The first Professional Consultant's Association of Central New York meeting of the year was a roundtable discussion on the topic of writing and how important it is for your business. It was led by Mitch Mitchell of T. T. Mitchell Consulting, Inc (disclaimer; the writer of this article and most of the article's on this site are by Mitch Mitchell, but it's being intentionally written in 3rd party mode) and covered a host of topics relating to the writing process.
Mitch began by showing some of the types of email and regular mail correspondence he receives on a regular basis from people hoping to work with him. Most of the letters suffer from multiple types of errors. The most common are misspellings, copied form letters (which means receiving the same exact letter from multiple companies) and letters that either refer to something he doesn't do or where they forget to mention his name. Some of the membership believed form letters going out to client isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as the letters are sent to specific people, but everyone got a chuckle realizing that the same exact letter with minor changes is a common thing many companies do.
Next he got into talking about 10 things that consultants should avoid when it comes to writing letters, blogs, articles or contracts. We spend the most time on contracts, where the discussion talked about a couple of different things.
The first was whether we should be writing the contracts or allowing our potential clients to put them together. There was no consensus on this except to say that it depended on the client and the work being requested. We did agree that if we write the contracts that not only should they be relatively short and easy to understand, but we should always explain the deliverables that the client should expect to receive from us. Contracts should also always have an area talking about price, and they should establish what they expect to be paid rather than dodging the issue; it's a waste of time not to discuss rates when you've gotten to the point where a contract is finally required.
The second was whether consultants should have lawyers reading contracts that come from clients where not only are they long but there's a lot of legal speak. This can be scary for newer consultants because they're worried that the client might decide to go a different route and we're all looking to work with paying clients. The group consensus was that if we're comfortable reading the entire contract that we probably don't need a lawyer, but if anything looks suspicious or dodgy that paying a lawyer to review it might be prudent. We also agreed that anything we see in a contract that we don't like should be brought to the attention of the client and somehow worked out. It's always better to address things up front to protect yourself rather than waiting for problems to occur and find out that you're trapped in the terms of a contract you signed.
The final piece was talking about ways writing could benefit all consultants in helping to brand their business or create publicity for themselves. Those six items were:
* write a book
* write a blog
* write an article
* write a white paper
* create a digital product
* create an online portfolio
As always, the roundtable presentation created a great discussion by the members of the organization, and hopefully everyone left taking away something they can use in the future. That's the best thing about working with consultants; everyone has enough ideas to go around.