How I Keep Inky Clean Organized

I deal with words, not numbers. I wish bookkeeping meant I get to buy more books. But I’ve learned a few tricks to help me keep my business organized, and was interviewed by Outright on how I do it. I adore Outright. I recommend it for any business owner wanting to spend more time on their passion and less time with spreadsheets. (Unless your passion is spreadsheets. That’s cool, too.)

Here’s a short preview of the post:

For Author Natalia Sylvester, Outright was the Springboard to an Organized Writing Career

Back in 2010, Natalia Sylvester had already been freelance writing for four years but something told her it was time to get serious with her business. She was embarking on a parallel career writing fiction, and knew that a successful freelance marketing copywriter career would propel her in the direction she needed to go to realize her novelist dreams.

After re-branding – she changed the name of her business to Inky Clean – she decided to get squeaky (inky?) clean about her business processes as well. That began with exchanging the clunky spreadsheets she had used to keep track of her business finances for an account with Outright.

“I always worked with an accountant,” Sylvester said. “But before Outright it took me hours to get everything together… – Read more at:

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My Article on How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions in Latina Magazine!

Consider this: a third of people will have broken their resolutions by the end of January. At a time of year when many of us are trying to get healthier, keeping resolutions is an exercise for both the mind and body. I spoke with fitness experts, food coaches, and health professionals for my latest article in Latina magazine on how to change your mindset to improve your health in the New Year. It’s on newsstands now—just turn to page 92!

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My Story on Voting as a Dual Citizen in Latina Magazine

With the Presidential elections just a few days away, many of us are doing our duty as citizens and voting for our candidate of choice. In this month’s issue of Latina magazine, I wrote about what this means to me as a dual, naturalized citizen. Check it out next time you see it on the newsstands!

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Notes On SXSW Eco: Making Sustainability Normal

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd SXSW Eco conference held here in Austin. It was an amazing three days that brought together people from government, academia, startups, non-profits, and large corporations who all shared a common interest: saving our planet. As someone who’s on a personal journey to be a more responsible citizen of our Earth, and as a writer who’s been lucky enough to work with brands that are on a similar mission, I attended hoping to learn more about how I could do more in both instances. The conference exceeded my expectations–I left feeling inspired, informed, and empowered.

Highlights from SXSW Eco 2012

1. Lance Hosey, architect and author of The Shape of Green, gave a fantastic keynote on day 1 about the importance of aesthetics in sustainable design. “If design is to behave more like nature, then the first order of business is to knock our socks off,” he said. In order to become something that’s adapted across the board, sustainability needs to focus just as much on design as it does on materials and process. He argued that the biggest challenges of sustainability stem from the fact that the culture of the arts and the culture of the sciences have always been taught separately, from the time we’re very young. We need to build a bridge between the two to move forward.

2. During a discussion on why toxic chemicals are already the next “big” issue, panelists noted that the movement to use safer chemicals in the marketplace is one that’s being led by moms; it seems the younger their children are, the more proactive moms are about learning what chemicals are in their products and demanding safer alternatives. As a result, even companies like Wal-mart have taken notice.

3. One of my favorite events by far focused on the “Green Gap” that exists between consumers who completely embrace sustainability and eco-friendly lifestyles and those who reject it. Graceann Bennett of Ogilvy Earth presented findings on why Green hasn’t gone completely mainstream yet, and how we can close the gap so it does. Some interesting points: many feel going green comes with a social cost, a fear of being excluded or mocked among friends (like if you’re a vegan at a bbq), and that it’s also seen as a feminine trait (think of reusable bags–many men feel it looks like they’re wearing a purse). She presented 11 ways we can close the gap. Though I won’t list them all here, I think some of the most important include:

Make sustainability normal. We shouldn’t always have to tell people a product is green; win them over with the same things that motivate a mainstream audience, like quality and performance.

Lose the crunch. “Why does everything that’s green have to come wrapped in a burlap sack?” Bennett asked.

