We live in an age of constant communication through multiple channels. Written correspondence can be as full of care and effort as a handwritten letter, or as “sweet and short” as a tweet or a text.
The line between professional vs. personal and formal vs. informal addressing of someone can blur these days. Conversation channels have often changed how we write, but we are still human, and we all appreciate being approached in the correct context of a relationship.
How we open and close our correspondence shows how much we know about the person we're speaking to and why we are contacting them. In today's world of content overload, we as careful writers want to ensure we engage each message and audience with language that fits.
If we're addressing someone we know well, i.e. a friend or a family member, a fail-safe salutation remains Dear (First Name). When sending an email, we usually write Hi, Hello, Greetings, or Good Morning, Good Afternoon, or Good Evening.
Salutations in personal correspondence are followed with a comma (i.e. Dear Samantha,).
In a phrase (i.e., including more than one word) the norm would be to capitalize all words if it stands alone (i.e. Good Afternoon) and capitalize only the first letter if it includes a personal address (i.e. Good afternoon, George).
The closing phrase in personal written communication depends on the type of relationship and the tone the writer wants to convey. Just a few include:
The first word is typically the only one capitalized in a personal closing; however, we are free to capitalise all words if we want to.
Also note that personal closings are followed by a comma (i.e. Your friend,).
A business relationship can be close or distant, but in either case, we must remain aware of a professional context with proper boundaries and degrees of distance.
The salutation Dear (Name) can be used as the writer sees appropriate in business correspondence. The name can be the recipient's first name, full name, or last name preceded by Mr., Mrs., or Ms. If unsure of a recipient's gender, include the full name and exclude the prefix.
Salutations in business correspondence are followed by a colon (:) if formal or a comma if informal.
In any case, be diligent about spelling names correctly, including a person's use of hyphens and second capital letters (i.e. Mary Perkins-McMurtry as opposed to Mary Perkins Mcmurtry).
Often the salutation can include the person's title. Include the last name if it is known or exclude it if it isn't. This context will almost always be formal.
In today's business communication, we avoid the once-acceptable salutations Dear Sir or Madam and To Whom It May Concern. Such openings suggest the sender did not take the time to learn basic details about the recipient, and this may not make the best first impression.
To finish business correspondence, you can use one of several commonly accepted sign-offs as you believe fit. As with personal messages, first-word capitalization is considered standard.
Just like please and thank you, proper salutations and closings are small and simple investments that can help you reap desired returns.
Yes, you might think you can never ever have some time off. After all, you are your business and it is nothing without you – or is it?
1) Taking care of yourself is taking care of your business
It’s no news to us that your business is only as good as you are. If you don’t let yourself relax every now and then, you’re not doing what’s best for your bottom line.
2) Enjoy quality time with your friends or family
It’s no secret that spending quality time with family and friends is important, and business owners don’t seem to get enough of it. If anything, you deserve some time to sit back, relax and enjoy the people around you who make life worth living.
3) Distance creates perspective
Getting away will allow you to get out of the rut and gain some new perspective. Meeting new people, experiencing new things, and just getting some time to think can give you some much-needed distance from your business.
Now that you understand that it’s better for you and your business to take a vacation, let’s look at five steps to prepare your business for your well-deserved break.
Check your calendar
Summer might be your busy season. Still, find a time in your schedule that has the least amount of meetings and deliverables due. Select those dates and block out the time you need to get away.
Prepare your employees
Select someone you trust to be in charge in your absence. Your vacation is an opportunity for that team member to step up and prove themselves. They’ll want it, and they won’t want to let you down. Make sure that person knows what decisions they are allowed to make and what needs to wait until your return. That person should also know where you are and how to reach you, in case of an emergency.
Let your clients know about you taking a break
If you have a client-based business, let them know that you’re leaving for a short period and when you will be back. Make sure they know whom to contact in your absence and make sure that person knows about any current issues your clients are facing.
Wi-Fi is everywhere
There aren’t many places left in the world where you can’t get online if you need to. If there is an emergency, you’ll be able to get in touch and address the issue.
Schedule check-in times
I know it could be seen as counterintuitive to everything else in this article. But - 15 minutes of checking your email in the evening will keep you up to date on any issues and will give you peace of mind that your business isn’t burning down without you there. Select an agreed-upon time of day and, of course, a time limit of checking in before you leave to avoid any squabbles during your vacation.
