The Society of Professional Consultants

Networking, Mentoring, and Education for Consultants and Solo Professionals

SPC Blog

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. 

  • Wednesday, November 01, 2023 12:30 PM | Erica Holthausen

    As discussed in the introduction to this series on becoming a more effective self-editor, writing and editing are two distinct processes. You will be a better and faster writer if you treat them as such. Similarly, editing has two phases: the developmental edit and the substantive edit. ​

    The developmental edit improves the structure and organization of a piece of writing. It focuses on the audience, clarifies the purpose of the piece, and makes sure it has a consistent tone and perspective. Before turning your attention to the substantive edit, make sure the structure is sound.

    Use the CORD Framework™ to enhance the editorial quality of your article.

    The CORD Framework serves as the foundation for much of the developmental edit and ensures the editorial quality of your work. Take a break after you finish writing to gain some perspective, and then read your article and ask yourself the following questions:

    • Is it cogent? Does it present a compelling case in support of a specific position or viewpoint? Is it useful to the intended reader? Does it provide enough context for the reader to understand its importance? Could the reader share the most important information with another person?
    • Is it original? Does it present a strong voice and clear point of view? Does it add to the conversation by focusing on insights, not simply information? Does it build upon the writer's experience and position them as an authority? Do analogies and anecdotes help the reader understand complex concepts?
    • Is it researched? Are the writer's insights based on evidence? Are their assertions grounded in fact? Is the data accurate? Is it essential? Can it be simplified? Are cited sources trustworthy? Is the research cited appropriately and presented with sufficient context? Where the ideas get complex, does the writer slow the pace?
    • Is it deep? Is the piece well written? Does it leave a lasting impression? Does it dive below the surface and offer insights not found elsewhere? Is it relevant? Does the writer discern fact from opinion?

    Review and improve the structure and organization of your article.

    Once you've ensured the editorial quality of your article, it's time to improve its structure and organization. Read the article aloud to identify places where the rhythm, flow, or voice doesn't quite work. Mark the areas that need adjustment and then reread it, asking yourself the following questions:

    • Is it striking? Is the headline strong? Does it grab your attention? Does the deck support the headline and make the reader want to learn more? Does the first paragraph get right to the point, or is the lede buried a few paragraphs down?
    • Is it focused? Does the article maintain its focus, or does the writing stray from its purpose? Does the writer make their point clearly and succinctly, or do they say the same thing in slightly different ways? Does each section of the article support the main point? Are there any darlings to murder?
    • Is it authoritative? Where does the article present opportunities for the writer to increase authority by adding detail, examples, or further evidence?
    • Is it skimmable? Do you get the general idea of the article simply by reading the heading, deck, and subheads? Are there any long sentences or paragraphs that can be broken down? Does the writer use bullet points and lists where appropriate?
    • Is it targeted? Is the intended audience clear throughout the piece? Does the tone of voice shift or stay consistent? Are such shifts intentional and easy for the reader to follow?

    It's not just about grammar and spelling.

    Editing is about so much more than grammar and spelling. To be a good editor, you must start by looking at the big picture. You have to put yourself in the reader's shoes and make sure that it is clear and easy to follow. Only after the structure is sound can you focus on the details.

    In the next installment of this series, we'll dive into the substantive edit. This line-by-line edit looks at grammar, punctuation, and spelling. It seeks out confusing, complicated, and wordy sentences and makes them clear and compelling. I'll give you a checklist you can use to make the process easier so you can become a better writer, a deeper thinker, and a clearer communicator. 

    * * *

    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.

  • Monday, October 02, 2023 9:03 AM | Erica Holthausen

    Good writing is the product of good editing. Working with a good editor is incredibly satisfying. A good editor takes your words and turns them into vehicles that convey your thoughts and ideas. A good editor takes what is clear to you and makes it clear and compelling to the reader. Here’s how you can capture some of that magic and become a better self-editor.

    Writing and editing are two distinct processes.

    Editing is not writing.

    Writing captures fresh thoughts, ideas, and expressions on the page. It is a process that results in several drafts. The first draft is written quickly and without referencing your notes. Its purpose is to get the ideas on the page so you have something to work with.

    It’s a lot like a jigsaw puzzle.

    You’ve got to get all the pieces on the table and right-side-up before you can find the edges and start putting together the picture.

