Early in my career as a creative writer, my attitude toward business writing changed. What I realized was this: Business writing and creative writing are so similar, they are often the same thing. This realization helped me (and will help you) make more money doing what you love (which, if you’re reading this, is to write).
Because writing skills are so transferrable, you can use them in practically any genre of writing—whether that be science fiction, creative non-fiction (CNF) or even business writing. What does this mean for you? It means that if you’re a creative writer, you can easily pick up a few business writing tasks and find a steady side income.
Transferring your skills is easier than you think—I’ve done it myself, and the payoff is not only in additional money, but in better writing skills. To help explain, here are some of the ways business and creative writing are one and the same.
Business documents are a form of creative writing
Think of a business letter sent to customers to describe a rate increase. If you’ve ever received a letter like this, you’ll know it’s bad news—at least for you, the customer. Even so, messages like this are necessary. Businesses need business writers that can creatively angle their messages to make them fit their needs.
This seemingly basic concept applies to all sorts of business writing—whether that is writing a letter that contains negative information in a more positive manner or convincing top executives to provide funding for a grassroots campaign.
The bottom line is this: business documents are written to convey a specific meaning. They elicit certain emotions, feelings and thoughts—just like creative writing.
And no, business documents aren’t written to hide the truth, and neither are stories. As a skilled author, you’ll take creative license to convey the necessary message. Enter the mind of the creative writer—thoughts like “Is this the best word to use here?” and “What is this sentence really saying, and is it what I mean?” are key questions not only in business writing, but also creative writing. Honing the skills to answer these questions in either genre (let’s call business writing a genre, since in a way, it is) will help the other.
Knowing your audience applies in business and creative writing
The concept of knowing your audience is important in business writing. For example, companies spend lots of money paying proposal writers to write documents that are specifically targeted to their intended audience. A strong understanding of audience is also required for creative writing. In both forms of writing, one of your thoughts while drafting a piece should be “Who is my ideal reader? What does this reader look like, what do they think like?” Having this image of your target reader in your mind will help you draft a stronger piece that is more in-tune with your intended audience, whether your writing is for business proposal or a short story.
Asking the right questions to know your audience will help you leap outside of your comfort zone and target a broader readership, which can be a great skill in both business and creative writing. If you’ve already mastered this skill for one form of writing, you can easily use it in another form.
Researching is applicable to all genres
Whenever I begin writing a business document, I inevitably do research. It’s a good average to say that for every page, I do at least one hour of research. But the same can be said of research when you’re writing creatively—whether that is fiction or CNF. Even if you’re drawing from experience, you need to know background, details, settings and other facts that create the backbone of a good story and unite it as a cohesive entity.
It is the same for business writing. You must know the background and the details, even if they’re not explicit in your writing, just so you can angle the writing correctly to make it truthful and believable.
Paying attention to grammar and spelling
Lastly, every writer’s favorite: grammar and spelling. For both business and creative writing, your grammar and spelling skills must be up-to-par. You’ll need to make sure your creative writing is top notch, because a piece is more likely to be rejected if it’s not polished. Some agents won’t even look at a piece if they come across too many errors.
In business writing, it’s much the same—spelling or grammatical errors, even if all the facts are solid, will lose you credibility, which comes at a high cost. The outcome could be that employees don’t read your manuals and have trouble learning a new system, or it could be that top executives don’t bid on your proposal, and your client loses funding.
So take a chance!
As you can see, learning the ins and outs of one form of writing can open the doors to other forms, allowing you to expand your repertoire as a writer and make more money. It worked for me, and many other writers I know. Although I had always written creative short stories, I didn’t have much luck with publication until I obtained a full-time job as a technical writer and began working part-time as a freelancer. Solidifying my skills in business writing grew my skills in creative writing, and I began publishing my work.
So take a chance and try something new. You may surprise yourself with how transferrable your writing skills are. Business? Creative? No matter—it is just writing, after all.