Three Things Digital Nomads Must Know About Effective Writing | Guest Post by Jason Michael MacLeod
As digital nomads, we are an extremely diverse bunch: full stack web devs VPN’ing into servers from café’s in Ubud, Bali; social media managers checking in on clients using mobile hotspots in the Colorado Rockies; affiliate marketers researching new products at a co-working space in Bansko, Bulgaria.
What we all have in common, however, is remoteness.
In a real sense, we are not physically where we work. There is a space between wherever we are typing on our laptops and those we need to be in touch with.
We can’t walk down the hall to have a quick face-to-face conversation with a client or co-worker or employee.
This makes effective communication across distance, especially written communication, critical for any successful digital nomad.
As a writing and professional communication instructor at several universities, I have seen the same mistakes made repeatedly by students and digital nomads.
Whether you need to compose a quick e-mail, informational blog post, or an extensive technical document, take the time consider these three things whenever you sit down to write.
1. Know Your Audience
If you write for a general audience, you write for no one.
Nothing tanks a cover letter for a job like “Dear Sir or Madam” or, even worse, “To Whom it May Concern.”
Travel articles for Medium or Forbes that try to appeal to everyone will be boring to everyone.
Technical documentation full of jargon for a non-tech orientated marketing team is going to be incomprehensible for them.
If you can’t take the time to understand who you are writing for, and by extension provide something of value to them, then why should your audience take the time to read what you have written?
We need to know who we are writing for before we decide how to write to them. This means you need to do research and make choices.
Let’s say you are writing a new blog post extolling the virtues of your new e-Book on cryptocurrency.
Who is most likely to buy it? Late 20’s millennials? Financially adventurous baby boomers?
Make a decision then target that audience with a corresponding tone and engaging informational content. Take the time, and put in the work, to understand first what that niche needs to hear in order for your message to be successful.
2. Be Specific
Specifics add value. Generalities are worthless.
Having identified the audience for your writing, carry on that level of attention by providing specific details in your writing.
Specifics provide information that is actionable and lets the reader know you are not wasting their time.
Writing a cover letter for a remote iOS app development position? Don’t say you are a “problem solver” or “team player.” Give a specific example of how you solved a problem in iOS app development.
Provide details of how you have worked well in a team environment. This is what will make you stand out from the other applicants who pepper their letters with easily dismissible catch phrases.
Also important to consider, while English is widely used in international commerce, the majority of its speakers know it as second language.
Imprecise figures of speech like “I can go to bat for you” or “let’s not put all our eggs in one basket” often do not translate well (or at all) into someone’s native language.
As digital nomads live and work internationally, it is important to be conscious of the English language’s peculiarities and avoid them through clear, specific wording. We don’t want to put up additional barriers to communication where they do not need to exist (especially when writing important instructions for a digital assistant in the Philippines.)
3. Execute Flawlessly
Your words represent you. Always.
This means you need to schedule in time to proofread and edit your writing.
This is especially true for longer documents such as project plans and proposals that may need to go through multiple revisions. If it is at all possible, wait a day before sending out important materials.
By having a night’s rest and coming at the writing fresh in the morning for a final pass we are often able to see things and pick up on issues that we missed the day before.
An additional option is to have a friend or colleague give your text content a quick read through. Another pair of eyes can often see what ours cannot.
Here is a real-life example of the importance of proofreading: in a former position as a manager, I was tasked with slimming down a large pile of job applications. Two thirds were easy to discard as they simply did not meet the requirements.
The last third, about 15 applicants that I needed to get down to a final five, were much more difficult as they all met the requirements and had similar levels of experience. So, what did I do? I scrutinized the resume and cover letters. The final five that I picked were the applications that were without typos, were clearly written, and presented the potential new employee well.
Writing Is A Skill
No one is born a strong writer. It takes practice.
If you are a digital nomad who struggles with writing, or just wish you could improve a bit, I have good news: good writing, like any other skill, is learned. No one is born a strong writer.
Writing is simply a craft that takes practice in order to improve. One could read every word in ten writing handbooks, but still struggle with writing if you don’t put in the work of knocking out drafts and learning from your mistakes.
Imagine someone trying to learn sculpture without molding clay or someone trying to learn piano without practicing. It just doesn't happen. Writing is the very much the same way.
The more experience you get with writing the easier it becomes for you and the better you are at it.
You begin to automatically consider audience when you write, infuse your message with valuable specifics, and successfully proofread and edit your words.
These skills can all help your effective communication as a digital nomad from that laptop on the beach to the rest of the world.
Holding graduate degrees in writing and literature, Jason Michael MacLeod has taught online university level writing and professional communication courses for over a decade.
Follow his digital nomad adventures in creative living on his Instagram: @ThePoeticVoyage