    Once the first draft is done, you start the rewriting process. You are no longer writing for yourself — now you’re writing for the reader.

    This is when you clarify your ideas, add structure to the piece, and incorporate details from your research.

    This is when your piece starts to take shape.

    You may rewrite, rework, and refine your piece a few times before you feel like you’ve captured everything you want to share with the reader. Only after you complete that process are you ready to start editing your work.

    Editing takes everything you’ve captured on the page and makes it clear and compelling to the reader.

    But you can’t switch from writing to editing immediately.

    Give your work room to breathe.

    The more work you’ve put into a piece of writing, the more time you need to allow the piece to sit before you start editing.

    When possible, let the piece sit overnight so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. If that isn’t possible, print the piece, close out of your word processing program, and take yourself for a walk. At the very least, make yourself a cup of tea and putter around for a bit.

    Then you can come back to your work with a bit more perspective.

    Embrace a systematic approach to editing.

    There are two phases of the editing process: the developmental edit and the substantive edit.

    The developmental edit improves the structure and organization of a piece of writing. It focuses on the audience, clarifies the purpose of the piece, and makes sure it has a consistent tone and perspective.

    Once the structure is sound, you can focus on the nitty-gritty details during the substantive edit. This is the line-by-line edit that most people think of when we talk about editing. It includes grammar, punctuation, and spelling but goes deeper. It identifies and eliminates confusing, complicated, and wordy sentences that cause readers to tune out and move on to the next thing on their list.

    Becoming a better editor helps you become a better writer. That, in turn, enables you to become a deeper thinker. In the next installment of this series, we’ll dive into the developmental edit, and I’ll give you a list of questions to ask that will strengthen the foundation of your work. In the final installment, we'll look a bit more closely at the substantive edit, and I'll give you a checklist to help you tighten up each sentence.

    * * *

    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.

  • Tuesday, September 05, 2023 2:24 PM | Rick Pollak (Administrator)

    Have you ever tried to give an engaging presentation on a boring topic? No, it’s not impossible. In fact, it’s easy to do with a small shift in your perspective. This article will show you how to apply proven techniques to capture and keep the attention of your audience, even if your topic is mundane.

    Boring is in the Eye of the Beholder

    If you’re an expert in your field, you’re passionate about what you do. Your audience probably doesn’t share your passion or care about what your business does. Talking about what you do from your perspective can quickly put your audience to sleep.

    If you want to engage your audience, present your topic from their point of view instead of yours. Giving them a reason to care is an effective way to get your audience to show interest in your topic. When they can see your product or service helping them solve a problem, they’ll no longer be bored. If you explain how you can solve problems for people like them, you’ll capture their attention.

    Pick the Target, Find the Trigger, Lose the Bullets

    I’ve been giving presentations on technical topics for over 40 years. The biggest mistake I used to make was not understanding who was in my target audience. My early presentations had slides with bullet points listing every feature my product had. My engineering colleagues paid attention, but my non-technical customers were bored to tears. My talks were so dull, I even had one person start snoring in the middle of my presentation!

    When I planned my presentations for a non-technical target profile, my talks transformed from boring to engaging. Losing the boring bullets made sure the audience listened attentively to benefits and results instead of dozing off during features and specifications slides.

    The right trigger words will help you attract interest in your topic. Let’s say you’re an accountant giving a talk about recent changes in the tax code. If your target audience consists of small business owners in Maine, they’re going to be bored if you focus on the details of the new tax laws. If your trigger phrase is something they care about, you’ll have an excellent chance of grabbing their attention and interest. A trigger like “Three things you can do today to save on your business taxes” will resonate with your audience will keep them intrigued throughout your presentation.

    Since we’re talking about targets and triggers, here’s a word of advice about using bullets. DON’T! A barrage of boring bullet points will transform your audience from wakefulness to sleep. People remember stories and forget bullet points. A story about how a local business owner saved money on her taxes is more memorable than slides full of bullet points explaining the tax code.

    Understand, Care, and Remember

    I help TEDx speakers make their “idea worth spreading” exciting and memorable. Here are three techniques that work for both TEDx talks and business presentations. They’ll help you transform boring into engaging.

