Use Parking Lot Items to Increase Writing ProfitsPosted by Susan Carter
I recently picked up a project to write content for a website. While the company is new, the two partners have worked in their industry for a combined 30 years. These are brilliant people and they know the niche they want to fill. After our initial meeting, I did my research and prepared an outline for the content development. The outline included a few ideas that might make great ancillary content for the website—items that might not fit into the initial development, but that could be value-added material for the future.
When my new clients reviewed my ideas for the ancillary content, they decided they wanted to move forward with many of the items—and they wanted to do it in the initial phase instead of waiting to do it in future updates. This meant added value for their company’s website and a more profitable project for me. All I did to get the expanded assignment was keep a “parking lot” document during my research. Here’s how easy it is to do:
What’s a Parking Lot?
If you have ever attended a training session or helped write materials to be used by a trainer, you might be familiar with the term “parking lot.” Basically, when the trainer is interacting with the participants and an off-topic—yet related—item or question is raised, the item is written into a separate box drawn on the whiteboard, or on a flipchart, or noted in some other way. This separate box, flipchart paper, or notation document is referred to as the Parking Lot. Relevant tidbits that do not have immediate value to the current discussion or task are “parked” in this space or “lot” for later discussion or use.
Transform parking lot items into additional profits.
When I first met with the client, I was given names and URLs of some of the company’s competitors’ websites. This allowed me to do a comparison to better identify the differentiators that make this new company better—or at least different. Beyond visiting sites that the client is aware of, I did a quick search for the same type of companies in other geographical regions to see what they were doing on their websites. I also searched for industry statistics and supporting research that could lend credibility to the company’s methods and philosophy. This expanded research took very little additional time and I came away with a wealth of items in my ‘parking lot’ document, including ideas for developing downloadable informational reports and adding a blog to share industry trends or answer common client questions. I also stumbled across an interactive element designed to engage visitors and convince them to leave their contact information.
Putting these observations into my proposed content outline demonstrated to the client that I was more than just a one-project wonder who performed tasks in exchange for pay. I carved a “place at the table” as a valuable and supporting team member. Instead of being known as the writer who did the website, I’m known as the voice for the company. That translates into ongoing projects and profits.
Keep your parking lot full.
If you are working on a writing assignment and do not have a filled parking lot by the time you finish your research, you’re dismissing dozens, maybe hundreds, of opportunities to 1) set the stage for additional work for the same client, and/or 2) use this idea arsenal to pitch another potential client, editor or publisher.
Whether you’re writing website copy, a manual, an article, a short story or a book—anything that requires even a smidgen of research—keep your parking lot full.