Museum of Architecture

Three of my favourite things: purpose, story, and voice

I wrote something for the Museum of Architecture recently. It’s about purpose, story and voice, which are three of my favourite things at the moment. Here it is:

Do the words on your website need a shake-up?

Have you read the words on your own website recently? Or are they slightly embarrassing – the relic of a frantic attempt to get something written a few years ago?

That’s completely normal.

Words might not be your thing. You might be so immersed in the day-to-day that you’ve lost sight of why you set out on this path in the first place. Or sitting down and writing just isn’t what you feel like doing today, or any other day.

Whatever the reason, you might be looking for a new approach. So I’ve put together a three-step action plan to help you rediscover your purpose, tell your story and find your voice. Think of it as a starter kit to shake things up.

Step One: your purpose

It’s time to take a step back. Ask yourself:

Why do you do what you do?

If you don’t quite know how to put that into words, it helps to get more specific:

How does what I do express my values?

What does it mean to other people?

How does it fit with the bigger picture?

By now, you should be coming up with some answers. Jot down your thoughts and hold on to them.

And now go away and do something else. (I’m a firm believer in taking breaks and giving thoughts and words time to sink in.)

Step Two: your story

Stories are like magic. They turn random thoughts into a gripping narrative. They pull your readers in with the very first words and keep them on board until the very end.

If you know your story, you’ll be ready when your potential clients want to know more about you. You’ll remember where you’ve come from and where you’re going. And you’ll be well on your way to writing an ‘About’ page that people will really want to read.

Just write down, in note form, something under each of these:

Beginning (purpose)

See Step One above. ‘Why you do what you do’ is your beginning. And it will always be more inspiring than kicking off with a history lesson about the date you founded the practice.

Middle (challenge)

This is your cue to tell us about your strengths. Think about the challenges of doing what you do and how you overcome these.

End (success)

Look at your success from your clients’ point of view. What do your clients love about working with you? It’ll probably be as much about how you do what you do as about the end result.

If you’ve managed to write a few words under each of these headings, you’ve got the bones of your story. And you’ve got a head start on anyone who starts with a blank page and a random list of facts.

Step three: your voice

When we write, we often reach for words that we never use when we speak – words like ‘however’, ‘in addition’, and ‘prior to’. We think that to sound professional we can’t be ourselves.

But we can. And if you’ve got your purpose firmly in mind and your story sketched out, your voice will follow quite naturally.

With your prompts to hand – purpose, challenge, success – just start writing.

For now, don’t think about getting it just right. Don’t shoehorn your paragraphs into anyone’s preconceived idea of what an ‘About’ page should be. Don’t worry about whether you’re writing too much or too little. Later, you’ll change things around, take things out, add things in, and do whatever else needs doing.

The point is that you’ve now got something to work with. And that’s a pretty good start.



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