When I was in college, we had this ritual during finals week:
The students got to turn the tables and finally give the *professors* a grade for the semester.
These performance reviews were kind of fun and sometimes quite therapeutic. You'd fill out little bubbles on a Scantron sheet and, optionally, write out any extra comments you had.
I almost always added comments—sometimes to give the teacher some encouragement, sometimes to unload with both barrels when I was frustrated.
Then someone would type up your handwritten comments and give them to the professors as a printout. The idea here was to keep the students' identities safe so they could be completely honest.
Great plan, at least in theory.
But one day I was hurrying between classes when one of my profs flagged me down.
“I got a critique in my evaluation from last semester that I went too easy on the class,” he said with an amused smile. “That was you, wasn't it.”
So much for anonymity.
He said that he recognized the tone of my writing—my word choice, phrasing and style.
Even in cold hard type, my personal style was as recognizable as a fingerprint.
When writers talk about “finding your voice,” this is what they mean.
This “voice” is a critical part of building a strong relationship with your email list.
That's because part of getting to know someone is developing a sense for their personal quirks.
And your voice is basically just your personality captured in print.
When you have a strong voice, your writing becomes an extension of you, a window into who you really are as a person.
Your readers get to feel like they know you.
And your biggest fans develop the ability to pick you out of a crowd blindfolded.
You already have your own distinctive voice like this, even if you're not sure that you do.
“Finding your voice” is usually just a matter of practice.
You have to write your way past the natural inhibitions and self-consciousness that make your words come out formal and stilted.
Keep putting yourself out there until you lose your fear of “saying the wrong thing.”
Soon your subscribers will start to see glimpses of YOU shining through…
And pretty soon you'll find they're hungry for more.
P.S. This issue of personality and voice doesn't just apply to solo entrepreneurs and consultants.
It's just as important when you're marketing a “corporate” brand—maybe even more so.
That's because most companies default to a bland, sterile voice in their marketing.
And if you inject a little personality into your corporate emails, you instantly stand out from the crowd.
For some great examples of this, check out the website of the Dollar Shave Club.
The copy on their site has a funny, edgy style that you'd recognize anywhere.
You don't have to be a brilliant writer to do this—just make your writing sound like it was written by a human being instead of a corporate drone.