How Writing Reviews Has Helped Me Be Better

That’s an awkward title, but it really sums things up.

You’ve noticed, if you read here, that lately I’m writing a lot more reviews. Funny how that happened.

Quick summary: I reached out to organizations that connect businesses (people who have stuff to sell) with influencers (that’s a way of saying bloggers). I was specifically looking for items that would be (or might be) helpful to those of us who work from home.

Of course, being new to the system, I did not get selected for many of the items I requested. I wasn’t really surprised, because I understand it takes time to build a reputation so that businesses will trust you and see the value. So, I got this idea… “A wonderful, brilliant, awful idea.” <sigh>

My idea was that I should branch out and apply to review a much broader range of products. I figured the more I was approved for and did a good job with, the more quickly I’d establish a reputation. The logic is there. Right?

This is how I felt. Shark = the sudden influx of work.

Except, about ten days ago, I hit the tipping point. Suddenly (and I’m not exaggerating), I experienced a cascade of approvals. My husband would go by to check mail and packages, and have to come home and get the truck to drive back to pick them all up. I literally have spent the past week and a half (and I’m not finished yet) managing the unexpected increase in “stuff” coming into our home.

Lest you think I’m bragging, let me tell you – it’s been really stressful. I gave these people (because let’s face it — behind those businesses selecting me are people who chose to trust me) my word. So, I just need to buckle down and figure it out.

What I did not expect (aside from the cresting of opportunities) was the ways this has forced me to improve as a work-at-home individual.

  • Holy moly, have I gotten organized. I’ve always believed in the power of an editorial calendar, but right now, I am 100% respecting mine. Each of these reviews has a due date — not to be posted, but to be checked. I don’t believe in leaving things to the last minute. On the other hand, I don’t want to post 100 reviews this week and none next (okay, 100 is an exaggeration). So I’m really looking and thinking about what needs to go up when… and why. Plus, the truth is, there is a LOT of new “stuff” in my house. I can’t have it lost or damaged or claimed by one of my crew (family). I’ve been forced to create a safe-zone for all these items to be tested, tried, and reviewed. This is a good thing, because I’ve been able to get into that space to write, too – which means my crew doesn’t have to pussy foot around me quite as often.
  • A sample of the sort of “practice” items that Facebook group writes copy for. Fun, but not a typical household item!

    Practice makes perfect, right? Guess who’s getting a lot of practice writing. Yesterday, I actually wrote at least eight blog posts. It’s not just the writing, though – it’s the social media posts that go along, and selecting the images (and, frankly, retaking them) and coordinating with video… I have friends in a Facebook group where they will post images of just CRAZY stuff, and challenge the other members to write copy (i.e., convince people to buy it). I feel like I’ve been living in my own version of that challenge (mercifully, with no “crazy” products). And, while sometimes there just isn’t much to say about a staightforward product… other times, I really do believe that the words need to be crafted to truly get across the usefulness or workmanship or quality of a product.

  • Sometimes you have to face the discomfort. Yeah. In the past few weeks, I’ve had (well meaning but uninformed) people ask me to violate FTC guidelines on reviews, had my stats tanked by internet gremlins, and gotten, frankly, some really poor quality stuff to review. I dreaded the bad reviews, but I wrote ’em. If I fudge the truth ever, I’m not trustworthy at all. I stood up to the (kinda bossy) person telling me to change my review and violate FTC required disclosures. There were other incidents, but the lesson is… they all worked out fine, I’m fine, and each was over a lot faster than I thought they would be.
  • I am more sympathetic. Really. I’m comparatively new in this arena, so I expect my learning curve to be shallow and slow. But in the past few weeks, I’ve encountered businesses learning to work in various online systems, hitting stumbling blocks, and websites trying to stay up and running while experiencing the online version of Superstorm Sandy. There have been many excuses for many people to have short tempers, but everyone has stayed not just professional, but pleasant. Seeing this from so many has made it easier for me to sit back and allow extended grace when someone else’s day is just running into the ground.
  • My website traffic has increased by 50%. This, I did not expect and am not sure why. But I will say — getting back to practicing my writing: I use the SEO by Yoast plugin, and it’s been a wonderful self-check tutor for writing (for aspects other than SEO). I’ve gotten to the point where I can be ticking off in my head all those little items Yoast checks for as I go along. If you stay the course, you reach your destination in time. It would seem, with all the increased writing I’ve been doing, I’m covering additional “distance” in shorter time.
  • I am spending a lot of time considering other perspectives.I like writing from my own perspective. It’s comfortable, yes, but it’s also genuine. However, when I’m looking at these various products and services, sometimes they aren’t the thing for me… but might work really well for someone else. I have a responsibility to be fair and even handed in consideration of everyone involved – the businesses and the readers.
  • I have been forced to look at other aspects of life, and it’s been great. When I started branching out in applying to review products, I got approved for a lot of items I didn’t expect. These items didn’t fit my mental picture of what-the-work-from-home-person would find useful. You know what? I was SO WRONG. As I have been reviewing various items, I’ve had to face that
    • There are products out there that I think are great, but don’t find useful.
    • There are products out there that I never thought I’d use, but have filled a real need, and I am so grateful I found them.
    • Sometimes you need a little luxury, and it’s best to plan that in if you can.
    • And, sometimes, you need a little fun.

What has come out of these lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn? Well, aside from writing better (if not great) and being more organized (if not as organized as I aspire to) and seeing new possibilities… There are a few little, but good, changes. I have created two new categories for posts:

  • Just for Fun Saturday. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that every Saturday night we have game night (generally paired with homemade pizza, easy to manage while playing games). I thought, why not features some of these games or other toys on TWP as well? So Saturday mornings here, posts will go up not necessarily about table games or board games, but other non-work related activities as well.
  • Magic Mondays. Mondays are magic, because each one is a new start of a new workday week. I like to start all my days, whenever possible, with great coffee, so I’ve decided to share that on Mondays with you – whether it’s a new-to-me blend, a coffee making tool, or just a pretty cup and saucer. And it’s okay if you’re not into coffee… I hope some of these posts inspire your enjoyment tea, hot chocolate or any hot beverage of your choice.
  • Giveaways. There will be more of these, simply because, I don’t have room in my home for all these items I’m sent to review. So, I’m going to turn around and ship them to lucky winners.

The past two weeks have been such a whirlwind journey for me – I wouldn’t have volunteered if I’d really understood what I was getting into, but I value these lessons so much, I wanted to share them. Thanks for reading.