If you don't know where to start, contact me, I can help you prepare for your well-deserved break.
some thoughts on websitesRead Now
Some people are really appalled by spelling mistakes on a website because it seems unprofessional. I know you are NOT unprofessional; you are probably very good at what you are doing, that’s your focus and rightly so!
My focus is on spelling and grammar, and on performing website polishes, so your potential clients will stay on your website!
Read on for some facts and ideas you might not have thought of before.
When was the last time you polished your website?
Good spelling, correct grammar and the appropriate use of punctuation will give page visitors more confidence in the person (or the company) communicating with them. Spelling errors and grammatical mistakes can change the meaning of your message, which might result in misinformation.
“PR and marketing pros know that poorly written press releases and messaging have a detrimental impact on press pick-up and audience engagement. But website content is often not run through the same rigours as other content marketing copy—and new research by web services comparison site Website Planet reports that U.S. businesses with bad grammar and spelling mistakes on their websites will lose almost double the number of potential customers than those with typo-free sites. ..."
Website users learn what your organisation has to offer through the written word
A website is often the first point of contact for new customers. It should showcase your product or service and inform, educate, and engage your audience in the best possible way. It’s your ‘first impression’ stage so to speak and there is no doubt that this counts.
It has been reported that the timespan for capturing attention on a website is just six seconds!
Of course, design is important for a good first impression, but the user still has to learn what your organisation has to offer through the written word.
What impact then does it have if there are typos, spelling or grammatical errors throughout your website copy? What does your organisation’s credibility or brand stand to lose by failing to take steps to ensure its online copy is proof-perfect?
Have you ever left a website because it drives you crazy how slow it loads?
Recent studies show that the slower a website is, the worse the general user response. In 2019, Google observed that even a one-second delay in page load reduces conversion by 20%.
We want instant results …
It pays to know when you should use which file format, as changing usually decreases file size.
· GIF is ideal for images with few colours like logos.
· JPEG is great for images with lots of colours and details like photographs.
· PNG is the choice when you need high-quality transparent images.
If, for example, you need a 100x100px image and you have a 700x700px image, you can use a web-based image editor to resize the image to the needed dimensions. This lowers the file size of the image, thus decreasing page loading times.
The more images you use on your page and the bigger they are, the longer it will take to deliver the content to your potential customers.
Grammar on websites - how important is it?
Research found that visitors leave quicker when there are mistakes on the website—the time on site was reduced by 8 % on landing pages with deliberate typos and grammatical errors placed in them.
The longer-term outcome of people quickly leaving a site is that it’s penalized by Google because one of the metrics Google uses to rank your site is the bounce rate. High bounce rates signal to Google that a site is not trustworthy and therefore lowers its position in the organic Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
The same applies to Google Ads: the research found that web visitors are 70 % less likely to click on Google Ads with a spelling or grammar mistake. Since these ads receive fewer clicks, Google also lowered their position.
𝑪𝒉𝒆𝒄𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒌𝒔 𝒊𝒔 𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒎𝒚 𝒇𝒂𝒗𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒕𝒐 𝒅𝒐!
When you write a lot it might pay for you to take note of the tips in today's blog post.
There are a few ways you can check your own writing to make sure it sounds right, is (reasonably) free of errors, and generally is easy to read (unless, of course, you don't want your reader to understand you).
Editors do a lot more than catch errors. They tighten your text and make it more effective in conveying your message to your audience.
A text that hasn’t been professionally edited can often be spotted as easily as fridge art can be distinguished from gallery art. But that's for another day!
Some experts say that the font of your document should be Times New Roman (TNR). If you write a lot, it makes it easier to read, and I have found this to be true.
Font size should be 12 pt and the spacing between lines best be 1.5
Your eyes catch additional spaces easier this way as well as any misspellings.
This leads to the next point.
Zoom into the document if you have trouble reading it.
I would NOT recommend that you make the font larger, as that will change any formatting you had done, and once you add or delete text it will be harder to re-do the formatting to the same standard as you had it before.
I always use the Editor function in MS Word to have those most obvious spelling mistakes or grammar checked. Be aware of the language setting though, if you compare British English with American English, for example, there are quite a few differences. Thankfully Word shows you which English it recommends the amendments for; just keep that in mind!
