Chris Wittich, CPA, admits he never set out to become a writer.
“I haven’t taken an English class since high school; I’m an accountant,” said Wittich, who presented on creating content Thursday at the AICPA ENGAGE 2018 conference in Las Vegas. “I don’t write in my spare time, but when it comes to creating that content about taxes, my history and my experiences have gained me the skills to be good at it.”
Wittich, a senior tax manager at Boyum Barenscheer in Bloomington, Minn., has built a reputation for himself as a blogger and content creator that has earned him recognition from the Minnesota Society of CPAs, as well as interviews with major newspapers and television stations.
Creating content, Wittich said, can be a great way to make a name for yourself on the job. Many employers, he said, have newsletters or blogs that go out to clients, and they are always on the hunt for content, some even going so far as to buy it from outside writers.
This is where a go-getter can fit in. Stepping in to fill that need can raise your profile, both inside and outside your organization. Having a byline on your employer’s website is a great way to create a name for yourself with customers or clients — and there’s no better way to create a name for yourself with your boss than having customers or clients request you by name.
“It’s an opportunity for growth,” Wittich said. “You think, ‘Ah, this might be fun; I’ll do this a few times.’ And before you know it, you’ve written 400 blog posts. It’s certainly a way to make a name for yourself very quickly if you can write good content and if you have a plan for what you’re doing.”
Wittich offers some of his best tips for creating content that will draw readers’ attention and help you gain positive attention at work:
Identify and address your audience: Know who will read what you’re writing before you start. As Wittich said, writing for an audience of clients is very different from writing for fellow CPAs. Even when brainstorming, you have to have your readers’ knowledge level in mind.
“You can’t write, then ask yourself, ‘Who can understand the thing I just wrote?’” he said.
Think about what your audience would want to take away from your writing. “Clients do not care what [Internal Revenue] Code section the tax deduction is from; they care that it’s a deduction,” Wittich said. “They care that it’s going to save money.”
If you’re writing for colleagues, though, you can’t so easily float past the particulars. Wittich said professional readers often require cited sources, explanations of exceptions, and an extra layer of technical rigor.
Find your topics: Coming up with ideas can be intimidating, and Wittich said one of the questions he has asked most frequently is, “What should I write about?” But inspiration can arise from your day-to-day tasks.
“Every time a client asks you a question, that’s an opportunity to write,” he said.
He also suggested pulling out a tax return, picking a line, and starting a topic.
“You can write a blog about every line of a tax return and all the sub-schedules,” Wittich said. “They all have a story to be told.”
Wittich suggested starting with a large and broad brainstorming list of 30 or more topics to help give your content structure in its early going. Then, focus on just a couple at a time.
“Creating that big list to start takes the pressure off having to hit a home run with your first idea,” Wittich said. “Plus, it will get the writing juices flowing.”
Find yourself: Whether you’re creating content for clients or colleagues, the way to be remembered is by showing off your personality.
Wittich suggested developing a style that makes your writing personal.
“If it’s going to be boring to write, then it’s going to be boring to read,” Wittich said. “Content with personality is far superior.”
— