Another technique for improving your writing you won’t want to do


Yesterday, I told you about a technique for improving your writing. I told you that I dramatically improved my writing by hand copying other people’s writing that I admired and wanted to emulate. Today, I want to share something else I did that elevated my writing to an even higher level.


Every morning without fail, I rolled out of bed, grabbed a spiral notebook and pen, and wrote for twenty minutes.

Some would call this journaling, but that implies that I had something to say that I wanted to capture on paper. Instead, what I did was “free write”.

There are two rules to free writing.

First rule: write whatever comes into your mind, no matter how silly or meaningless. Write gibberish if that’s what comes. Write, “I don’t know what to write,” if you don’t know what to write. Write a list of words that have no connection to each other, or write the same word over and over, until your mind coughs up something else.

Which leads to the second rule: don’t stop. Keep your hand moving for twenty minutes and don’t stop for any reason.

So, what happens when you do this? At first, not much. You write a lot of useless junk and your hand gets really tired. Eventually, however, two things happen.

One thing that happens is that you start writing cogent thoughts about important things. Your writing taps into your subconscious mind and reveals your deepest beliefs and feelings, long forgotten memories, and amazingly valuable ideas you can use in your business and personal life.

Free writing becomes a kind of self-examination. It is cathartic and therapeutic. You write your way through problems and find solutions. At times, it is frightening, but ultimately, it is liberating. At first, your writing might reveal feelings of inadequacy, guilt, or pain. After a few weeks or a few months, you start feeling better about yourself and get really clear about your future.

Fun times.

The second thing that happens with free writing (when you do it long enough) is that you become a better writer. Your practice of writing daily (and freely) eventually clears away the warts and blemishes that disguise your writing and protect you from revealing your true self.

You start writing plainly and clearly. Your writing has energy and emotion. Writing is fun, and faster, because you are primarily talking on paper.

If you do this, do it first thing in the morning, before coffee, before you are fully awake. Your adult brain will be tired and put up less resistance, allowing your inner child’s brain to be heard.

Don’t show your writing to anyone. It’s just for you, at least for now. But don’t read what you write, at least for several months. Reading your insane scribbles might frighten and inhibit you.

How long should you do this? As long as it takes. Three months, six months, a year, a lifetime. You don’t have to figure that out right now. Just start, have fun with it, and trust that when you come out on the other side, you will be a better writer. Because you will.


A simple way to improve your writing you probably won’t do


Do you want to improve your writing? Of course you do. Well, there’s a simple way to do that but I’m afraid you won’t do it.

Yes, it’s simple. Easy, even. But it takes a fair amount of time. Most people aren’t willing to put in that time.

But it’s worth it. I promise. When I did it, it changed the wiring in my brain and I became a much better writer.

I used to write like a lawyer–stilted, passive, thorough to a fault, and boring. Everything changed when I started using the method I’m about to share with you.

In a nutshell, this method involves finding writing exemplars you would like to emulate and copying them. I did this with sales letters and newsletters that tickled my fancy, but it will work for any kind of writing.

The idea is that the inputting of words into our brains processes those words differently than when we output them. When you studied for the bar exam, for example, you re-read your notes and outlines and all but memorized the information. But it wasn’t until you did practice tests and outputted that information that you truly internalized and could best use that information.

Something like that.

Anyway, find good writing samples and copy them. Re-type the entire piece. Then, do it again. Keep doing it until you know what the next sentence will say before you read it.

This process allows your mind to slow down enough to see things you ordinarily ignore. You’ll ask yourself why the writer chose one word instead of another, you’ll see how they started and ended sentences and paragraphs, and you’ll notice patterns in the way they staged the information.

You’ll also see how how the writer gets your attention and makes the piece easier to read with headlines, sub-heads, and bullet points.

Now, if you’re really committed, you’ll do what many professional copywriters did when they were learning their craft. You’ll copy the entire piece by hand.

Writing by hand invokes a more direct connection to the brain. You may have read articles recently about studies showing that taking notes by hand improves recall of the information. Copying someone else’s writing works the same way.

Whichever method you use, keep at it. Do it several times a week. Give it three or four months. Maybe more. Eventually, you’ll notice that your writing has started to change. It’s clearer, more concise, and more persuasive.

I can’t swear to it, but I’m pretty sure that when I stopped writing like a lawyer and started writing to communicate, I started settling cases faster and for more money.


Could you make it on Rodeo Drive?


Years ago, when I lived and worked in Beverly Hills, I wore Brioni suits, had a penthouse suite on Wilshire Boulevard, and was busier than a one-legged Irish dancer. So when I needed a haircut, naturally I shot over to Rodeo Drive and visited Vidal Sassoon.

Expensive? Yes. But worth it, at least to me at that time in my life.

They saw me on time and got me out quickly so I could get back to work. Everyone treated me like royalty. And it was peaceful–no chemical smells, bright lights, or incessant chatter.

There were other amenities: easy parking, pretty shampoo girls, soft drinks and snacks of my choosing.

A very pleasant experience, one that I looked forward to as a respite in my tumultuous day.

Oh, they gave a pretty good haircut, too.

I was reminded of those days when I read about a barbershop that charges more by providing better service than most barbershops. The article profiled a customer in New York City who couldn’t imagine paying more than $20 for a haircut but who found, as I had, that it was worth paying more.

But enough about haircuts. The question of the day is, “How much more would your clients pay you for better service?”

Could you charge 20% more? 30% Double?

Doubling your fees is crazy, right? Well, I’m pretty sure I paid Sassoon triple what I would have paid elsewhere. Depending on what you charge now, perhaps double isn’t out of the question.

Next question: “What would you have to do to get that much?”

I can’t answer that for you, but I can tell you it always comes down to the little things. The little extras that make the client feel important, appreciated, and safe. The things that make them say, “Yes, I pay more but it’s worth every penny.”

Now, you may be thinking, “There’s no way my clients would pay a nickel more, no matter what I do.” I’m pretty sure that’s not true, but if it is, you need to get some new clients.

You don’t need to be on Rodeo Drive to be able to charge more. You might want to hire some pretty shampoo girls, however.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula


If it’s Tuesday, it must be clients


You have a lot on your plate. This morning, you have to review pleadings and get them filed and served. Then you have a meeting with your office staff. After that, you’re off to a hearing. When you return to the office, you have a new client to see. Before you go home, you plan to catch up on some billing.

If you get interrupted in any of these tasks, you lose momentum. It takes time to get back in the groove and, therefore, you’re not nearly as productive as you’d like to be.

Is there a better way?

One idea is to do what Twitter founder Jack Dorsey does. He gives each work day a “theme,” so he always know “what to focus on that day, and what to return to when [he gets] distracted.”

So perhaps you use Mondays for paperwork and Tuesdays you see clients. Wednesdays might be for administrative tasks and meetings with office staff. Perhaps you will schedule depos and arbitrations on Thursdays. Fridays could be for planning, marketing, and working on big projects.

Or, you might reserve mornings for court appearances and paperwork, afternoons for clients and meetings.

However you do it, the idea is to schedule your work in blocks of time so that you always know what you’re doing and you avoid multitasking.

Think about how you could create theme days (or half-days) in your practice. Look at your calendar for the last month or so and look for patterns. Also consider your energy levels at different parts of the day.

Or. . . maybe wait and do this on Friday. It’s Tuesday and I think you’ve got some clients coming in this afternoon.


Are you the smartest person in the room?


When you have a problem, or you have to make an important decision, who do you turn to for advice?

Do you have friends or networking contacts who are subject matter experts in pertinent areas? Do you know successful professionals and business owners who can provide general business advice and help you sort things out? Do you have mentors or a panel of advisers?

Industrialist Henry Kaiser once said, “I make progress by having people around me who are smarter than I am – and listening to them. And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am.”

Michael Dell’s put it this way:

Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room. In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building. And in life it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships.

Getting proper advice can accelerate the growth of your career by helping you to avoid costly mistakes and leverage existing opportunities. You might figure things out yourself but why not talk to people who already know?

You can find advisers through formal networking or by asking your existing contacts for referrals or introductions. .

Start by asking for help with specific areas rather than general business advice. What kinds of information or advice do you need? Who might know someone who is an expert in that area?

You might start your own mastermind group. Ask four or five successful professionals or business owners in different areas to meet with you once or twice a month to share ideas and advice.

If you have more money than time, you might hire several experts on a trial basis.

No doubt you are intelligent and good at what you do. But that can only take you so far. If you want to take your practice to the next level, go find some people who are smarter than you.


If you could only have one client. . .


If you could only have one client, who would it be?

Write down their name. Picture them in your mind’s eye.

Now, why would you choose them?

Do they give you lots of work and pay you lots of money? Do they regularly give you referrals? Do you like them and enjoy working with them?

Write down all of the reasons you would choose this client and like to have more like them.

Next, write down everything you know about them. Go through your files, visit their website and social media profiles, think about everything they’ve told you about their job or their business and their personal life.

What are their goals? What are their problems? What do they do best?

Where did they go to school? What does their spouse do for a living? What sports do their kids play?

What do they read? What kind of car do they drive? What’s the favorite restaurant?

Why do this? Because this is your best client and you should learn everything you can about them. You should study them, so you can get closer to them, help them, and find more like them.

We attract what we think about so think about your ideal client. Spend time with them. Appreciate them. Remember their birthdays and anniversaries.

Next, think about your second best client and go through the same exercise. Keep going until you have a short list of five or ten best clients you’d like to clone.

Your ideal clients will lead you to other clients, many of whom will be very much like they are. Birds of a feather, and all that.

Next on the list: do the same thing for your best referral source. If you could only have one. . .

Need help identifying your ideal client? Here you go


If Bruce Lee had practiced law


If Bruce Lee had practiced law he would have specialized in one practice area. Maybe a subset of one area.