After doing the computerized spellcheck, read again to see the things the computer doesn't know, i.e. the difference between ‘their', ‘there' and ‘they're'.
If you change a word at the last minute, make sure that you read the whole sentence again, or even the paragraph, as it might be possible that you changed the intended meaning with just one word. It happens - don't dismiss this idea!
When you read out loud, you will hear those differences.
And finally - let your story breathe … of course, only if time allows. Give it a break, then proofread it. This will allow you to view your writing with fresh eyes.
Editors do a lot more than catch errors.
They tighten your text and make it more effective in conveying your message to your audience. A text that hasn’t been professionally edited can often be spotted as easily as fridge art can be distinguished from gallery art.
But what really stands out is when lack of an editorial eye costs you money – and reputation.
Perhaps you’re an educational publisher who inadvertently included a very rude word from another language in a school text or a cookbook publisher who let a recipe go to print with a typo that turned a simple ingredient into a racial slur.
Either way, you have to recall the whole run, pulp and reprint and do major damage control in the media.
INDEPENDENT EDITORS ARE AMAZING AND AFFORDABLE, AND THEY ADD VALUE!
When you’re dealing with the text that’s your face to the world, you can’t afford not to get a professional.
A professional editor will most likely be ready, willing and able to tighten, strengthen and embarrassment-proof your text for less than the cost of the time it took to write it, let alone the time it would take you to rewrite it. They might even be able to have it back to you within an hour or two, especially if you have a good ongoing relationship.
Good text pays for itself in increased revenue – and with the revenue, you won’t lose because of a job disastrously done.
SOME THINGS ARE BEST LEFT TO EXPERTS
Electric wiring. Plumbing. Car repairs. Editing.
If you decide to cheap out and do it yourself when you lack the training and experience, you risk finding yourself shocked, all wet, left by the roadside … and that’s just if you mess up the editing, never mind those other things.
Everyone makes mistakes. All it takes is a few words that can be misread horribly, amusingly, or horribly amusingly, and you’ll get spread all over social media (and not for the reason you want) – or all over the floor of a courtroom (with a legal decision against you).
Don't let this happen to you!
IT’S A DOUBLE WHAMMY OF INCREASED COST AND REDUCED VOLUME
Bad grammar and spelling don’t just cost businesses traffic—which likely goes to your competitors—it results in you paying more for it when prospective customers and clients do proceed to click.
“It’s crystal clear that bad spelling and grammar can have a powerful impact on a company’s bottom line. The fact that businesses lose nearly nine in 10 more visitors to their websites because of typos should be a serious shot across the bows to bosses around the US. To make matters worse, visible typos make a site less visible on Google because it lowers their position in the search engine results pages,” said Shira Stieglitz, head of content and research at Website Planet, in a news release.
Business processes are the bones of your business. They need to be clearly defined, well tested, and documented.
Do you have your processes written down?
Or why not?
Improvement or not?
Process improvement can help you streamline your workday and do things in an automated way, without, of course, being a robot!
Where could you do with an improved process?
Let’s dive in!
What is a business process?
A business process is a set of tasks that supports your business to achieve a goal.
It helps you to deliver a product or service in a manner that is consistent, cost-effective, and clear to follow through, even when personnel changes.
If you have a business process in place, you know exactly what to do in any given situation, because you have thought about it once, tested it, and can utilize your insights all over again.
We do need business processes to prevent costly mistakes, and also to save some time, and standardize tasks.
When we do things, most of the time we just do them, without thinking much of it. It's routine, and it's in our heads.
And then comes the time when you can't do the jobs in your business and you need to have someone else do them - and then - what?
How can you explain to someone else what you are doing and why you are doing it the way you do it?
That's when business processes come in handy. At the basics, they cover the main steps and tasks for a specific process, written down, and accessible to the staff members you chose.
Once written down, they usually become clearer and quite often you discover that a step or task is really obsolete or could be done differently.
𝑰𝒇 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒅𝒆𝒇𝒊𝒏𝒆 𝒂 𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒃𝒍𝒆𝒎 𝒄𝒐𝒓𝒓𝒆𝒄𝒕𝒍𝒚, 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒂𝒍𝒎𝒐𝒔𝒕 𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒐𝒍𝒖𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏.
