Four Ways to Simplify Your Writing Business

I'm a big fan of Apple. Not just the products. I also love the stores, the advertising, the ease of use, and the way the company interacts with its customers.

After stumbling upon Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success by Ken Segall at my local library, I'm beginning to understand the deeper reasons why I like Apple so much.

As Segall points out, "Simplicity isn't just a design principle at Apple – it's a value that permeates every level of the organization."

Apple puts a lot of energy and thought into running itself like a small company. They avoid big teams and lengthy meetings. They try to streamline everything and keep product offerings straightforward and easy to understand.

Luckily for writers, we don't have those issues. We're already small. We get to choose how our business is run. That means we can do even more to make our businesses simple.

You may remember Apple's Think Different campaign from years ago. Here are four ways that Apple thinks different and how you can apply them to your business:

1. Think Minimal.

Segall says simplicity is basically the result of Brains and Common Sense. But often we can’t see what’s right in front of us. We all tend to overdo, overthink, and overcomplicate. We forgo Brains and Common Sense and make things complex, when they should be simple.

For example, why start each project from scratch? If you write the same type of project often, you should have a template you can work from. The same goes for invoicing and proposals.

2. Think Specialized.

When you're getting started as a writer, it might be tempting to do a little of everything. You want to take every job that comes along. But by streamlining or offering less, you can provide a better product.

Take Jay White, for example. He specializes in autoresponders, and everyone knows if you want a great autoresponder series, you go to Jay White. Because of that, he is able to keep his business, marketing, and writing simple.

Imagine how great you could be at something if that’s all you focused on. All your energy would go toward that one thing. You wouldn’t be distracted by every new technique and idea that came along. You would only use relevant information.

3. Think Motion.

One secret to success as a writer is to write something every day. While I believe this, I’m not sure if it’s because “practice makes perfect” or because you shouldn’t stop moving. I’ve heard, “Money loves motion,” and Apple does a great job with this concept.

Here’s how to use motion in your business: when you get a new project, start immediately. This may sound overwhelming. But I can write the fastest right after I propose an article idea. The ideas are swirling around in my head.

If I write them down on Day 1, the work comes easy. But if I propose an idea and then wait a few days to get started, I can't remember all the good things I originally had in mind. I have to start over, try to spark my creativity, or research enough to come up with something that fits.

I've found all my projects are easier if I start immediately and dedicate time – even just 30 minutes – to them each day.

4. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Segall didn’t specifically mention this tip in Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success. But as I was reading, I couldn’t help but think it.

When Microsoft was creating the Zune Store, writes Segall, it would have made sense for them to copy what Apple was doing with iTunes and charge a fixed price per song. Instead, Microsoft created something called “Microsoft Points.”

“Microsoft Points” required customers to buy blocks of points, with a complicated conversion system to charge for the songs. Microsoft could have made it so easy by simply charging for songs like iTunes did.

The same is true for writers. We think we need to come up with something clever or unique to make a difference. We spend so much time trying to do things differently, when proof that the typical way works well is all around us.

When I first started freelancing, I had an idea to create a client notification center on my website. Clients could log in and see exactly what was happening with their project, pay invoices, or ask questions. I thought it was genius and would bring me tons of clients. I spent weeks planning. Finally, I gave it up and followed AWAI’s advice for getting clients. Their advice is simple and starts with one easy step. My way was complex.

Spend some time reviewing the way you do business. Where can you cut complexity, streamline, and make things simpler? Embrace simplicity in your business, and you'll quickly see the results.

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: December 17, 2012

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