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Living on Deadlines, Word Counts, and Plenty of Tea

“One forges one’s style on the terrible anvil of daily deadlines.”  ― Émile Zola

Deadline—the very word has the power to spark fear in the hearts of professionals in any field, that dreaded date often inspiring the same anticipation as a dentist appointment.

As a freelance writer, assignment deadlines are part of my life nearly every day. I always have a deadline—or more likely, several—looming in my immediate future. And I’ve had to learn to live with that fact given my chosen profession.

It can be difficult at times to flex your creative muscles when you’re under the pressure of a deadline. So like many writers, I’ve developed my own method for coping and keeping myself motivated. It usually involves lots of tea—black, with milk and a little bit of sugar—and locking myself in my home office for several hours at a time. And sometimes pizza.

I have to admit, though, that there’s nothing like an impending deadline to inspire you to get things done. There have been times when I’ve been working on an article and just couldn’t get it right. I didn’t like this part or that, or it was over the assigned word count by 200 words and I couldn’t decide which parts to cut. But whenever that happens, I eventually reach a point when I just have to make a decision and get it done if I want to turn it in on time (which, of course, I do). And then, what do you know? I end up cranking out something awesome—and on time to boot. Sometimes, as I’ve found, you just need that deadline pressure to motivate you for that final push to the finish line.

If you’re anything like me, just make sure you have plenty of tea stocked.

So, fellow writers, and other professionals who face regular deadlines, how do you cope with deadline pressure? Share your thoughts below!

Image with black background asks "Want your words to make an impression?" in white letters, and "Hire a pro," in blue letters.

5 Reasons to Hire a Professional Copywriter for Your Business

It takes a lot of work to run a successful business. That’s why business owners tend to be such busy people, and, as I’ve learned from my own experience, we often end up wearing many hats.

You might be running the show as owner, president, or CEO of your company, but if you lack a dedicated communications expert on staff, you also may have found yourself managing areas like marketing and public relations at some point. Maybe you’re even handling those tasks now.

Instead of getting bogged down trying to write blog posts and press releases or copy for brochures, websites, and social media pages on top of your other daily tasks, why not seek outside help from a qualified professional who specializes in those services and knows how to use words to make a lasting impression?

Consider these five situations where hiring a professional copywriter can help your business:

1. You aren’t that good at writing.

We all have our own talents. If you struggle with writing or simply detest it, there’s no shame in admitting that writing isn’t yours. If that’s the case, hiring a professional writer will save you valuable time and energy better spent on tasks suited to your strengths and passions.

It’s true—anyone can write. But quality writing takes more skill than most people realize. Anyone can put words on a page. A skilled writer can make those words truly memorable to readers.

2. You don’t have time.

Quality writing also takes time. But between meetings with clients, managing employees, responding to emails, and working on client projects, many business owners simply don’t have the time they need to write material for blogs or social media on a regular basis. By hiring a writer to handle those tasks for you, though, you’ll be free to spend your valuable time running your business rather than scrambling to put together content when you realize it’s been six months since your last post.

3. You need a fresh perspective.

When you own a business, you tend to spend many of your waking hours devoted to it, whether you’re working late on a project or just brainstorming ideas during your morning shower or on the treadmill. It can be hard sometimes to separate yourself from your business. I’ve learned in my own experience, for instance, that it can be particularly tough to write about your business objectively. It’s quite a challenge to write your own About Us page for your website or your own biography for your LinkedIn profile.

In these cases, a professional writer can offer a fresh, outside perspective that can be exceptionally useful when it comes to honing in on the traits that make you and your business unique in your field.

4. You need particular expertise.

As a business owner, you’re the expert in your field. But even if you are a decent writer, consider that you might not have the skills or knowledge needed to write certain types of business content. The format, tone, and perspective of a press release are typically quite different from those of blog posts, website landing pages, and brochures, for example.

There’s both a science and an art to writing marketing and public-relations materials. An experienced copywriter knows not only how to format different types of content, but also how to grab attention and engage the reader from start to finish. He or she can take your ideas and package them in a way that appeals to your target audience, whether it’s a newspaper editor, a potential customer visiting your website, or your Facebook fans.

5. You need attention to detail.

I see it time and again: businesses both large and small publishing content that has egregious errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and word usage. I see it on social media networks, in newsletters, on blogs, and in advertisements, and it makes me cringe every time, for it shows a lack of professionalism. It reflects poorly on the company’s reputation.

By hiring a professional copywriter who’s well-versed in crafting compelling and grammatically correct narratives, though, you can rest assured that your marketing content will get the attention to detail and oomph it needs to make the lasting impression you want.

Do any of these five situations apply to you? If so, your business could benefit from hiring a professional copywriter like me.

Email me today at missy@sheehanwriting.com to learn more and get a customized quote on your project.

Creating my own dream job

Creating My Own Dream Job: My Journey From Freelance Writer to Business Owner

Earlier this week, I met a local college student for coffee. An aspiring journalist, she wanted to interview me about my own experience in the field for her senior capstone paper.

Besides being extremely flattered that someone would want to interview me, I have to admit that the experience left me feeling pretty proud of how far I’ve come since I started my career as a part-time editorial assistant/office manager for Hagerstown magazine five years ago.

My own path to becoming a journalist was different than most. I didn’t go to journalism school for one, nor did I major in English when I attended Shepherd University. I majored in Spanish, thinking I’d eventually become a translator. After I earned my degree in 2009, I traveled to Valencia, Spain, and worked as an intern for a nonprofit organization for a few months in an effort to bolster my speaking skills—which even after nearly ten years of academic study were woefully lacking. During that trip I realized I neither had the verbal skills I needed nor the true ambition to be a translator, though I did have a knack for written language—verb conjugations, grammatical structures, and spelling—in both Spanish and English.

I was no stranger to writing either. As an honors student back in my college days, many of my courses were very writing intensive. My own senior capstone papers (I had to write two of them, with one requiring both an English and Spanish version) were more than 30 pages long each. And although I never would have admitted it at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed writing those papers. I relished the challenge of arguing my stance while weaving a compelling narrative and backing up my claims with support from my carefully selected sources.

Looking back now, it seems quite natural that I’ve taken to editing, particularly copy editing and proofreading, as well as writing. Ever since I learned to read as a child, I’ve been silently (or sometimes not-so-silently) pointing out errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation in everything I read, from novels to newspapers. I can’t help it. They just jump out at me, clamoring to be corrected.

Beyond the 9-to-5 Grind
After getting back from Spain back in fall 2009, I knew I wanted to work in publishing. My dream was to work my way up to being a staff writer at one of my favorite magazines like Outside or Eating Well or to become an editor for a publishing house.

I quickly learned, though, that dream jobs like that are few and far between, if not completely nonexistent, in my hometown of Martinsburg, West Virginia. So, not wanting to move or make the four-hour round-trip commute to Washington, D.C., every day, I settled for working at a local newspaper and then for an online university press before moving on to work in the marketing and public-relations fields.

In each of the full-time staff positions I held over the past five years, I gained a lot of useful skills and knowledge, but I also felt deep down that I could do better than the 9-to-5 grind—that I could find something that would make me happier and more fulfilled.

At some point I realized that as a freelance writer, I was my own boss. And I enjoyed that freedom, so I decided to create my own dream job.

I eventually found what I was looking for in the freelance writing I was doing on the side. I’d been spending my precious evening and weekend time writing articles for Hagerstown magazine ever since I got my start as editorial assistant there, but I enjoyed the work. I was given an assignment and a deadline, sure, but how, when, and where I completed that assignment was ultimately up to me. At some point I realized that as a freelance writer, I was my own boss. And I enjoyed that freedom, so I decided to create my own dream job.