    1. Make sure your content is easy to understand. Distill your content into a “big idea” and “call to action” (CTA). If your information doesn’t support your big idea, leave it out of your presentations. A confused audience will quickly lose interest and become bored.
    2. Give the audience a reason to care. Show them why they should care about your big idea and let them know what’s in it for them. Stories are more effective than bullet points in getting an audience to care about your big idea.
    3. Make your CTA easy to remember. What do you want them to do when you’re finished with your presentation? Don’t give them so much information that they can’t remember your CTA.

    The Cure for Boring Presentations

    Answering the questions on my planning worksheet will help you structure an engaging presentation that will keep audience interested in your topicThe PDF worksheet can be filled out and saved on your computer if you have a current version of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can also print out the worksheet and write in your answers by hand. You can download the planner at no charge at

    Rick Pollak is president of the Society of Professional Consultants. He’s also the founder of Presentation Medic, a consulting company specializing in curing boring presentations. He coaches speakers for investor pitches, product presentations, and TEDx talks. To learn more about delivering engaging presentations, follow Rick on LinkedIn.

  • Friday, September 01, 2023 3:13 PM | Erica Holthausen

    To write for high-visibility publications, you must consistently identify, develop, and share insightful ideas with the publication’s readers. For many, the process of presenting new ideas month after month after month feels daunting. As someone steeped in your work, you understand the challenges and solutions within your area of expertise. That clarity and depth of understanding might lead you to underestimate the value of your knowledge, experience, and insights.

    But you are not your audience.

    While information is widely available in our digital age, practical insights born of knowledge and experience are rare. But how do you discover and develop ideas that you can turn into shareable content?

    Five steps to developing and sharing impactful ideas.

    Like any worthy endeavor, developing and sharing impactful ideas is a skill you can learn, develop, and practice. And the more you develop and practice that skill, the easier and more enjoyable it becomes. Here are three steps to developing and sharing impactful ideas:

    1. Follow your curiosity.

    When something attracts your attention, pay attention. Dig into it. Allow yourself time to play and explore. And then, ask yourself what sparked your curiosity. Explore that too.

    2. Capture your ideas.

    ​Write down your ideas, and synthesize new ideas constantly. Note anything that captures your attention. Whether you’re reading, listening, watching, or experiencing something new, do it actively. Don’t just capture the facts. Capture your ideas about those facts. A simple yes, andyes, but, or no, because will help you capture insights. And the value lies in your insights.

    One way to capture your insights is to use a research journal that allows you to note the source of the idea, capture quotes, and add your insights. Download a research journal template here.

    ​3. Carve out time to think.

    ​You can’t think deeply about an idea when you’re interrupted every few minutes. You have to concentrate and turn the idea over and over again, examining it from all sides. You have to identify and question your assumptions. Commit to deep work. Let your mind wander a bit — make associations, draw connections, and surprise yourself. Be open to the magic.

    4. Share your ideas.

    Once you’ve developed your idea, you have to put it in a format that allows you to share it with others. You might share your idea in a blog post, article, newsletter, podcast, short video, or LinkedIn post. Sharing your ideas allows you to test them, see how others respond to them, and identify gaps in your thinking.

    5. Refine your ideas.

    Even the most narrow idea has deep, interconnected roots. The more you explore a single idea, the more nuanced your understanding will become, and the more easily you’ll be able to identify related ideas. Capture and develop these as well, and you’ll find you have an inexhaustible well of ideas.

    ​There is something almost magical about ideas. If you hold on too tightly, they slip right through your fingers, and you lose them. You have to dance with your ideas; otherwise, they might not stick around.

    Ideas are woven into the fabric of the universe. It’s as if they are waiting for us to give them form and substance. Our job, then, is not to create ideas but to recognize them when we see them. The best ideas don’t exist in a vacuum. They dance with one another and with other people. The more you share and refine your ideas, the more impactful those ideas become, and the more new ideas invite you to dance.

    * * *

    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.

  • Tuesday, August 01, 2023 9:42 AM | Erica Holthausen

    Responding to a trending story can be satisfying, especially when the issue at hand is important to you. But it can also backfire. Those who disagree with you may push back on what you have to say or question your authority, credibility, and integrity. Others may simply stop paying attention to you because they no longer believe your values align with theirs. That can be a good thing, so long as your response to the trending story is thoughtful and deliberate. Before you respond to a trending story, ask yourself these seven questions:

    1. Is my commentary on this issue related to my experience or area of expertise? If the issue is not directly related to your experience or expertise, you may want to respond as a private individual instead of a professional. If it is related to your area of expertise, consider bringing the weight of your professional experience to bear on your response.

