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You’ve done the hard work. Here’s how to get the recognition you deserve

Essential lessons from a professional writer that can apply to any industry or role.

You’ve done the hard work. Here’s how to get the recognition you deserve
[Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images]

Good work absolutely does not just speak for itself. That’s why a piece of art is always accompanied by an artist statement, and each art show is accompanied by ephemera, an audio guide, or a curator. A staff member at a restaurant not only delivers the food, but explains the story behind a dish or an ingredient, highlighting the story behind it; or they even open up the kitchen, making every operation visible through a glass.

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As people, we value work more when we know how much effort went into it; it’s why Rolls Royce vehicles are still hand-made. So even if we’re working as writers or marketers, we need to do the same. This is the opposite of faking it ’till you make it. We’ve already done the work, now we need to communicate our effort to clients and colleagues, which enables them to appreciate the work more, and makes the writing process smoother.

CREATE A VIDEO TO ACCOMPANY IT

At my editorial studio Wonder Shuttle, we work with experts to collaborate on writing; we believe that transferring this knowledge and clearly communicating it will lead to additional hires and sales at lower costs. We conduct and record an interview with the author of the piece, then write it up on their behalf; they edit it and we work together to publish and promote it.

A year ago, I started sending clients an asynchronous video walking them through an initial draft of a blog post. I want each client to know exactly what my team and I were thinking as we worked through the draft. Sometimes, I’ll highlight some of the stats and the methodology or the research it took to get it, or the thought we put into the flow and structure of the piece. One of my editors took the lead on the communication for a recent delivery. (I use Screenflow, she uses OBS, you can also use Loom.) Some questions that could be worth answering:

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  • Who provided you with direction or inspiration, and what did you do to follow it?
  • What key creative decisions did you make?
  • What was the most difficult part of creating this version of the work, and why? What did you do to overcome it?
  • What comments or feedback do you need from the person watching the video?
  • When do you need their input by?

If you’re working freelance or in-house, and you don’t want to do an extra meeting, make a video walking someone through the work you’ve delivered. They’ll appreciate it, and there’ll be fewer misunderstandings—which makes the process easier for everyone.

For larger projects, if I’m recording a video including work samples and a pitch deck, the video might take 10–15 minutes; otherwise, for a draft delivery, it might take less than 5 minutes.

SET UP A MEETING TO WALK THROUGH IT

As with the asynchronous videos, a live meeting gives you the opportunity to walk your potential clients or employers through your thought process as you present your work, but has the added benefit of allowing you to answer questions along the way. The point is to make your work as clear as possible, and a live presentation can do this in a compelling way, leaving a stronger impression on your audience, as well as providing a more complete picture of your project.

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In the age of remote work and Zoom meetings, it has never been easier to present your work live, so take advantage of this resource to not only present the work that you did, but also explain how you did it.

If it’s an important moment of your work—like a key milestone of a project, or a proposal delivery, or a product demo—it’s best to do these things live. Not only do you make sure the other person is present and paying attention, you also can read their body language, sense the atmosphere of the meeting, and take in feedback right away.

SEND SHORT, POINT-FORM, NOTES

If you are unable to make a video or organize a meeting with someone, leaving notes for the reader can also be a great way to guide them through your work. Just as an editor will give a writer back notes on a draft, making suggestions or asking for clarification, you can make notes on your own work, preemptively answering the readers questions or explaining why you made the decisions that you did.

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This not only gives the reader an insight into your creative process, but also demonstrates to them your ability to communicate and be proactive, which might not come across if you can’t speak with them and simply send them your work.

You can’t leave it to chance that the work makes a good impression on the reader; make sure they know the effort you put into it. If you’re just sending your client, or your bosses and colleagues, a draft as the deliverable, it’s worth the additional presentation effort.

You may think that making notes or preparing a live video or presentation makes more work for someone, but it actually saves them time; you can call out parts you want their feedback on, you can reassure them that you tried hard on this, and show them that you’ve put a lot of thought into it and that they can trust you. It can be a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy: when you present your work to someone, and they appreciate what you accomplished and how you work, they’re more interested in making sure the project works out.

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This sounds really straightforward, but I’ve worked as a deputy editor, editor-in-chief, and an editorial director at organizations like Shopify, Intuit, and WorkOS, and I’ve never had a writer proactively reach out to walk me through their draft. I would’ve been happy to see it—it’s out of the ordinary, and it’s a sign of confidence. Plus, I always have the option to choose not to watch it, of course; but I don’t think I ever would.


Herbert Lui is the author of Creative Doing, a book of 75 prompts that unblock creativity for your work, hobby, or next career. He writes a newsletter that shares three great books every month and is the editorial director at Wonder Shuttle.

This article originally appeared on Herbert Lui’s blog and is reprinted with permission.

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