opportunities for career advancement? Do you enjoy working with a team or as an individual? Defining the descriptors of the role will help to identify the type of work that you are seeking. These elements will help build your criteria and career map for your search.

    B) Evaluate Your Skillset

    Once you have an idea of your ideal role, it’s time to evaluate your skillset. Analyze your career history and identify transferable skills that can be utilized toward the career you are seeking. Do you require additional education, or do you have enough practical experience (volunteer and career) to put your name forward? Unless you are seeking a specialized role, it’s unlikely that there will be a requirement for additional credentials. However, if you do require additional credentials, invest in yourself! Empower yourself to learn new skills and experiences that will allow you to bridge the gap to achieving your dream career. 

    C) Network

    Network! Network! Network! Be fearless when you are networking and ask for what you want. If you know the job you are seeking, then mention it to your existing network and other contacts that are recommended to you. People genuinely want to help, but they need to know what it is that you want.

    The value of networking has been proven time and time again. Consider networking as experience to hone your skills toward relationship management. Rekindle your existing network, and ask to speak to contacts who are in the field that you are interested in pursuing. There is a wealth of knowledge in shared experiences and perspectives, not to mention you will be laying the groundwork for joining the community in the job you seek.

    Finding a new career can be challenging. However, once you find one and build a life that you truly enjoy, it is an incredibly rewarding experience. If you are having trouble identifying what your ideal job is, there are resources that can help. Career coaches and mentors are wonderful soundboards to help identify, navigate, and structure your career goals. In today’s job market, ideal candidates possess strengths such as effective communication, relationship management, problem solving and analysis. Your dream career may be closer than you think!

    Vanessa Khan is Management Consultant with a focus on IT and a Business Advisor to small enterprises. She is passionate about creating and implementing strategic frameworks to solve complex problems. 

  • Thursday, February 01, 2024 10:02 AM | Erica Holthausen

    You’ve likely written countless blog posts, articles, newsletters, and social media posts to share your expertise. After a while, it can feel like you’ve said all you need to say. Staying energized and engaged in the process can be challenging when that happens.  

    I get that. 

    But if you stop now, you will lose the momentum you’ve built. So, how do you keep going when you feel like you’re running on empty?

    Repetition builds your reputation.

    No one is paying as much attention to your content as you. You feel like you’ve said it all before, but your audience doesn’t feel that way. Yes, you might have people in your orbit who have been around for a while, and they might even remember you saying something similar in the past. 

    But you are not the only person they follow. And they are not the only person you connect with through your writing. You constantly connect with new people on social media and gain subscribers to your email newsletter. These newcomers are just starting to dive into your work, so they need you to share the wisdom you shared before. 

    Repetition is what builds your reputation. If you stop sharing your core expertise and start sharing something novel and exciting to you, you risk confusing your audience. And when our audience is confused, they stop paying attention.  

    The people you serve need you to keep saying what you’ve been saying.


    Because they know your message is important but aren’t sure how to take action on it yet, and they want your ongoing support. That’s why they follow you!

    Think about the folks you’ve followed for a while. Does it feel like they’re repeating themselves? Or does it feel like they are providing good, solid information with a handful of reminders and back-to-basics foundational information tossed in? 

    Your audience feels the same way. 

    Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and thought it was okay, then watched it again years later and thought it was fantastic? The book or movie didn’t change. You did. 

    As we grow and change, we receive the same message differently. Your job is to share your message and meet your audience — the newcomers and those who’ve been around for a while — right where they are.

    Finding new ways to talk about the same old idea.

    When I say repetition builds your reputation, I don’t mean that you should just share the same article again and again and again. That won’t serve you or your audience. Instead, I want you to share the same ideas in new ways. 
    Here are five tips to help you find new ways to talk about the same old ideas: 

    1. Collect and share illustrative examples. Think about the experiences you’ve had in your life. Which ones illustrate a point you make when working with your clients? These examples may come from a project you worked on, a speaking engagement, or a podcast interview. But they might also come from a visit to a museum, a book of poetry, or an art class. Each example you have (even if they illustrate the same point) can serve as the foundation of a new article. Different examples will resonate with different audience members.

    2. Segment your audience. Your audience is not a faceless mass of humanity. It is made up of individual humans with different life experiences, needs, and desires. Whether your audience includes people across the corporate hierarchy, from executives to managers to employees, across sectors, from business to nonprofit to government, or across skill levels, from experienced to novice, each segment needs something different from you. Write articles that speak directly to the needs of each segment so you can meet every member of your audience where they are.

    3. Consume business content with intention. Be an active consumer, whether reading a book or listening to a podcast. Look for statements that illicit a reaction. What is that reaction? Do you strongly agree or disagree? Is the statement oversimplifying something or overcomplicating it? What is the author or speaker missing? Write a piece responding to that content; don’t be afraid to dive into the nuances. That’s what sets you apart. 