    2. Why should other people care about what I have to say about it? Everyone has opinions. Why should the reader care what you have to say about the issue at hand? What makes you qualified to have an opinion on this matter?

    3. Am I adding something of value to the conversation? What does your commentary add to the conversation? What gaps does it fill?

    4. Why do I want to share my opinion on this issue? What purpose will sharing your opinion on this issue serve?

    5. Is this the best way to achieve my purpose? How can you achieve that purpose? Is this the best way to do so? Or is another tactic better suited to your purpose?

    6. Is my purpose clear to the reader? What other purpose might a reader attribute to your commentary? How can you ensure that the reader understands your underlying purpose?

    7. Does my commentary include anything I do not know to be true? Typically, a trending story is still developing. Some facts and circumstances are not yet known. If you respond to a trending story, clearly indicate where you are getting your information and make it clear to the reader when you’re speculating. You want to be able to stand behind your opinion even if new facts and circumstances come to light.

    ​Before you share your opinion, especially if you're fired up about it, make sure that how you share it doesn't damage your reputation. Reach out to a trusted friend or colleague and share your backstory, goals, and commentary. Ask them to help you identify your blind spots, and listen closely. Your reputation is your single most valuable asset — it takes time to establish but can be destroyed in a matter of seconds.

    * * *

    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.

  • Monday, July 03, 2023 2:22 PM | Erica Holthausen

    When a story starts trending, a video goes viral, or an event takes over the news cycle, sharing your thoughts on the matter can be tempting. In some cases, speaking up in support or opposition to an issue that is important to you is part of how you stay in alignment with your core values. In other instances, you may speak up to increase your visibility and demonstrate your expertise.

    Three tactics you can use to respond to a trending story.

    ​When a trending story strikes a chord with you, you must decide if you want to respond to the story and, if so, whether you want to respond as a private individual or as a professional. Responding as a professional means that you are lending the weight of your business experience and expertise to your response. If you are responding as a professional, there are three tactics you can use to respond to a trending story:

    1. Engage in newsjacking.

    The term “newsjacking” was coined by David Meerman Scott, the well-known marketing strategist and author. According to Scott, newsjacking is “the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.” The definition has expanded to include any trending story, whether newsworthy or not. Newsjacking can take several forms, including a tweet, meme, blog, or video. It can poke fun at the trending story or offer a clever counterpoint.

    For example, when gas prices surged in April 2022, Krispy Kreme ran a multi-week promotion where the average price of gas dictated the price of a dozen doughnuts. The company shared the news through a press release and its social media accounts. Dozens of media outlets wrote about the Krispy Kreme gas pricing, creating a lot of buzz for the doughnut purveyor.

    2. Write a hot take.

    According to Merriam-Webster, a hot take is “a quickly produced, strongly worded, and often deliberately provocative or sensational opinion or reaction (as in response to current news).”

    A hot take is a type of newsjacking. In some circles, the term “hot take” is derogatory, and there are several memes about the hot take’s questionable value. Social media has made it easy for people to share their opinion about everything, regardless of whether they know much about the subject. But the derogatory connotation of the term “hot take” also stems from the fact that this type of commentary is often provocative — and that doesn’t always sit well.

    3. Write an opinion piece.

    An opinion piece expresses someone’s beliefs or views. In traditional newspapers, these articles typically appear on the op-ed page, the page opposite the editorial page.

    Like a hot take, the writer must quickly produce an opinion piece in response to a trending story. But opinion pieces are generally not as provocative or sensational. Instead, they are persuasive.

    When done well, responding to a trending story can increase your visibility and position you as an expert in your field. But when done poorly, it can damage your reputation. Before responding to a trending story, think carefully about whether your response elevates the conversation or simply adds to the noise. Once you've decided to respond, think about which of the tactics above will help you reach your goals.

    * * *

    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 Inc., Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. 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, June 08, 2023 11:25 AM | Laura Burford

    During a networking event on the best ways to network, I heard comments such as…

    “My biggest problem when it comes to networking is following up after the event.” Consultant A

    ​“My biggest problem is remaining in touch. I follow-up right after the event but don’t remain-in-touch even when I know I should.” Consultant B

    ​“I have a stay-in-touch approach but I was told by one person, I stay-in-touch too much and don’t provide the right value. I’m not sure what that means.” Consultant C


    What is interesting is that this event was only open to consultants and freelancers and over half the people commented on the same challenges. However, the challenges weren’t really about networking. The challenges were about the best ways to remain in touch.

