Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

Maybe you realize that your business marketing and communications need to be better written, but you can’t afford a copywriter or communications staff. And perhaps you’re not confident about writing it yourself. Now what?

Here are five fundamental tips for non-writers to help make their writing cleaner and more effective.

1. Less is more

Your web and email copy compete with countless other distractions — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,, dozens of other emails — so never assume that anyone looking at your content will patiently savor and read everything you write. The typical website visitor comes and goes in fewer than 12 seconds. Most…

In 2018, email is still the most effective way to connect directly to supporters and donors. By almost every metric — open rates, clickthrough rates, return on investment — email marketing drives better results than Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media channels. Six out of ten people check their email first thing in the morning, and nine out of ten check it at least once a day. Email, even more than your website, may be the best way to drive supporters to join your next event or make a donation to support your work. But only if it’s done…

One of the most common challenges I see with nonprofits is an inability to clearly and concisely explain who they are and what they do. Often, when I ask people I meet who work at nonprofits what their organization does, the answer can take minutes.

Why does this matter?

First, people often tune out a long, rambling explanation of what an organization does. If people stop paying attention to you, the odds of them becoming supporters or donors plummets.

Second, everyone in your organization, from the President to an administrative staff member to an intern should all be able to…

Years ago, when I went from freelancing on the side to working with clients full-time, I needed an accountant — someone with expertise in taxes and finance who could help incorporate my business and sort out my accounting.

Another freelancer recommended a local accountant, who at first seemed nice and knowledgeable. We met and I hired her.

It didn’t go well.

After years of working with my own clients, I was suddenly on the other side. I learned first-hand how it feels to work with someone who didn’t treat me well. I felt like I wasted my money and didn’t…

Jack reminds young Randall to breathe, from NBC’s This is Us

As I watched the first episode of NBC’s This is Us last fall, I smirked, shook my head, and rolled my eyes. The buzz about the show had been all over my Facebook feed, so my wife and I checked it out. She finished the pilot episode in tears; I was less impressed — it felt manipulative, gimmicky, and too reliant on a twist ending.

But I reluctantly gave the second episode a chance. And then the third. And the fourth. Before I knew it, This Is Us evaporated my cynicism and won me over. Like millions of viewers, I…

Two years ago, I resigned from my job and launched a full-time freelance design and web strategy business — 750 days ago to be exact.

I’ve written about what I learned after six months and after one year. With another year behind me, here are some more thoughts on the ups, downs, challenges, and solutions to running my own business.

1. Life can get in the way of business

A year ago, my father’s health took a sudden turn for the worse. Cancer, which had been in remission since 2013, returned. His health rapidly deteriorated. I spent time traveling back and forth to Chicago and Los Angeles, trying to…

One of the biggest influences and inspirations in my life was my high school journalism teacher, Alison Rittger, an overcaffienated editorial drill sergeant who was always armed with a red pen and a relentless prejudice against needless words. She taught me many lessons about writing, editing, and communication that I still use today.

One idea she taught was the “shout across the street” question. We used this concept when we had to come up with headlines for newspaper stories. The goal was to communicate the essence of the story in a single, clear sentence, while avoiding ambiguity and wordiness. The…

What is your website’s job?

Answering that simple question can be surprisingly hard for many people. Websites need a clear purpose if they’re going to be effective. Quite often, clients struggle to explain the main goal of their website or how they would determine its success. They value the web and the importance of a website, but they often lack a clear, focused sense of what their website needs to accomplish.

As one of my mentors once put it: “websites are not meant to be, they do.”

You can define that however you want: sell shirts, add subscribers, or persuade…

One common misconception I’ve often heard is that a website redesign is smaller project than creating a new website. People underestimate the challenges of reworking an existing site, and, as a result, wind up frustrated, disappointed, and unsatisfied with the result.

A new site can be anything: like a new house, it can be built from the ground entirely the way you’d like it. But a redesign poses different challenges: you’re dealing with something that already has a foundation, architecture, decorations, and things living inside it. You can change it, remodel it, but there are limitations and challenges. You rarely…

When you become a parent, you don’t just bring children into your world; they pull you into theirs.


Five years ago, my brother sent me a link to a YouTube video. “This is awesome,” he texted. When I clicked it, I was baffled: it was a clip of a song-and-dance number on a football field from Fox’s series Glee (2009–15).

I didn’t get it: why he loved it, or why he was sharing it with me. After all, this was my brother — a first-born, take-charge, cut-the-bullshit engineer, and he really, really wanted me to see a clip from Glee? Maybe, I thought, he accidently pasted the wrong link?

What I didn't appreciate back then…

Matt Pusateri

Delivers communications strategy and content development at Flying Dog Creative. Freelance nonfiction writer. Overmatched father of two girls.

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