In a crowded market, clients will be seeking personality as they read what you've written -- they'll click right past pages that feel "been there, read that." They're looking for a voice that says, "Hey, client, this is me!"
They want to know not just what you deliver -- but how. Will you be funny or serious? A perky cheerleader or a sardonic commentator? Will your view of life be based on "believe and it happens" or "what you see is what you get?"
Here are some tips to add your own voice to your writing.
1. Write from the heart.
Too excited, passionate or angry to sit still? Best time to connect with your voice. Grab a pencil and scribble ideas as you jump around the room.
2. Say something new.
After forty articles on time management, your readers know about cutting projects into manageable chunks and setting priorities. Ho hum. Try "better than zero" or "turn your life into a time warp."
3. Tape yourself talking to a good friend about a product.
Do your words sound different when you speak than when you write? Transcribe the tape into an article for easy reading.
4. Picture your ideal client (you do have one, don't you?). Imagine that she is gushing about your service to a friend -- highly recommending you. What words does she use to describe your services? What emotions come through?
5. Cut. Then cut again. When you have to trim your piece to meet a word count requirement, notice that you're left with the most essential words -- all yours.
6. Write fast. Get the words down before your inner critic has a chance to participate. Edit later.
7. Reveal yourself: family, mistakes, secret dreams. When you feel just a bit embarrassed, or feel your private persona has become more public, you've probably just touched your audience's heart.
8. Be concrete -- not abstract.
As writing guru Natalie Goldberg would say, "It's a geranium, not a flower."
9. If you've had voice training, be especially alert to creating the bland and the blah.
Julia Roberts could hold an audience while she reads the telephone directory. Your copy has to stand alone, without dramatic oratory. Exercise 3 may not work for you.
10. Don't be afraid to break the rules: use slang and contractions. And it's okay to begin a sentence with "and" or "but."
Just tread carefully on the rules of grammar and spelling. "Your about to head off for you're great adventure" can be a credibility-buster.
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, editor, and consultant. She helps clients who want to use writing to sell and sell what they write.