Save money with great writing

Sue Woolley
by Sue Woolley

Unfortunately, in the big world of business where everything has to be cost-justified, documentation is usually seen as a cost, not a benefit. Because “everyone can write”, technical and business writing is rarely seen as a valuable profession.

So, why would you hire a professional writer? What value can they add to your organisation?

Think about all the writing that goes on in your organisation. When you walk into an office these days, everyone is sitting in front of their computer. And what are the majority of them doing; writing! Writing emails, writing reports, writing policies and procedures, position descriptions, organisational communications, business cases, the list goes on. And what are most of the rest of the people doing; reading. Reading the emails, reports, communications. You get the picture.

My challenge to you: Have a critical look at your business and see how long people spend writing. Then have a look at how long people spend reading. Can they understand the content on first reading or do they have to re-read one or more times? How much is re-reading or mis-interpretation of information costing your business?

Here is a quick and dirty way of estimating reading and writing costs. I’ve made up the figures, but you can see that if anything, I have probably underestimated times and salaries. Observe for yourself and work out what realistic figures for your organisation are. For example, you could pick five representative people and get them to keep timesheets for a week to give you some more accurate figures.

Person hours per week Annual cost (avg salary $50,000 pa)
Number of people in the organisation 100 100 * 35 = 3,500 $5,000,000
Percentage of time during the day each person spends writing new content or editing existing content 20% 700 $1,000,000
Percentage of time during the day each person spends reading for the first time 20% 700 $1,000,000
Percentage of time during the day each person spends re-reading because content is difficult to understand or the meaning is not clear 5% 175 $250,000

In this scenario, you are spending five people’s salary per year on an unnecessary task, re-reading unclear content. So, you could potentially hire a writing team with some of this money.

And before you say “but I am the only one who knows what I want to write about”, a professional writer is adept at interviewing, and a one hour interview typically translates to eight hours of writing. Also, many business people also find it easier to explain something verbally than write it clearly.

A professional writer may also create content at least 50% faster than a business person in one of your departments such as finance, HR, IT, Operations who have different core skills.

Leave the writing to the professionals and improve the efficiency of your business. Stop seeing writers simply as a cost, have a critical look at how a writer could improve the effectiveness of your staff. Employ a writer and give your key staff more time to THINK. Businesses can only move forward with innovation, progressing new ideas to increase profits or simply provide better and more efficient services. The key focus of people in a business should not be writing.

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