    4. Revisit old material. Read blog posts, newsletters, and social media posts (paying particular attention to the comments). You grow and change, too, so this can be a rich resource for new articles. Read your work critically. Has your thinking evolved since you wrote that piece? Is there more you can share? Can you dive a little deeper into it? If so, write about it. 

    5. Take time to refill the tank. Read books and articles, listen to podcasts, watch movies, take a class, or visit an art museum. Allow inspiration to come from unexpected places.

    ​It may feel like you’re repeating yourself. But that’s because you know your stuff! You, my friend, are the expert. Your audience isn’t. Don’t make them work hard to learn from you. Keep sharing your wisdom!

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Harvard Business Review, Inc., and Entrepreneur. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Wednesday, January 31, 2024 12:03 PM | Vanessa Khan

    In November 2020, I attended a virtual conference which featured Earvin “Magic” Johnson as a keynote speaker. Magic began his career as a pivotal force on the basketball court, playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Upon his retirement from the sport, he traded his jersey for a suit and tie when he embraced becoming a businessman. Presently, Magic is a successful Entrepreneur & Philanthropist, and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises. How did he make the successful transition from the basketball court to the boardroom? Over his career, Magic built a professional and recognizable brand as a dedicated and passionate athlete whose influence is still felt on the game. After retiring, he took a risk and applied his recognizable brand to the business world by becoming an Entrepreneur. Here are 3 lessons that Entrepreneurs can learn from Magic Johnson.

    A) Mentorship & Coaching

    Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s multi-faceted career is exemplified by his two passions, basketball and business. Already a prominent force on the court, Magic pondered his career post basketball and accepted opportunities off the court to nurture and expand his knowledge in business leveraging career coaches and mentors. His determination and passion in entrepreneurialism has allowed him to build a successful company known as Magic Johnson Enterprises.

    The value of mentorship and career coaching has been a proven factor for entrepreneurs and corporate employees alike. Similar to a professional coach of a team, a career coach will push their clients to challenge themselves by expanding their comfort zone. Coaches understand the strengths and weaknesses, as well as the potential and value that their clients have to offer. They provide the necessary clarity and focus for their clients on how to achieve their goals. Most importantly, as we tend to be our worst critics, coaches are there to help us refocus and reiterate the power of our potential and presence when we fail.

    B) Understand Your Customer

    A key piece of advice that Magic Johnson shares is to understand your customer. It is this defining characteristic that helped him build an empire. Learning from his own experiences while growing up, he was able to find success by identifying gaps in markets. For example, watching movies was a favourite past time for him and his friends, however the neighbourhood where he grew up did not have a movie theatre. As the owner of Magic Johnson Enterprises, he opened the first movie theater in that community. Following this move, he opened multiple movie theaters in communities where none previously existed. This successful endeavour allowed his theaters to be acquired by AMC theatres.

    With the success of Magic Johnson Theatres, Magic applied a similar strategy of identifying underserved markets and partnered with Starbucks to open additional locations in communities that were previously overlooked. In understanding his customers and key demographic, he also contributed and changed the Starbucks menu to appeal to his customers.

    A successful business venture starts with identifying potential markets and understanding your customer. In meeting your customers’ needs, those same customers become your brand ambassadors.

    C) The Importance of Diversity in Strategy

    Diversity in opinion, experience, and perspectives are key factors of a strategy for any business to thrive. In demonstrating his philosophy of “understanding your customer”, Magic took a risk in opening theatres and partnering with Starbucks to open locations in market demographics that were previously overlooked. Magic challenged businesses to change their definitions of success and embrace a new business model by tapping into underserved communities. Ultimately, in forming partnerships with businesses he was able to provide a voice to communities that did not have one, and in turn allow companies an opportunity to gain market share in overlooked areas. Businesses need to evolve to thrive, and part of that evolution is welcoming fresh perspectives that challenge and disrupt the status quo.

    The success of Earvin “Magic” Johnson off the court has been a captivating journey. His strong brand recognition as a professional athlete is a defining characteristic that allows him to provide a voice for equity and inclusion for undervalued communities. With his powerful brand and strategic market savvy, he generated opportunities for investments into communities that were underserved. Another defining characteristic is his ability to take calculated risks. In partnering with businesses, Magic demonstrated success through risk taking and identifying new opportunities for market expansion that benefitted communities. Thank you, Magic, for challenging and disrupting the status quo.

    Vanessa Khan is Management Consultant with a focus on IT and a Business Advisor to small enterprises. She is passionate about creating and implementing strategic frameworks to solve complex problems. 

  • Tuesday, January 02, 2024 8:26 AM | Erica Holthausen

    None of us have enough time, so we’ve got to make the best use of the time we’ve got. If you want to make more time for your writing, you’ve got to be intentional — both with the time you set aside and how you use it.

    Writing abides by Parkinson’s Law. In a 1955 essay in The Economist, British naval historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote: “It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” He wrote the essay as a criticism of the British Civil Service, but that first line resonated deeply with his audience and became the basis of several articles, a book, and a robust speaking career.

    Parkinson’s Law is well known to writers because we’ve all experienced it. That simple article you’re writing? Well, it will take up as much time as you allow. 