This has been attributed to Steve Jobs, and I love it.
When you start to describe a problem, you think about it, and possibly from different perspectives. You become more aware of your current situation, of your goals or desires.
And once you realise that a solution is NOT impossible, you have achieved so much already.
Talking it through with someone helps as well, as getting it out of your head, hearing your voice saying the words, makes it real.
Just don't stop there, discuss the solutions as well.
This will lift you up and make you determined to work on your solution!
We all use email every day. And while social media gets most of the buzz, it’s really email (social media’s less sexy roommate) that gets the work done, day in and day out.
All this means that if you own and operate a small business, you need to be sure that you’re taking full advantage of this wonderful tool. Step one is paying attention to how you come across when you send emails to other people.
Here are some thoughts about two commonly made mistakes:
A generic or hard-to-understand “from” line
Most of us pay a lot of attention to the “subject” line of our emails. It’s the headline and the thing that makes people open our emails in the first place.
But the “from” line is even more important because that tells the recipient who is sending the email. If it’s a friend, relative or company I do business with, I’m likely to open it regardless of the subject line. If I don’t recognize the sender, I probably assume it’s spam and click delete.
The other day I got an email message from “Theresa,” with a blank subject line. Well, even though I do know Theresa, she wouldn’t usually send me an email. I was therefore one neatly manicured finger away from deleting it until, at the last second, I remembered a Theresa I had contact with regarding some editing work a while ago.
Sure enough, she was sending me some important information, but it made me wonder: How many of her emails are regularly deleted?
Another similar faux pas is when the “from” line is simply an email address. That’s okay if your full name is part of your address, but not so good if your email address is something like firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s the solution? Try something like this: First and Last Name | Company. My first and last name, followed by my company name, either of which might help you realize who I am. You’ll find the vertical separator line that I use – “|” – by typing [Shift+\] or [Alt+124].
Not using a custom domain for email
You may not know this, but if you own a domain (e.g., www.marionmetz.com), you have the ability to create email addresses (email@example.com) that use that domain name (and sometimes at no additional cost).
However, I often see emails from small businesses and solo professionals who use Gmail, Yahoo! and other providers to act as their domain.
An example is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not only does this approach paint you as a hobbyist as opposed to someone who’s really in business, but it also represents a missed opportunity to help people find your website. When you create an email address that uses your custom domain, you are constantly advertising your company, as well as where it can be found on the web.
Like any tool, email is only as good as the way in which it’s used. Polish up your approach and start getting the full benefit from this important aspect of your business!
If you don't know where to start, contact me, I can help you.
When you work for someone else, your employer often provides you with a computer, a phone, an email address and/or business cards. The company has a logo, a website and procedures established for how to get the work done.
When you work for yourself, you start with none of that. It’s up to you to provide these things for yourself. And even though many professionals have come from a corporate past, they don’t bring many of these things into their own businesses.
Let’s think about that for a minute
Many small business owners assume that because they are small, they’re under the radar and they can get by without pulling together all the essential components of their business. But, whether you’re just starting out or already established and sitting pretty, here are five things that let the world know that you’re a professional and that you mean business!
Get a professional business card
Don’t get a free card from Vista Print. And don’t have them printed by yourself on your home printer! Have one designed by a professional, with up-to-date information and nice card stock. Your card makes an impression every time you hand it to someone – a small investment in a professional-looking card will make a good one.
Get a real email address
If you have a registered domain (www.YourCompany.com), it’s just a few more steps to use it for email (email@example.com). It’s worth the little bit of extra effort to demonstrate that you’re serious. Please leave firstname.lastname@example.org behind!
Get a professional headshot
This should be renewed every couple of years and used on your website, your LinkedIn profile, your bio, etc. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be done by a pro in a professional setting.
Create a consistent look
Presentations, brochures, online materials, etc., anything you show to clients and others should feel consistent. Don’t try to reflect a new expression in creativity in each piece. Use consistent fonts and colours, as well as consistent wording in the way you describe who you are and what you do.
Don’t skimp on your tools
Make sure you have what you need to run your business well. This includes a good computer, a reliable printer, and a dedicated place to work from. Invest in the software you need to do your work and maintain your business on the back end.
