Stop trying to be so darn professional

by on March 2, 2011

Is your copy to professionalSo you’re a professional. Maybe you’re a financial advisor. A brick layer. A lawyer. A photographer.

You’ve gone to school. Done extensive training. Have years of experience under your belt. And now you run your own small business, where it’s very important to communicate this professionalism, this expertise, to your current and potential customers.

Before you head off to the races to show off just how professional you are, let’s take a moment to consider effective ways to communicate your awesomeness. Because so many business owners screw up the whole professionalism thing. Leaving their customers either scratching their heads, or nodding off into their morning coffee (or both!).

Don’t fall into the professional language trap

I have seen so many small businesses and consultants make the mistake of trying to communicate their professionalism through their language, whether it’s for their website, or for a brochure.

Years of writing high school essays and the academic language you pumped out during university is hard to let go of. Especially when you’ve always been taught that this is THE way to write (and get As). So you shift right into that dare I say hoity, toity tone. Stuff your sentences with industry jargon and fancy words that have never been actually spoken out loud in a conversation. Yahoo –  mission accomplished!

Not so fast. You’ve forgotten that your copy must be easy to read and engaging to be effective. Your words are really rather pointless if no one wants to read them. And they can be downright detrimental if your customers are at all confused about your services and what you can do for them. Or if they are so bored that they just want to leave your website, or toss that leaflet, as fast as possible.

So how should I say it?

Just come out with it. Clear. To the point. Getting your message across is much more important than creating beautiful sentences that would make your English Lit teacher weep.

Pretend that you are having a conversation with a customer. Use the same words and language that you talk to them with. Say what you have written out loud. If your tongue trips over it, there’s a good chance that your customer’s mind will as well.

And above all, avoid industry jargon unless you are 100% positive that your audience will understand it.

If you really suck at writing, you can either hire a copywriter such as myself, or work hard at getting better. A great free resource to learn the ins and outs of writing effective copy is Copyblogger. Definitely worth checking them out if you’re doing alot of your own writing for your small business.

Easy ways to show that you are a pro

But you definitely do need to communicate your professionalism. That’s what your business revolves around, after all. And there are plenty of ways you can come off as a pro, without boring people to death.

  • About page: Your website “About” page is a great (and all too often missed) opportunity. By all means talk about your professional accomplishments, but make it interesting. Tell your story. Share your personality. Talk about why you do what you do. But say it in your own words, in language that you would actually speak.
  • Blogging: If you are a professional, a blog is the perfect place to share your credibility. Through your posts, you can show that you sure as heck know your stuff and what you’re talking about.
  • LinkedIn: Having a LinkedIn profile is a must and an easy place to list off all those accomplishments, your education and your extensive work experience. Remember our little chat about language, though. The professional language disorder is rampant in LinkedIn descriptions. Just because LinkedIn is a professional network does not mean that people want to read convoluted language. They are still regular folks after all.
  • Testimonials: These are a must, especially for your website. You can blab on and on about what a pro you are, but there is no better way than to hear it from someone else who has actually benefitted from your skills.
  • Samples of work: Whether it’s through a portfolio or photos of your work, if there is a visual aspect to your business you can show, rather than just tell, that you are legit. The proof is in the pudding (sorry, I love cheesy expressions and I just don’t get to use them enough :)).
  • Press, accolades, certifications etc…: If you have any of these 3rd party types of backup, definitely showcase them throughout your communications. They just shout credibility. So if you got it, flaunt it.

So my fellow professionals, take a good hard look at your website, your LinkedIn profile, even your business card, and try to catch that professional monster. And see if you can stop being so freaking professional, and just be real. How refreshing that will be!

Image source: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot /

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