Lee believed in being the best and never settled for good enough. And he knew that being the best requires focus, discipline, and a lot of hard work.

Lee said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

I did a consultation with an attorney recently. He doesn’t have a general practice, but he doesn’t specialize either. We talked about the benefits of specializing. I ran down the list:

  • More clients (because clients prefer to hire specialists)
  • Higher fees (because clients are willing to pay specialists higher fees)
  • More referrals (because other lawyers who won’t see you as a competitor)
  • More effective marketing (because your message is more focused)
  • Less work and overhead (because you only have to stay up to date in your practice area)

He said he’d like to specialize but he lives in a small town and there’s not enough work there for any one of the things he does.

“How far is the closest city?” I asked. “Thirty miles,” he said.

“How about opening a satellite office in the city?” I said. He should be able to find more than enough work in the practice area of his choosing.

He’d never thought of that.

Start slowly if you want. Find an attorney with a different practice area with a conference room or extra office you can use one or two days week to see clients. Let him use your office as a satellite for his practice.

If you’re not where you want to be in your career, take a step back and look at your situation with fresh eyes. You may see the answer, right there in front of you. If not, come talk to me.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula


Global marketing for local lawyers


You may only be licensed in one jurisdiction but that doesn’t mean you should limit your marketing to that jurisdiction. Prospective clients and the people that refer them are everywhere.

Right now, scores of people in other jurisdictions are planning to move to your area, own property in your area, or are looking to expand their business into your area. Countless professionals in foreign lands have clients and contacts who who fit this description.

Prospective clients and the people who refer them are out there and they need to know about you.

Here are few ways to get started.

First, make sure your website is optimized so that the world can find you. Use keywords in your posts and pages that speak to foreign people who are looking for an attorney like you. Add content to your site about the issues that concern them so that when they find you, they’ll see why you are the right choice.

If you handle immigration, write something for would-be immigrants from countries you want to target. If you handle real estate or tax or estate planning, write something that an out-of-state or foreign national might need to know.

Second, find prospective referral sources in other states and countries who are most likely to have clients and contacts who might need you. Introduce yourself to them, and make sure they know what you do and who you can help. Find out what kinds of clients and information they seek and see what you can do to help them.

Third, reach out to professionals and business owners in your market who currently market to people in other states or countries. You might partner up with someone in the travel or real estate re-location business and write a guide for vacationers, business travelers, or people looking to retire in your area.

It’s a big world out there. You may be local but clients are everywhere.


Eat dessert first


I went to a funeral last night. DJ was my friend and business partner and he was only 55 when he died.

As I thought about DJ and what he meant to me, I thought about how much he loved people. He was a great listener, always upbeat, always willing to help.

More than anything, DJ liked to have fun. Having fun was his rai·son d’ê·tre. No matter what he was doing, he did it with gusto.

When we went to dinner with DJ, he had the peculiar habit of ordering and eating dessert first. He said he didn’t want to miss the best part of the meal.

Eat dessert first. Enjoy life while you still have it.

Stephen King said, “Ask yourself frequently, “Am I having fun?” The answer needn’t always be yes. But if it’s always no, it’s time for a new project or a new career.”

I’m going to ask myself that question more often because life is short and it passes quickly.


Take Off Your Pants (but don’t show me your briefs)


The most important task of a headline is getting the reader’s attention. You may have a brilliant article or blog post, amazing sales copy, and a powerful offer, but none of that matters if nobody reads it.

An example of a good headline is the one on a new Kindle book, Take Off Your Pants: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing.

It’s for novelists who ordinarily don’t outline their books but write them “by the seat of their pants.” They are considered “pantsers” in the parlance, in contrast to “plotters”–writers who outline and plot before they write.

I saw the book when it launched and even though I’m not a novelist I was intrigued by the title. It stopped me in my tracks and made me look at the book description. It made me chuckle.

It did it’s job and did it well.

Of course you need to read the sub-title to understand that the book is for writers and not a 50 Shades knockoff. And that’s okay. The title gets your attention. The sub-title clarifies the title and promises a benefit.

Nicely done.

If you’re looking for ideas for headlines for your posts or articles, or titles for your books, don’t hesitate to borrow from what’s already out there. You can use an existing title or headline “as is” (there is no copyright protection afforded titles), or you can play off titles, especially iconic ones. My book (on network marketing), Recruit and Grow Rich is an obvious but effective play on the classic “Think and Grow Rich.”

Another example.

In the 1970’s, Dr. David Reuben became a mega best selling author with his book, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)”. Woody Allen made it into a movie with that title.

The original title is trademarked, so you can’t use it as is, but I’ve seen more than a few ads for products and services that play off it. You can do the same thing. “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bankruptcy (But Were Afraid to Ask)” works.

You could use this template for many practice areas, and it doesn’t matter whether readers know the original book or movie. There are a lot of things prospective clients want to know but are afraid to ask.

For more on writing effective titles and headlines, get this and this