Green marketing should be on par with all marketing. If we want sustainability to become mainstream, we can’t focus all our marketing only on those who are already interested in eco-issues, or let our message be only about awareness. “We need to take the conversation to the masses. Think: what do they care about? What motivates them?”

You can download this and other reports from Ogilvy Earth here.

4. Finally, the charismatic and inspiring Annie Leonard, creator of the Story of Stuff videos, gave the final keynote and asked why more people aren’t moving from a place of knowing and caring to take action. We need to move beyond being responsible consumers  and take it to the next level and be engaged citizens, she said. More than Liking a cause on Facebook, Leonard argued that what will really make a difference is coming together in the real world: “Working together feeds our souls. Across cultures and age groups, once you have your basic needs met, it is not more stuff that makes you happy, it’s time with others & having a sense of purpose.”

Is your company focused on sustainability? If so, what are some challenges you’ve faced in getting your message out to a larger, more mainstream audience? How are you approaching them?


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Audiences = Real People


Decisions, decisions...who really has the time to be pitched to?

A couple of weeks ago, as I was shopping around for tea and scone mix in preparation for my ridiculously early-morning Royal Wedding-watching extravaganza, (don’t judge me!) I came across this brilliant copy from Sticky Fingers Bakeries:

“Does anyone really read this stuff?

Sure, you may be holding the best scone mix on the planet, but does that really mean you need to be subjected to some flowery, braggadocious copy about how we make the world a better place to live? And who uses words like braggadocious anyway?”

It then goes on to quickly get to the point: that their all-natural scones are some of the tastiest and easiest to make out there. The language is crisp, fun, and concise. More importantly, it sounds sincere, because instead of going into hyperbole and using huge, fancy words like their competitors do, they’re being real.

No marketing buzz words. No fluffy adjectives. Just some copy talking to real people.

Is your copy doing the same?

One of the most important things to remember (hard as it may be) as you’re working on your marketing copy is that people have better things to do than read it.

They don’t want to be pitched to. They don’t want to be impressed by the eighty industry awards your company has won this year, or the list of 200 techie features that make your product superior from the rest.

They just want to get on with their lives with as little hassle as possible. They want to get on with their lives and find new ways to enjoy it. If you can help them do either of those things, they’ll take you along for the ride.

Rule #1 in copywriting is “know your audience.” Know their needs and the problems they’re having, so you can be the one who solves it. But I think we need to go a step beyond that.

First, let’s stop saying “audience” and acknowledge that they’re Real People.

Next, let’s put ourselves in their shoes, really and truly.

You’re at a grocery store. Your kid’s pulling at your shirt, begging you to buy him a quadruple chocolate brownie mix and you’re trying very hard not to say: “Only if it comes with a tranquilizer gun!” You’re really only reading the packaging labels to make sure there isn’t some sort of poison in the ingredients. Your BS-meter is set to hyper-sensitive.

Probably the only way to get your attention is if someone just gets real. If they just strip their message and who they are down to the honest core.

So. Let’s jump back into your shoes. Are you ready to get real in your marketing copy? Contact me and we’ll find a way to get you there.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Fujoshi.

I rarely do this, but this post is a modified version of a newsletter I sent out a few weeks ago. I got some great responses to it and felt compelled to share. If you don’t want to miss out on future Wordy Goodness newsletters, sign up here.

Posted in communication, copywriting, customer experience, messaging | 7 Comments

A Good Name is Hard to Find (and Keep)

Naming a business is so much more complex than picking a name that sounds nice.

You have your brand to think about: how do you want it to be perceived today and in the future? How can you pick a name that your business can grow with, not out of?

There’s domain availability to consider, and also how the name looks and sounds.

And then of course there’s the question of ownership: Once you’ve decided on the perfect name, how can you trademark it so it’s all yours?

