22 December 2010 0 Comments

Blogging for Business

WordPress specialist and web strategist Lisa Rouissi publishes interviews with other bloggers on her website Orange Buzz.  Earlier this month she interviewed me in her ‘Blogging for Business’ series.

1. Who are you and what is the story behind your business?

My name is Deborah Valentine, my own story is too long and convoluted to convey here, suffice it to say that I hold a Canadian and Dutch passport and have been an ‘international’ my whole life – here and in many other countries. The story behind my business? Well, this is also a little convoluted. In reality my business started by mistake. While in the process of looking for employment I was approached 4 years ago to Project Manage the Feel at Home in The Hague Fair. In order to accept the opportunity I had to establish myself as a business in The Netherlands – which was surprisingly straight forward. I never considered myself a business person, and yet I have managed to keep ‘a hand in The Hague’ going since. Granted, in those four years I have done many varied projects – making it hard to pinpoint my niche, but it has stayed alive.

In the last year and a half or so I have focussed on one area, namely writing, and have made the decision to build my business on this skill, and passion. Apparently I am good at it – and I enjoy it – and people are willing to pay for it. Seems like a straight forward formula! – even for a non-business person!

Writing is a broad category, so perhaps it is worth elaborating on this. I am no budding author, there is no novel waiting to pour out of me. What I enjoy, and am good at, is finding a unique something in others, or businesses, and weaving a story around it that makes getting to know that individual, service, product appealing. It is marketing writing if you will – though I am not happy with the term copy writing. Given that I speak several languages I am able to do my interviews and or research in the native language of my clients allowing them to express themselves in their own language, and then find the words to express their message in my language, English. This also applies of course to native English speakers who struggle with the written word. It is for this reason that I say I help people find their voice in English.

A secondary, but no less interesting arm of the business is editing material written in English by non-native speakers. Often clients have prepared something themselves in English, a presentation, a project proposal, web texts etc., which needs tweaking. Again, because of my languages I am able to distil what was meant and ensure that the language is used correctly to capture and convey the intent. Since I am fluent in Dutch, and have lived here a long time, this is a skill I am particularly adept at when editing English written by a Dutch person. Sounds unusual, but I do enjoy the challenge of finding what was meant and ensuring it is said.

2. When and why did you start blogging?

Ha, seriously? I started blogging because you told me to :) . When? Almost 2 years ago – though not at all consistently.

3. How much time do you spend creating content, do you have any time saving tips for others?

I rarely create content – rather ideas pop into my head which I try to retain – usually on bits of paper – and then develop in my blog. More often than not it is a comment from my children (who are more Dutch than Canadian and allow me to see the world around me a little differently) which sets me off on some subjects: though I have been asked by one of them to no longer include them (even without a name) in my blogs!

I am becoming more comfortable with Word Press which has made this process much easier – I can start a blog whenever the idea strikes me and publish it when it feels right … I need to develop a pattern, this is true. As Claudia Hulshof said earlier – establishing a pattern so people know when to expect something is crucial.

4. How do you stay inspired?

Looking around me, listening, reading, talking to people. There is always something to write about – always something which strikes a chord in me, which is why I think I am also good at what I do – I can always find a hook. I have noticed a trend though: my blogs tend to be about women/international community at large and individuals in general – not so much about what I do. Does that make sense?

5. How has your blog influenced your business, can you give an example?

Too early to tell really. It does provide me with an opportunity of sharing who I am while at the same time being a showcase of my style of writing which is kind of important if you think about it. J I do know that clients’ who were enquiring about my services, after reading an entry or two did respond back saying they liked my style – and then hired me – or referred me.

5. Looking back, what are the lessons you have learned about blogging?

What held me back was wondering what on earth I had to say which would be of interest to anyone. It was only when I started to think of my blog as part of a conversation with a friend, or new acquaintance, that I realised it was a way of engaging with people – letting them get to know me, and I them, through their comments. I consider it an extension of the networking I do, and enjoy. It allows me to be me.

6. What advice would you offer to others looking to take their business online?

Same advice I try to give myself – keep it simple! And, the blueprint for your business is in your hands – if it needs to be redrawn, just do it.

Deborah thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I look forward to seeing how your blog has developed in a couple of years.

Website: ahandinthehague.com
Blog: ahandinthehague.com/blog
Twitter:twitter.com/ahandinthehague (not yet active – NEXT step)
Facebook:Deborah Valentine
LinkedIn: Deborah E Valentine

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