I knew there were plenty of other local publications that needed writers, so I started reaching out to them in early 2014, slowly building my network of clients while I worked part-time for a local public-relations company to help pay the bills. Today, having left my last staff job behind in December, I contribute regularly to numerous regional and statewide publications including Blue Ridge Country magazine and The State Journal newspaper, and I’m continuing to expand my stable of publication clients.

A Natural Transition
Since I started Sheehan Writing & Editing in December, I’ve also been building my network of business clients, for whom I craft marketing and public-relations materials like brochures, blog posts, and press releases. Considering my previous work experience, it was a natural transition for me to offer these services. Doing so gives me more variety in my day-to-day work and challenges me to tell stories from a different point of view than I do as a journalist.

Plus, I find that fellow business owners are typically a joy to work with. They value my time and expertise as a writer and editor. And they appreciate when someone takes the time to make their story—whether it’s in the form of a brochure or a press release—really shine.

I have to admit, I never thought I’d be a business owner myself. But I’ve learned over the last year that when you’re a freelance writer, you are, in fact, running a business, whether you officially register as such or not. I’ve also learned that even when life takes you in directions you never imagined you’d go, you can end up in a place that just feels right.

I’ve definitely faced challenges—which I’ll write about in future posts—becoming a business owner, but overall, it’s been an enjoyable journey. And I can’t wait to see where else it will take me.

Sheehan Writing & Editing: Making Words Memorable

When it comes to working with words, there’s no denying it—the skills of an experienced writer and editor can make a world of difference to a busy business owner who doesn’t have the time to write blog posts or an anxious author who needs a second set of eyes on her novel.

Besides taking the weight off others’ shoulders, an experienced writer and editor who’s well-versed in crafting polished and professional prose can give a document or a manuscript the time, attention to detail, and oomph it needs to be truly memorable to readers.

That’s what inspired me to found Sheehan Writing & Editing in December 2014. Every day I see businesses, organizations, and even well-known people like authors and public figures putting their messages out there—through their social media pages, blogs, websites, or marketing materials—but their messages aren’t clear. They aren’t concise. They aren’t compelling. So they often go unnoticed, or worse, they actually alienate readers who expect a higher degree of professionalism.

I’m aiming to change that. I founded Sheehan Writing & Editing to help businesses, organizations, and authors send messages that are meaningful, memorable, and professional.

Behind the Words

As the woman behind the words for Sheehan Writing & Editing, I wear several different hats. I’m a journalist, a creative writer, a copywriter, a business communications consultant, a copy editor, and a proofreader—all wrapped into one package.

I started Sheehan Writing & Editing after spending the last five years honing my skills in the publishing, marketing, and public-relations fields. I’ve worked as a newspaper copy editor and page designer, a college textbook copy editor, a marketing assistant for an energy and convenience store company, and as a communications specialist for a public-relations company—all the while slowly building my reputation and expertise as a freelance writer and editor since 2010.

Since then, I’ve written dozens of articles for regional publications like Blue Ridge Country, WV LivingHagerstown, and Spotlight West Virginia magazines, What’s NXT entertainment guide, and The State Journal newspaper. I’ve also copy edited a nonfiction book on spirituality, proofread several short stories, and crafted all kinds of marketing and public-relations materials, including websites, press releases, articles, and newsletters.

Crafting Memorable Messages

Whether you’re an editor at a magazine looking for freelance feature writers, a business owner who needs help with marketing materials, or an author seeking a copy editor or proofreader for your latest novel, I can craft content that will leave a lasting impression on your readers and customers.

My services include writing and editing articles, books, brochures, blog posts, business biographies, social media and website content, press releases, newsletters and more. Visit www.sheehanwriting.com/services to learn more.

Do you have a writing project you need help with? Call me at 304-584-7534 or email me at missy@sheehanwriting.com. I’d love to help!