    Not following up after an event and not remaining in touch with people you want to build a relationship with are common mistakes. Remaining in touch requires work. It takes time. Remaining in touch requires developing a remain-in-touch strategy.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve fallen down on following up after an event and struggled to remain in touch with people I wanted to build a relationship with more than I can count. It happens.

    Don’t beat yourself up over it.

    I remember when I first started out on my own as a consultant, I would attend networking events hoping I would meet people who were interested in what I had to offer.

    As I spoke with people, I would grab their business cards and jot copious notes on the back. In the left pocket of my jacket or sweater, I stashed the cards of people with whom I wanted to follow up. In the right pocket, I hate to say it, the “ignore unless I had time” cards were squirreled away.

    I would rush back to my office and key the information into the CRM system I was using at the time. The follow-up person was added to my email list. I immediately wrote a personalized email message saying it was great to meet you.


    Boy, did I waste a lot of time? Maybe the person sent an email back saying it was great to meet and we should remain in touch, but for the most part, the only thing I heard was crickets.

    Let’s be realistic.

    No matter what event you attend there is a good chance you don’t want to connect and build a relationship with everyone you met. However, once you do decide to build a relationship with someone, you need to remain in touch. That requires creating a remain-in-touch strategy. That requires finding the right balance of reaching out and remaining in touch because you don’t want to be seen as a nuisance and you want to provide value.

    This is where the 80–20 rule comes into play.

    80% of your remain-in-touch strategy should provide some type of value while the other 20% of your remain-in-touch strategy can include shameless plugs about how you can help someone or reveal something about you.


    The 80%

    As a consultant or freelancer, people turn to you because they trust you. People trust your advice and they look to you when they need to bounce ideas off of someone. You are looked at as a reliable source of information and wisdom.

    So how do you show value?


    There are two ways to give value. One way is by you creating value and the other by you curating it.

    If you’re creating value, you share your own original thoughts and content. If you are curating value, you share somebody else’s thoughts and content.

    There are differences of opinion as to how much content should be your own original thoughts versus the sharing of thoughts of other people.

    Here is my opinion.

    It is not always easy to create your own content but it is always easy to provide relevant information to people who you are trying to help AND it is always possible to express an opinion. It is also possible to combine creating value and curating value into one remain-in-touch action.

    One of the easiest ways to curate value is to share an article, video, or podcast with others. You create value when you add your own thoughts and opinion to the article, video, or podcast that you are sharing. How much you add depends on you but often two or three sentences as to why you are sharing the content or why you agree or disagree with the content is adequate.

    But don’t just add your thoughts, personalize the message including personalizing why you are sharing the content. If you want to start a conversation, ask the other person their opinion.

    “During the networking event, we discussed setting up your own video studio. You mentioned you were looking for videos to help you. Here are links to a few videos by experts whose opinions I respect. I have found expert A’s advice the most helpful for me because I have a very small space and limited dollars.

    What do you think of the experts?”

    (If you don’t know how to create a Personalized Message, check out this YouTube video.)

    As a consultant or freelancer, you want, no need, to be able to articulate your own ideas and share by giving value.

    Here are a few other ways to provide value — whether you are sharing your own thoughts and content or you are curating the work of others.

    • Quick tips
    • “How to” documents and videos
    • Books
    • Conference document
    • Interview with an important influential person
    • Free educational webinar
    • Social media post with a like, comment, and share
    The 20%

    People want to know about you so that they can decide how to relate to you. Coming across as a “real person” helps people relate to you. People also want to know how you might be able to help them.

    But too much of you or too much of how you might be able to help them is just that — TOO MUCH. You don’t want you or your offers to dominate the conversation because people will tune you out. Relationships are as much about them as about you.



    It takes time to build relationships and if you don’t remain in touch, a relationship can easily disappear.

    Remember the saying, “out of touch, out of mind.”

    Remain in touch with the right balance of messages and the 80–20 Rule is a helpful starting point.

    My question for you!

    Do You Have a Remain in Touch Strategy? If so, do you follow the 80–20 Rule? 


