Blog 6: Personal productivity series: A writer’s perspective
May 12, 2017
Taryn Netterville, freelance tech Copywriter
We’re continuing this popular blog series by interviewing technology copywriter and founder of Strata Content, Taryn Netterville. Our experience of working with Taryn and talking to many writers (including proposal writers) is that productivity can be a real challenge in an office environment.
What are some of the biggest productivity challenges proposal writers and others face?
I have found that the challenges change as you gain experience. When you’re younger and starting out, it’s a challenge just to get your content written in a reasonable amount of time. As you gain experience, you create content, faster but you get pulled into meetings and conversations that distract you from your work.
The office environment can also be very distracting, especially when you are under pressure of deadlines as proposal writers are, for example. Companies that don’t understand the value of remote working can be difficult places to produce your best work. Interestingly, the ability to work at home is often hindered by the technology that a bid team uses. If they aren’t using cloud solutions that enable them to work and collaborate remotely, then creating proposals and other business-critical content can be very difficult from home.
How have you overcome these challenges?
It took me a while to find out what works best for me. I find that I work best early in the morning and early in the evening. I schedule calls and meetings for mid-day or late evenings (to accommodate my clients in the US) and try to only meet clients on-site once or twice a week. I am getting better at not allowing email to distract me - I try to check it just 4 times during the day.
I have also learned that working long hours makes me much less productive than giving it 100% of my energy for 4 - 5 hours a day. Writing is an intensive process, you can’t multi-task or ‘switch off’ while doing. I know that I can only concentrate that hard for max 5 hours, so that’s what I aim for. Once I have completed my writing tasks for the day, I catch up on emails, take calls and do all the other, less intense parts of my job.
Another key part of productivity for writers is process, especially around briefing and getting feedback from clients. The times that I struggle most from “writers block” are almost always when I have an unclear or incomplete brief. I am learning to be really strict about ensuring that I have all the information I need before I start writing a piece. This is crucial for proposal writers too. Without a clear idea of the prospect’s situation, challenges and win themes, it becomes incredibly difficult to craft a proposal or RFP response that you feel energised about.
The final piece of the puzzle for me is technology. I need to store all my work in the cloud so that I can be sure I am working on the correct version with my clients. Cloud storage also means that I can update things fast, from my mobile if necessary.
How can companies better support their marketing and proposal writers?
Great question. I think there’s a lot that companies need to be doing for their bid teams in particular. Qorus ran an insightful survey late last year that touched on this – it’s well worth a read. I’d encourage companies to embrace remote and flexible working, ensure that this team feels valued within the business, and give them the right technology to enable them to work productively.