Stop Speaking in Riddles

June 10, 2019

When you work remotely or are given the time to over-engineer the work you put out online, it’s easy to try and be so different that you end up working on your content or offerings in isolation for too long. This overthinking can lead to you sounding or looking like a crazy person.

That is not good.

Focus on the Person on the Other Side

Take a spin around the websites of indie creators on the internet, and you’ll find a plentiful supply of crazy sounding headlines, they’re quite frequently seen and sound like something from a Charles Dickens novel: “I fathom fascinating functionalities as a freelance rockstar” – Nah mate, you design websites.

People need to chill out and get to the point of what they do, rather than trying to sound smart or unique. Over-engineering your value proposition will result in your message basically meaning nothing to the human who reads it.

If someone has to spend more than a couple seconds working out what you do when they find what you are offering online, it’s highly likely they’ll leave before they do deduce what on earth you do, or how you help them. And they won’t come back.

Cut Out The Jargon

Sometimes you end up speaking in riddles not only because you’ve unnecessarily over-complicated your value offering and explanation of what you do, but because you’re using a bunch of words the audience you’re helping don’t understand. The slang and vocabulary you use daily and become comfortable with that are specific to your niche or profession may not be familiar to those you reach. Instead, you just confuse and lose out on the opportunity to gain a advocate, customer, user, or client.

The thing one calls a “Responsive landing page” is just a “homepage” or even just a “website” to someone else.

Keep this in mind when speaking to those you’re helping, use language that they understand, and you’ll eliminate the risk of losing them or that person not understanding you. By repeating back, and using frequently, words and phrases that are familiar to the person you’re communicating with, you show you “get it”. You show you understand.

Know Who You’re Talking To

The most important thing to remember here is that you DEFINITELY aren’t talking to yourself or your buddies. You’re creating for someone else. That person you hope to welcome into your ecosystem.

In the book “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser (recommended to me by my good friend Cassius Kiani – shout out to him), the author shared some thoughts that stuck with me:

Beware, then, of the long word that’s no better than the short word: “assistance” (help), “numerous” (many), “facilitate” (ease), “Individual” (man or woman), “remainder” (rest), “initial” (first), “implement” (do), “sufficient” (enough), “attempt” (try), “referred to as” (called), and hundreds more. Beware of all the slippery new fad words: paradigm and parameter, prioritize and potentialize. They are all weeds that will smother what you write. Don’t dialogue with someone you can talk to. Don’t interface with anybody.

He goes on to speak about how clutter, frills, and meaningless jargon are a disease that strangles your writing and mean no one will relate or care about what you put into your content.

Know what your audience knows and understands and then make sure to not stray from those boundaries. Always edit and validate your content to better serve those you seek to reach.

A Second Opinion

Find a colleague, friend or customer who fits the demographic you want to assist, and have them look over your work after you’ve edited it. This extra pair of eyes let’s you know if you’ve got the point across or just been confusing. You want to make sure you inspire action and match up with the goals of your audience.

Know the Limits

When doing important tasks like planning the scope of a client project or assigning your budget, you frequently ask: “Is this needed?”. So why does no one seem to take this in mind when they create things for their customers?

Having a guiding question like ”is this needed?” is incredibly useful — something that lets you check you have hit the mark on exactly and won’t confuse someone. You know best what people say, do people come to you asking for “UI/UX based product design for iOS” or do you they come to you asking for “an app design”? Show you understand and give a damn about the person. They don’t want to solve a mystery. They seek the insight and intelligence to be a better person and improve their life.

By knowing the limitations and boundaries you play within, you eliminate the selfish act of building only for yourself, other founders or to win praise online, likes on Instagram, or useless awards. You stop waffling and trying to seem cool on the internet, and get to the point of showing and building things that the people you communicate care about.

Keep it Human

Speak to your audience and users like what they are: human beings. No one would talk in real life with a raft of buzzwords (unless they were an asshole), so don’t do it online. Show your value, who you are, and how you help quickly and honestly. Do this often and you’ll build trust with the people you’re helping, and trust is the foundation of all good relationships. It unlocks future potential, revenue and makes someone invested in what you’re doing, rather than feeling bothered or hassled by you and your offering.

Stick to the five rules in this article when you speak to the people you’re helping and make content for them. Building relationships come from showing you care, and it all starts with how you communicate. Pay close to attention to what you say and how you say it.

Want to find your superpowers to reach your goals and dreams as a remote freelance designer? Here’s my guide.


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