    Laura Burford helps solo-consultants and smaller consulting businesses build sustainable consulting businesses. She is the founder of Laura’s Consulting Guide, publishes Consulting Insights on YouTube, and is known for her Consulting Mastery: A Path to a Sustainable Business program.  

  • Thursday, June 01, 2023 5:04 PM | Erica Holthausen

    You cannot tame writer’s block if you don’t understand what it is or what is causing it. But while “writer’s block” is a common term, every writer’s experience is a little different, and there is no one agreed-upon definition.

    The term “writer’s block” was introduced in 1949 by Dr. Edmund Bergler in his book, The Writer and Psychoanalysis. Bergler spent two decades studying writers who suffered from “neurotic inhibitions of productivity.”

    Yep. Bergler considered writer’s block a neurotic disorder.

    In the early 198os, Yale University psychologists Michael Barrios and Jerome Singer conducted further research to understand what it meant for writers to be creatively blocked and how writers could overcome such blocks.

    Writers who made no progress on their main project and felt unable to write for at least three months were categorized as blocked. Barrios and Singer followed their progress for a month, interviewing them and asking them to complete several psychological tests focused on waking imagery, hypnotic dreaming, and rational discussion.

    They detailed their findings in “The Treatment of Cognitive Blocks,” published in the September 1, 1981 issue of Imagination, Cognition and Personality. Barrios and Singer found that blocked writers often reported symptoms of depression and anxiety, were more self-critical, and indulged in much more procrastination.

    Like Bergler, Barrios and Singer approached writer’s block from a psychological perspective. As a result of their work, Merriam-Webster defines writer’s block as “a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.”

    That’s a bit too heavy.

    That type of writer’s block — a creative block that lasts for months — is relatively rare. And as someone who once made her living as a freelance writer, a deep and prolonged bout of writer’s block was a luxury I could not afford. And so I learned how to identify and stop it before it took root.

    Identifying and combatting three types of writer’s block.

    Every writer goes through periods when they feel deeply unsatisfied with the quality of their writing. And every writer has published something they wish they could have worked on just a little longer and polished just a little more. That’s just part of being a writer. But it becomes a lot more manageable if you understand the three types of writer’s block:

    1. You have no idea what to write.

    If you don’t have any ideas, walk away from the computer. Take a break and go for a walk. Once you’ve cleared your mind, grab and pen and some paper and do a little brainstorming exercise. Think about the questions your clients, partners, and prospects ask, the convention wisdom you call into question, and the action your clients can take right now to achieve their goals. Try to come up with at least ten questions you’d like to answer.

    What if you have the opposite problem? If you have so many ideas that you’re not sure where to start, take a break. Come back to your list of ideas later and choose the one that you feel most energized to tackle today, that you know will help a specific client right now, or that responds to a question someone asked you recently. If that doesn’t work, choose the third idea on your list and start writing.

    2. You're stuck.

    If you know what you want to write about but are unsure how to get started, try creating a simple outline that includes a one-sentence summary of the point of the piece and a few bullet points. You might also try changing the format. Email is a less formal writing style, so try emailing yourself with an answer to the question the article poses.

    Sometimes it’s hard to start because you haven’t thought through the piece enough. Go for a walk and think about what you’re trying to say. Outline the article in your head or capture a few ideas on your phone. Try dictating the first draft of your article or experimenting with an AI writer. It doesn’t matter how you start, just so long as you get started.

    3. Your motivation abandoned you.

    If you don't feel motivated, examine that feeling closely. Is it really a lack of motivation, or are you just fried? If you're fried, don't try to push through. Take a walk or a nap or do some work in the garden. The only time it is helpful to push through is when you’re nearly finished, and you just can’t seem to get those last few paragraphs done! In that case, set a timer for 15 minutes and write like a fiend. Knock out the first draft, and don’t worry if it’s terrible.

    But if you’re having a hard time putting your butt in the seat and getting started, try scheduling a co-working session with a friend or setting a deadline that they will hold you to. You could also try The Most Dangerous Writing App, a terrifying tool designed to help you write the first draft quickly — if you stop writing, your words will start to flash red, and the app will delete your work.

    ​Each type of writer’s block has a slightly different treatment plan. But the best way to become a more resilient writer is to embrace a writing practice. The more you write, the easier it is to keep going, even when the writing doesn’t come easily.