These are just a few of the issues I discussed in my guest post over at Deliberate Ink. How to Get a Great Business Name and Own It is a detailed list of Do’s and Don’ts for anyone in the process of naming or renaming their business. If you’ve already been using a name, but haven’t gotten it trademarked, I have a few tips for you, too. (The main one being, “Do it ASAP!”)

Because the best thing about having a great name is getting to keep it.

Posted in branding, business names, new businesses | 2 Comments

There’s No Blah in Blogging

This Wednesday, the 20th, I’ll be teaching a webinar through Sharp Skirts’ Get Sharp program on how to grow a blog the right way. Whether you’re blogging for business, personal reasons (or a little bit of both), the key to attracting loyal readers is in writing content that matters to them. I’ll be going over how to do this and more. Here’s a brief description of the course:

Ever feel like you blog ang blog, but nobody’s listening? Learn how to grow (and keep) the right audience by finding your focus, increasing your visibility, and delivering content that matters. When done right, a blog can be an amazing business tool, so join copywriter, blogger and editor Natalia Sylvester as she shares her tips on how to avoid having “Just another blog.”

To learn more or register, click here. Hope to see you Wednesday!



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4 Things You Never Want Anyone to Say About Your Copy

Today’s post is a first for The Copywriter’s Soapbox: a guest post by Princess Jones of P.S. Jones Communication. What I love about Princess is that she tells it like it is–even when it’s something we don’t want to (but desperately need to) hear. Read on and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.

Copy is like the outfit your marketing materials wear. You don’t want anything that doesn’t flatter your brand and project the image you want associated with it. You know how every year half the people who watch the Oscars are only watching so they can talk about what people are wearing? Well the pressure those celebrities  feel when picking out their dresses is nothing compared to the pressure of creating the perfect copy for your brand. Those celebrities only wear those dresses for one night, but branding can last a lifetime. Whether it’s Joan Rivers or your target audience, there are certain things you never want anyone to say about your copy. Here are four of them:

It’s Riddled With Typos

No one takes you seriously if your copy is full typos and grammatical errors. It makes it look rushed, cheap and unprofessional. Mistakes happen to us all. I write for a living and often edit my clients’ work, and even I have problems self-editing my writing. However, whatever you have to do to make your work error-free, do it. The only other option is to have readers focusing on your comma splices instead of your method.

How to Tell: Make the editing process a priority. Schedule it into the timeline. Read the copy aloud in a different setting than you wrote it. And whether you wrote it yourself or you hired someone else to do it, let a fresh pair of eyes look at it. Ask a partner, a colleague or just about  anyone who can read to look it over. You get bonus points if you can get someone representative the target audience to give you her thoughts.

It’s Predictable or Generic

“Blah, blah, blah, blah.”If your copy reads like that, it’s probably because it looks just like everyone else’s.  Time worn cliches and buzz words don’t do anything for your message. I’m not saying you have to reinvent the wheel every time you send out a new brochure, but you should try to at least put on a new set of tires.

How to Tell: Ask yourself whether what you’ve written could be about any other company or product than the one in question. If you could swap out the brand name with anyone else’s, it’s not good enough to represent any brand.

The Wrong Perspective

Regardless of who your audience is, they care more about themselves than you. That’s not narcissism or selfishness. That’s called being a human being. So when someone reads your copy, she doesn’t want to hear about what the product does or who the company is. Instead, she wants to hear about what those things can do for her problem. Make it all about the reader and why she should care.

How to Tell: Go through the copy and count how many times you said something about what the company or product does versus what the customer gains. If it’s not decidedly more about the customer than the company, go back and make it so.

It’s Confusing

Everybody loves clever copy. When done right, clever copy makes an impression by surprising us or making us laugh. When done badly, clever copy leaves the audience wondering what is the point of the whole thing. The first job of your copy is to inform the reader and the second is to persuade them to take the next step. Confusing copy accomplishes neither of these things. If it’s a choice between clever and clear, choose clear every time.

How to Tell: Look at your finished copy and ask yourself a few questions: Does it incorporate the key concepts that define the brand? Can you actually pinpoint the words that ask the reader to do what you want her to do? If not, it’s back to the drawing board for you.