All of these things are easy to set up or implement, and relatively inexpensive. By doing them, not only will you give the world a better impression, you’ll feel like a million bucks!
One thing I love about all my clients is that you are all small business owners.
You're excited about your work and you’re passionate about your ideas.
You love your businesses (sometimes) as if it were one of your children.
And you spend a lot of time working.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that many of you don’t always feel like you’re getting anything done … despite the long hours and hard work.
You are pretty sure you're being inefficient and feel like there’s never enough time.
And that’s exhausting, so here are some tips for you!
Get clear about what you’re trying to accomplish
I see clients every day who are heading in 15 directions all at once. They jump from one thing to the next and back without any clear destination, always chasing the next shiny object.
The best way to become clear is to take the time to set measurable goals that are easy to articulate.
For example: “In 2022 I want to increase revenue by $50,000”, “I want 10 more monthly clients”, or “I want to delegate 10 hours of work per week to an assistant."
Make a plan that supports your goal
If your goal is to increase revenue by $50,000, identify five or six activities to support that objective. This might include raising prices, additional public engagements, attending more networking events, writing a newsletter or blog, publishing on LinkedIn, etc.
Be deliberate about this. This is how you are going to spend a lot of your time.
Set up support systems
In order to know whether you’re carrying out your plan, it’s important to track what you’re doing. Part of my plan to increase revenue this year is to be consistent with my social media presence. There’s no way I could track my progress in my head, so I have an excel spreadsheet to track my success each day/week.
Am I flawless in my execution? No. Does it help to see what I’m actually doing so I can make mid-course corrections?
Don’t be afraid to say no
If you get a request that’s not aligned with your goal, it’s important to say no.
If you have a bright idea that’s also not aligned with your goal (no matter how bright) it’s equally important to say no.
For example, I loathe one particular social media channel, and even though I know there are millions of people that would be able to see me, I say no to this.
It doesn’t align with my values.
Do your goal setting and planning in quiet.
Also, do it separately from your day to day activities.
Be clear in your language and remove any ambiguity.
Stick with it, even when you’re feeling short on time or energy.
Be sure to add time to keep updating your systems.
In the end, you’ll feel more focused, get more done and enjoy your business a lot more than you thought you could.
If you don't know where to start, contact me, I can help you.
Often I hear clients ask me: “How can I take my business to the next level?” Some even ask if there is some kind of checklist or template they can use in making this happen. Let's see...
A good place to start is to consider the problems first (and be honest about what it will take to fix them).
This may seem a bit backwards. After all, the business blogs and magazines tend to focus on tools and tactics that are intended to grow and improve operations or profitability. In my experience, though, until you fix the “messes,” you’re spending time and money in the wrong place. Problems slow you down.
As your business grows, your messes will grow right along with it if you don’t fix them. When that happens, you’ll be drowning in new work but are unable to do a good job since you’ll be beyond the point where ad hoc fixes and systems can support you.
Here are some examples of messes that escalate as your business grows:
1. Your email inbox
If you’re having trouble keeping up with your inbox now, think about what could happen when you reach your dream and your business doubles or triples in size. The volume of emails will double or triple, too.
So take the time now and figure out a system to manage your inbox.
2. Your contact list
You have business cards piled all over your desk, a private email account, a business email address, and a ton of LinkedIn and Facebook contacts. Right now, you can ‘kind of’, ‘sort of’, remember where to go to find a given contact.
But as you grow, particularly if you add new information to contacts, it will be too much to keep in your head. When you want to promote a new product or service, announce a new website, or even just send a holiday card, it will be a huge chore for you.
The solution is to keep all your contacts in one place. Choose a CRM and add everyone, once and for all. Create a system to keep it up to date.
3. Your finances
Whether you offer a service or a product, it’s important to know whether or not you’re making money. When you are just starting out, you might have more time than money and not be too worried about profitability.
But again, as you get busier, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not losing money on some (or all?) of your efforts. You can either take the time to figure this out or find yourself a capable financial resource who can come in and sort things out for you.
Messes are as individual as the person who makes them – but they’re all fixable. Make a list of all your messes and prioritize them according to how much they’re holding you back and how much money and time they are wasting.
Then either hire someone to help you handle them or make a list of actionable steps to get them under control.
Get rid of them one by one so you and your business can be bigger, more efficient, work less and make more money!