    Wrestling the writing dragon is part of being a writer. The only thing that can help with the writing dragon is setting a deadline, sticking to it, and reminding yourself that done is better than perfect.

    Yes, you will publish some pieces before you think they’re finished. That’s part of being a writer too. When you finish a piece that requires you to wrestle the writing dragon and publish it even though you’re not completely happy with it, you free yourself up to work on something new.

    When it comes to creative blocks, there’s no way out but through.

    * * *

    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 Inc., Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Monday, May 01, 2023 9:30 AM | Erica Holthausen

    Once you publish an article in a high-visibility publication, you’ll want to make the most of that initial success. Writing for publication gets your ideas in front of a new audience, increasing your visibility. It differentiates you so you stand out from the crowd, and it gives you a great deal of credibility with your audience.

    But it’s hard to realize these benefits if you don’t continuously promote your articles (and ideas) in several ways. Here’s how to get the greatest return on your investment in writing for high-visibility publications:

    1. Syndicate your articles.

    Most (though not all) high-visibility publications allow you to syndicate your articles after a short waiting period. Syndication is the practice of republishing an article to other websites, including your blog and third-party platforms like LinkedIn, Medium, and Thrive Global. Syndicating your articles allows you to get your work in front of a lot more people.

    2. Promote your articles and your status as a contributor.

    Regardless of whether you are allowed to syndicate your articles, it is important to promote your articles and your status as a contributor to your audience. Here are a few ideas:

    • Share your articles with your email subscribers and online communities, including social media platforms, Slack channels, and other online communities.
    • Add the article to your list of Publications on your LinkedIn profile.
    • Share individual articles with other experts in your field, mentors, advisors, trusted colleagues, clients, or prospects — especially if you recently had a conversation about the same topic.
    • Share individual articles in the chat on a Zoom call if it directly addresses someone’s questions or concerns.
    • Add the publication’s logo to your website and link it to your author page.
    • Include the logo or name of the publication in your email signature.
    • Add the logo or name of the publication to your social media and community profiles.

    3. Repurpose your articles.

    Although promoting your articles is a crucial step in enhancing your visibility, paywalls and algorithms may impede the effectiveness of your efforts. That’s why it is also essential to repurpose your articles. For example, you might:

    • Combine a compelling image with a quote and share what inspired you to write about that topic.
    • Create an infographic that captures the process outlined in your article and share it on your blog and across your social media channels.
    • Write a series of social media posts that elaborate on each key point you made in the article.
    • Create a slide deck outlining the main points of your article and share it on LinkedIn.
    • Record yourself reading a key point of the article and create an audiogram to share across social media.
    • Use your article as inspiration for a short video, LinkedIn live, or podcast episode, and link to the article in the description.
    • Combine several articles on the same topic into a short ebook to use as a lead generation tool.

    Writing for high-visibility publications is incredibly valuable. One article can inspire a prospective client to sign up for a lead generation offer or a potential partner to reach out and start a conversation.

    You can significantly improve your chances of attracting that type of attention by syndicating, promoting, and repurposing your articles so you can share them with your audience multiple times. And if your articles are evergreen, continue to share them over time.

    Why not make the most of the time and effort you’ve already invested in writing articles for publication?

    * * *

    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 Inc., Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Monday, April 24, 2023 12:49 PM | Raman Shah

    We have made it to spring. Spring, in all its blooming optimism, also concludes the season of New Year’s resolutions as those promises, mostly unkept, fade into bitter memory.

    To me, New Year’s resolutions represent a cruel, unsustainable notion. They suggest that an infinite well of personal capacity, untapped in our moral weakness, will fuel the habits we want in our lives. I suggest, instead, that we are generally trying as hard as we can — that to embrace a new habit, we must relinquish old habits to pay for it. The personal costs and benefits of the old and new habits must match, not only in quantity but in kind. I find that when a change is paid for in the sense of personal capacity, it can be surprisingly sustainable.

    (Unsustainable) Change as a Moral Crusade

    My interest in how to pay for change comes from a few places. At a personal level, I simply feel intimidated by people who seem to have strong willpower, because I don’t. I’ve spent much of my life substituting cleverness for willpower.

    Professionally, I measure operations. I spend my days bringing some of the precision of finance — budgets and ledgers, every penny like every other — to the realm of service delivery, built of far less interchangeable human efforts.