What would you hate to hear about your copy? How do you decide it needs more work?

Princess Jones is the owner of P.S. Jones Communications, providing copywriting, consulting and speaking services to small businesses and solopreneurs. She writes about freelance writing on Diary of a Mad Freelancer and entrepreneurship on She’s Self-Employed. To connect with Princess, visit her LinkedIn and Twitter profiles.


Posted in copywriting, guest posts, messaging, writing tips | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Why Copywriters Do More Than “String Words Together”

February 12, 2011I can’t help but pay attention to word choice, whether it’s in casual conversations or in ads (I know…big surprise!). Lately I’ve been noticing a disturbing choice of words when it comes to people looking for a copywriter. They’ll say things like:

We’re looking for someone who can make us sound good.

Like to write? We’re looking for a copywriter.

Can you string words together and make them sound lovely?

Which really makes me pause for a moment and think, “Wow. None of those things describe a great copywriter.” It’s kind of like the “every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square” principle.

Because yes, every copywriter should possess those qualities, but having them doesn’t automatically make you a great copywriter.

What to Really Look For in a Copywriter

A lovely string of words won’t do any business much good if they’re not clearly delivering a message and persuading the reader. So maybe the ad that asks a writer to “make them sound good” should really be asking them to 1) speak to their intended audience and 2) show that audience how their business will make their lives easier.

Beyond looking for a writer who loves what she does, look for one who likes solving problems, too. A writer who doesn’t take things at face value will analyze your message, your goals and your product to make sure that they all add up to sales for you and satisfaction for the customer.

They’ll even “string lovely words together,” but the words will do much more than sound nice. They’ll move your audience to action, whether it’s a purchase, an email sign-up, or a simple call they make to find out more about your business.

If you were writing an ad for a great copywriter, what qualities would you look for?

Creative Commons License photo credit: brotherM

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Does Your Copy Read Like a Spambot Wrote It?

Every once in a while I go through my spammed comments to make sure any real comments don’t accidentally get filtered out. And let me tell you, these spambots, they’re trying REALLY HARD to sound like real people.

Too bad the majority of us have half a brain and can see right through it. I mean, it’s easy, right? Huge blocks of text with mostly links: spam. Generic statements paired with a username like “SellGoldWatchesforCash”: spam. Comments that call me “man” when it’s clear I’m not: spam.

You can recognize spam in half a second when someone else is schlepping it onto you. Can you recognize it that easily in your own copy?

4 signs that your copy is reading like a spambot wrote it

1. Huge blocks of text that just go on and on. Readers will take one glance and that will be their last. Break it up into small, more digestible and relevant pieces to ensure you grab visitors instead of scare them off.

2. Cheesy domain names, headlines and slogans. Domain names like “” are the online equivalent of a sleazy used car dealership. And even when they say “For You,” I’m guessing my needs will be the last thing on these sellers’ minds.

3. Clearly not knowing your audience. Spambots have an excuse because they’re not real. When they call me man or dude I delete them, but at least they had a 50/50 chance of being right. Real people, real businesses, have no excuses not to know their customers.

4. A whole lot of words that say nothing at all. Here’s a new little trick I’ve noticed the bots are trying to pull. They’re trying to sound intelligent and genuine by leaving comments that are flattering, but could apply to ANYTHING. Here’s one from my spam queue (typos included):

This is a smart blog. I mean it. You have so much knowledge about this issue, and so much passion. You also know how to make people rally behind it, obviously from the responses. Youve got a design here thats not too flashy, but makes a statement as big as what youre saying. Great job, indeed.

Could you be guilty of this same tactic? Does your copy go on and on about how passionate you are, or how innovative your company is? Could someone pluck that copy from your website, paste it on someone else’s, and the same would still apply?

What other spam traits do you think we should watch out for?


Posted in communication, copywriting, messaging, web copy | Tagged , | Leave a comment