    That’s good news and bad news.

    The bad news is that if you set aside an entire day to write a 1,000-word article, it will take the entire day to write it. The good news is that if you only have an hour, you’ll get the piece written in an hour. So how can we use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage? 

    Five steps to developing a robust and sustainable writing practice.

    One of the best ways to take advantage of Parkinson’s Law is to start a writing practice. Developing a writing practice will get you used to writing quickly, imperfectly, and on a tight deadline. Your writing practice is a practice. It must become part of your routine to be effective. Sticking to your practice is the only way to make it part of your routine. Set yourself up to succeed by following these five steps:  

    1. Start small. If you don’t already have a writing practice, start with something easy — something that fits in with how you work best. Don’t start by promising to write at least an hour a day because you’ll get frustrated with yourself and quit. Instead, start with a 10-minute writing session every day or a 30-minute writing session once a week.

    2. Experiment to figure out your natural writing style. Some writers do best when they have big chunks of time set aside for writing. Others prefer short, intensive sprints scattered throughout their day. Others adopt a hybrid approach. Take the time to discover what works for you and build your writing practice around your writing style.

    3. Honor your schedule. What other responsibilities do you have to make time for? Which are most important? If your writing practice interferes with another commitment, you won’t stick to it. Build a practice that fits into your life, whether you’re writing first thing in the morning, late at night, or on your lunch break.

    4. Keep your commitment. Once you’ve scheduled your writing practice, stick to it. It’s much more important that you show up for yourself and your writing when you say you will than that you produce a certain number of pages. And if you feel a lot of resistance, know that it’s normal. Sit with the resistance and refuse to give up, even if that’s all you do that day.

    5. Forgive yourself when you miss a session. Even the most disciplined writers miss a writing practice. When that happens, forgive yourself and pick up where you left off. You don’t have to make up the missed practice — that can snowball out of control quickly and add unnecessary pressure to your writing practice. Just get back to work and remind yourself why you chose to do this. 

    Give yourself the time and space you need to make your writing practice a part of your routine. As you get comfortable with a short practice, you can build upon it and start adding structure and definition to each writing session.

    Make the most of the time you have.

    To make the most of the time you have available for your writing practice, embrace the shitty first draft. Not only will this make you a faster writer, but it will make you a better writer and a deeper thinker. 

    By writing your first draft as quickly as possible, you get all your ideas out on the page without interrupting yourself and stopping the flow of your thoughts. Once you capture your ideas on the page, you can refine and polish them until they are ready to be shared publicly.

    The key to establishing a writing practice is to be intentional and create a practice that fits your schedule and suits your writing style. The more you write, the easier it will be, and the more you will enjoy the process. 

    To get started, schedule some time on your calendar right now. Commit to writing a shitty first draft of an article, email, or LinkedIn post. And then keep that commitment to yourself and your writing.

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Harvard Business Review, Inc., and Entrepreneur. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Friday, December 01, 2023 7:56 AM | Erica Holthausen

    If you read the introduction to this series on becoming a more effective self-editor, you know that writing and editing are two distinct processes. While many people edit as they write, you will be a better and faster writer if you separate these two processes. Similarly, editing has two phases. You must focus first on the developmental edit, which improves the structure and organization of a piece. Once the structure is sound, you can focus on the substantive edit. 

    Three steps to completing a substantive edit.

    The substantive edit is a line-by-line edit intended to make your writing clear and compelling. If your writing is confusing, complicated, or wordy, your reader will abandon it. To complete your substantive edit, follow these three steps:  

    1. Trim the fat. Look for opportunities to tighten up your writing. Read your article aloud. If you run out of breath, your sentence is too long. If you have to reread it because you're not sure what you were trying to say, you might be making that sentence work too hard. Try to eliminate 10% of the words on the page. Clear and concise writing is compelling. Writing bogged down with redundancies, multiple adjectives, weak verbs, and filler words is a slog to read. 

    2. Strengthen the language. Strive to be clear, not clever. Minimize jargon, eliminate clichés, and use hyperbole sparingly. Use the passive voice when you wish to emphasize the action or when the actor is unknown, irrelevant, or obvious. While the active voice (where the individual or entity taking action is the subject of the sentence) is often more direct and compelling, it can result in a tortured sentence structure. 

    3. Sweat the details. Start each item in a list with the same form or a verb, and ensure numbered lists are presented in the proper sequence. Read the article backward to catch spelling errors. Pay close attention to homonyms so you write right. 

    The more time you can allow to elapse between the writing phase, developmental edit, and substantive edit, the easier it will be for you to identify and correct your mistakes. Every writer relies on crutch words or phrases. These are particularly difficult to recognize when you're evaluating your own writing. 

    Self-editing is hard, but it is also a skill you can improve. Download and use The Substantive Edit Checklist the next time you need to edit your writing. The better you become at editing your work, the more compelling and authoritative your writing will be.

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Harvard Business Review, Inc., and Entrepreneur. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

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