Business Journaling… the Secret to Web Writing Success?

How many people want to journal, but don’t because they “don’t know what to write about”?

If this is your issue, I’m going to make it pretty easy on you …

I’m not suggesting a typical journal, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and there are zero writing prompts.

Instead, what I’m suggesting is business journaling — or recording notes, ideas, thoughts, and lessons as you start or run your web-writing business.

Business journaling is such a powerful method to success that many famous writers, artists, and even scientists do it …

“I write journals and would recommend journal writing to anyone who wishes to pursue a writing career. You learn a lot. You also remember a lot … and memory is important.” — Judy Collins

“I keep a quotes journal — of every sentence that I’ve wanted to remember from my reading of the past 30 years.” — Richard Powers

“I’ve been keeping a diary for 33 years and write in it every morning. Most of it’s just whining, but every so often there’ll be something I can use later: a joke, a description, a quote.” — David Sedaris

“So far, you truly have been a source of great comfort to me, and so has Kitty, whom I now write to regularly. This way of keeping a diary is much nicer, and now I can hardly wait for moments when I can write in you.” — Anne Frank

Now I’m suggesting you do the same …

But, give yourself permission to relax and write however you choose — scribbles, incomplete thoughts, zero punctuation, whatever … you’re probably the only one who will see it anyway.

Why Journal?

Experts say typical journaling provides a lot of benefits … stress reduction, better focus, self-discovery, enhanced creativity, a record of your “life story,” and increased self-confidence …

But, business journaling can be even more beneficial.

A business journal gives you a chance to reflect on what you’ve learned, remember the decisions you’ve made — and why you made them, keep track of what works — and what doesn’t, and more.

So what should you write about? Let’s talk about that …

Here are six things worth noting in your business journal:

1. Ideas for Products, Articles, and Projects

Two things that contribute to my consistently-booked schedule are:

  • Immediately sending a new idea once I’ve finished a project.
  • Following up with past and potential clients with idea after idea.

So where do I get all these ideas? The same place you do — daily life. It’s just that when I have an idea, I immediately save it in my journal instead of letting it disappear. Right now, I have hundreds of article ideas, a few dozen product ideas, and even a handful of ideas for new businesses.

If you think you don’t have any ideas, try recording your thoughts for a few days. You’ll come up with more ideas than you think … if you need help, check out this article.

2. Insights Learned From Experience

As you’re learning and writing web copy, you’ll undoubtedly have many insights. I know from experience, if you don’t record these, they can quickly slip away and have to be re-learned later. I like to call these insights “a-ha moments.” I have a whole notebook full of them.

Next time you feel like a light bulb has lit up above your head, stop for a moment and jot the thought down in your journal. You never know how valuable this a-ha moment could be. What if it leads you to a Big Idea for a product promotion that goes on to sell millions?

3. Things That Inspire You

We all know how important it is to be inspired — and stay that way … that’s why I firmly believe in keeping a journal for things that inspire you — images, quotes, ideas, success stories, and more.

In fact, I even go so far to have a notebook I (sort-of-jokingly) call my “Wall of Conceit.” Every time I receive a compliment on my writing or the way I do business, I take a screenshot of that “testimonial” and add it to my “Wall of Conceit.” Then, when I have moments of doubt — “Am I cut out for this?” “What if they don’t like this?” — I review all the nice things people have said and pull myself together.

If you don’t already have a notebook of things that inspire you, please start one as soon as you can. Then stuff it full of inspiring things. This will help you immensely when you feel less than motivated — or if you ever consider giving up.

4. Client Quirks and Preferences

Every client is different. Some prefer Word documents, others want Google Drive documents … some want a lot of check-ins throughout the process, others just want me to handle it all … some like to receive invoices once a month, others want them after every project. I’d go crazy if I tried to remember everything.

That’s why I have a notebook for each client. Anytime I learn something new about their “quirks” or preferences, I jot it down. Then, I can quickly review this when I start a new project for them. I strongly believe this process helps me get many repeat clients and referrals. Plus, it saves me a lot of time and frustration.

5. Extra Content

No matter the project, it seems there’s always copy left over — either Big Ideas, leads, or headlines that weren’t used, statistics that weren’t needed, or even whole pages that didn’t make it into the final draft.

That’s why I recommend a notebook for extra copy. You can use this content for articles, blog posts, or even additional projects for the same client. For example, if you write a sales letter for a client and save the “leftovers,” you have a lot of material to use as a jumping off point should they ask you to write other supporting copy — like emails.

6. Feedback

I try really hard to never make the same mistake twice. Keeping track of feedback really helps with that. For instance, let’s say a client tells you they don’t like certain phrases you use because they come across as a little negative. If so, save that feedback, and next time you have a job for that client, review their feedback and make sure you’re not making the same mistake again. They’ll appreciate your willingness to learn and you’ll save time in the revision stage.

These six items are just a few examples of things you can save in your journals to make your life and job easier. You could also keep track of time invested into projects, sample websites you like, pieces for your swipe file, and even your goals and the progress you’re making.

If you don’t have a business journal, why not start one today? Even if you’re a complete beginner, a business journal will help you absorb what you’re learning.

Choosing a Journal

A “journal” could be as simple as a spiral notebook — in fact, I believe in keeping it simple to eliminate the pressure of typical journaling …

I used to have a journal with a beautiful cover and great quality paper, but … there was so much pressure to fill it with “valuable” thoughts, ideas, and reflections. I rarely wrote in it.

Skip to today and I use Evernote to record everything! (I’m so into Evernote that I should buy stock in their product — seriously.)

Here are a few reasons why I think Evernote is so amazing:

  • It’s as simple — or complex — as you want or need. I record nearly everything in Evernote and then use the easy search function to quickly find what I need. This is a very simple method. However, if you want organization, you can use “notebooks” to organize everything in Evernote.

  • It’s free to use!

  • It can be updated and accessed anywhere. You can quickly add an idea from your phone or use a computer and keyboard when you have more to write.

  • You can doodle or sketch on anything — even napkins — and then just take a quick snapshot to add it to Evernote. (And, Evernote even makes your handwriting in the images searchable!)

  • Plus, it’s private and password protected — which I think we all desire from a journal.

If you’re not ready to give Evernote a try, you can keep a journal in almost anything — a Word document, a paper journal, text documents in a folder on your computer, your email account, or anything else you can come up with.

No matter what journaling format or tool you use, the important part is that you write and add to your journal when you have an idea, a breakthrough moment, or you want to remember something …

Do you have a business journal? If so, what things do you save? If not, what’s stopping you? Comment below to join the discussion.

Christina Gillick

11 Comments

  • I never thought to call it business journaling. But the dozens of notebooks littering my home probably qualify. I learned a long time ago that if I don’t write things down, I’ll surely forget it.

    A million thoughts run through my mind a day, it seems. My business advisor told me yesterday that this is normal for entrepreneurs and that writing things down gives many of them a place to start once they achieve a business goal and are looking for another venture to jump into.

    Thanks for sharing your insight. Happy writing! 🙂

    • Thank you for the comment, Nikki! It helps to hear that other people are as forgetful as me. 😉

  • Questions
    1) What does ‘Immediately sending a new idea” mean? Send to who? Can you give an example?

    Comment
    I was a little thrown off by the title. Your audience is composed of active or prospective web writers, so simplifying the title would help your readers not have to think before reading.

    I think you are encouraging your audience to use an “epiphany keeper” so they can practice “kaizen” (continous improvement).

    • Hi Keith,

      When I read the article, I took Christina’s meaning to be that she keeps an ongoing, and always-growing list of business ideas for each of her clients. As soon as she finishes a project, she reaches out to her client with an idea for another project.

    • Hi Keith,

      Heather’s reply is the same as what I would have said in answer to your question. An example would be a big idea for a sales letter or an article topic that I can pitch to a client. Sometimes I have specific ideas for specific clients and other times I just have ideas that could be used for any of my clients. I deal mainly in the self-help/info marketing/training niche so a lot of my ideas will work for many of my clients.

      In reply to your comment – I’m always open to suggestions and eager to hear ways I can improve. Can you give me an example of how you would simplify the title?

      In a way I am saying to keep an epiphany keeper, but a business journal is much more than that. It’s more like a personalized guide to success 🙂 but yes, the goal is kaizen.

  • Thanks Christina, For years I have been writing what I call Morning Pages, (they don’t have to be in the morning) and I carry a spiral notebook. The morning pages are written on Pages,. Random information during the day goes into the spiral notebook. But Evernote sounds wonderful, especially the ability to take a picture of something you just wrote, and the search feature. I will start using that and see how that goes.

    • Hi Laraine, what kinds of things do you write in your morning pages? Let me know how Evernote goes for you. I hope you love it!

  • Christina,

    Great article!

    I’m a list-maker. Even my lists have lists! 😉

    I think it’s a natural offshoot of list-making to keeping an ongoing record of the “evolution” of my current business I have ALWAYS kept some form of a business journal or “diary” if for no other reason than to keep track of “future” ideas…otherwise I’ll lose them in some mental “black hole.” 🙂 LOL!

    I too use Evernote and find it works perfectly for this. Now, with Evernote, which I always keep open on whatever device I’m using at the time, I can actually organize all this “brain-dump” into specific notebooks…

    I am currently working on my 2nd Money-Making Website (my freelance service site is next), and as I get an article idea actually written and published on the site, I move it from the Article Ideas notebook to an Archive notebook. That way, I keep the original idea but it doesn’t clutter up my current notebook.

    Like you, I also keep separate notebooks for future articles — reference material, anecdotes, great examples, awesome quotes, etc. I find that by “tagging” each entry, it never really gets “buried” and I can always find any note with a quick search!

    Love Evernote — I’ve experimented with tons of software over the years (over 30+ in computers and freelancing) but most programs make you work THEIR way…Evernote is so flexible that it lets me work MY way. Didn’t mean to make this an Evernote commercial, but I want others to understand just how flexible it really is…

    Karen

    • Hi Karen, I’m glad to hear how much you love Evernote! Hopefully more people will see your comment and start using it too!

  • Dear Christina Gillick,
    This article was so useful, so packed with ideas. Thank you for the generous sharing from your tool kit!
    Best
    Linda Lane

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