    Other times, I’m called when a large technology initiative goes sideways. Technology projects look suspiciously like New Year’s resolutions: the organization will buy some exciting new software, the software will make the organization more productive, and everyone will benefit.


    Unfortunately, difficulties inevitably arise. Reality’s complexity is typically underestimated; the software’s capability is typically overestimated. Leaders I admire — good people who have often dedicated their lives to service — start to double down on the initiative. In doubling down, they eventually inflict callousness and cruelty upon their teams. These leaders often lose key personnel as well as the hearts and minds of many more, gutting the human capital needed to accomplish anything good at all.

    I believe this tragedy reflects something inside people. I notice leaders tend to have an impressive track record of crushing personal obstacles through sheer will. For leaders, I fear that a lifetime of waging moral crusades against their own limitations can turn moral crusades into an instinct. When the chips are down, the instinct can spill out and start to crush entire teams.

    (Sustainable) Change as Capacity Accounting

    The assumption behind the New Year’s resolution seems to be that personal capacity is unlimited — that anything is possible if you try hard enough. New Year’s resolutions can be seductive in temporarily confirming this assumption before blowing up. Trying anything new is a pleasant placebo. You can borrow extra energy from the future — for a little while.

    I suggest the opposite assumption: that personal capacity is fixed. And further, that there are categories of personal capacity that don’t substitute. For example, you can’t raise your capacity for empathy by doing less physical lifting. You can’t stop relaxing with your friends and solve world hunger in its place, even if you think both take four hours a week.

    Personal capacity fluctuates, particularly with health, over a lifetime. But assuming it’s constant opens a kinder, more pragmatic route to change. The costs of a proposed new habit must simply match the costs of old habits to relinquish. For example, to embrace a new habit requiring significant project management, you need to jettison another habit requiring a similar amount of project management. Conversely, if you give up a habit with benefits — like rest or social connection — you must take up new habits that offer the same benefits.

    Two Personal Examples

    Here is one mundane example from my life of what not to do. When visiting my doctor, he told me to improve my blood pressure by cooking at home more.

    Great. Now how will I pay for it? The fridge inventory, the grocery trips, the cooking time, the dishes? Unable to fund the planning and logistics, I borrowed some energy from the future and just tried harder. My diet improved briefly. The initiative imploded within weeks. After an especially overworked winter, I’m not sure I want to measure the restaurant food I eat in a typical week.

    Here’s an example of what can work. In 2020, I read a book that suggested that everyone has a “tribe” of roughly 150 relationships. It suggested that networking is about nurturing these connections regularly. I developed and gave away an open-source spreadsheet to implement the book’s suggestions. If you are in my tribe, a 16-week period never passes without hearing from me.

    When I mention this, people assume I have superhuman willpower. They are wrong. This change was sustainable partly for technical reasons — I crafted the most efficient possible algorithm to keep this promise.

    But more profoundly, I figured out how to pay for the change. I quit Facebook.

    Facebook’s main costs in my life were empathetic — caring about what was going on with other people. Its main benefits were social — feeling connected and listened to. My relationship algorithm comprises a tiny trickle of ongoing bookkeeping to record whom I talked to each day, then about one extra email or text a day to whomever is about to fall through the cracks.

    In its personal costs and benefits, the relationship algorithm was a drop-in replacement for Facebook. Yet it represented a huge improvement — I replaced shallow, distracted connections with too many people with a smaller number of high-quality connections. Paid for, the change has had startling staying power. As I write this, I’ve kept my 16-week promise to my tribe of 170-odd people — without exception — for about three years.

    Sustainable Change From the Inside Out

    I gave up on New Year’s resolutions long ago. I find change too important to put on a schedule. If a morsel of capacity accounting will improve my world, I embrace it immediately. If the calendar runs out without one showing up, that’s okay.

    Whether you make New Year’s resolutions or not, I encourage you to articulate how to pay for the habits you want. Your proposals will take deeper analysis (intellectual exertion which, itself, must be paid for). They will sound more convoluted. You’ll attempt fewer of them. Yet you may find that surprisingly large improvements start to take root for yourself and loved ones, not for mere weeks, but for years.

    Then — when time comes to lead a big change on behalf of your organization — you’ll have the instincts to pleasantly surprise your team and customers alike.

    This post was initially published by Engaging Local Government Leaders in its Morning Buzz series.

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