Some of my clients love to write. Some love to talk. All of them love their product, and deservedly so — they put out excellent products and services. They come to me because they need a little help telling other people about what they do and how they do it.
Conversations with Entrepreneurial Hearts
I love the interview part of the process. We sit, and we talk about their passion, their ideas, their drive. We get to the heart of their story and entrepreneurial dreams.
Then it’s time to tackle the research. What have they got, what does it look like, what do they want to do, what do they want me to do, with words, in what way …. all to make their story come alive? Do they want to reach their prospects right in their to-do lists, or help someone find a dream? Will they strive to strike a chord deep in their prospect’s intangibles?
Sometimes I get pretty well written original outpourings of entrepreneurial heart, complete with links, quotes, and long digressions that meander through their story. Usually writing that long isn’t ready for “prime time”. Pages of the history of their world through the creation of their big idea can simply overwhelm their prospects. My job, then, is to tease out the essentials and shape the right tone like a carver with hammer and chisels.
Sometimes I get an outline and some links and a request to “make some magic happen with words.” So I set out their dream on a potter’s wheel. Together we shape the look and feel of their sketch, transforming it to a warm-fired reality.
Once in a while, I’m starting a project a bit blind, before a good conversation can take place. These blind requests usually have been strained through the garlic press of LinkedIn ProFinder. If I’m lucky, I’ll at least get a few big globs of text I can then figure out what to do with.
Globby Text of Unknown Provenance
I learned how to spot plagiarism long ago and far away, in a land before Internet Time. It’s a pet peeve with me, probably because I was wrongly accused of it in grammar school (but the Kipling copier got an A+!!).
But just as there is a difference between the sound of typing random letters and typing actual words, there’s a cadence to writing. Even bad writing has a structure and flow, though it may stop and start. And a good editor can smooth out the rough spots.
When writing simply jumps off of a cliff, performs superhero feats, and then limps around awkwardly to a finish line after performing a random Shakespearian couplet, it can be easier to see that something is wrong, even if you aren’t sure exactly what the “wrong” is.
If you’re a more visual person, picture a swimsuit model’s bellybutton or elbow joint Photoshopped out of existence.
Either way, you know something is wrong with what you’re looking at, but you’re not quite sure what. It might not be an easy error to pick out, so you have to dig a little.
A rose by any other name can taste quite so sweet
I ran into some odd globs of text a few years ago. My client had me editing vendor-submitted work for text and flow, for style and substance. Some of the phrasings really did look odd. Not as if they were copied straight from the internet but just mismatched and awkward enough to raise an eyebrow. A few hard searches later, I found a number of the sources. A word changed here, a phrase mangled there …
After the fourth uncredited source of copied text turned up, I gave in and signed up for a free trial of Grammarly. Eye-opening and a time saver. Indisputable proof of plagiarism and a weak re-write trying to cover the fraud. It was a pain in the butt to rebuild the work along the same concepts, cutting away the graffiti of plagiarized sections and building them anew with fresh, researched, original content.
That client, at the time, did not have “plagiarism” clauses in their vendor contracts. I advised them to add one; as far as I know, they have not. If I had continued to work with the client, I would have insisted that they figure out what their response to plagiarism should be, and add the definitions and penalties to all vendor contracts.
As it was, I got a valuable modern update in how to spot plagiarism and lazy writing in the age of the internet, and found a great new ally of a tool in Grammarly. I ended up paying out of pocket for a premium subscription to work with that client, and continue to use it in my writing and on client writing every day, to this day.
And I started a little list of “vendors I should never hire to create content for me.”
Dr. Frankenstein’s Content
I’ve been deploying Grammarly on client-submitted research lately. LinkedIn ProFinder gives you a mere 1,500 characters to convince a potential client that you’re the professional they need. The cut-throat design requires you to submit your mini-proposal before the event-driven submission window closes. You don’t have a lot of time to write a super-personal pitch every time, though with practice you can hit the high points quickly and reliably.
But when you hit the right note, and manage to gain an audience with the potential client despite the enormous odds, you’ve got a lot to cover in the “free 15-minute consultation.” Sometimes that means you get a glob of research to skim and unsnarl before you can ask the right questions, and look deep into their entrepreneurial heart.
So I deploy my old pal Grammarly. The results have been great.
Clients with heavily copied-and-pasted research documents are delighted I can provide citations for the specific text globs they’d sent as research. (Grammarly doesn’t get behind paywalls, but it’s a start!)
Potential clients who want me to edit ‘drafts’ they claim to have ‘written’ are easily and quietly turned away. And more names go on my “clients I don’t want to work with” list. This type of client is rare … my prices usually warn them off before a full conversation wastes their time.
And my best clients provide me with really original work. When the research is scanned for plagiarism, they score in the low teens or lower. After all, sometimes there are only so many ways you can put words in order to express a specific thought.
So now it has a new use, my friend Grammarly: a barometer for a positive client experience. At least for things freely available on the web. Paywalled stuff … that’s probably a whole other ball of wax.
(Note: this post is not currently sponsored by Grammarly because my affiliate application was rejected for what I presume was lack of adspace code.)
If you’d like to chat with me about finding the heart of your entrepreneurial story, and how we can share your story together, reach out to me here.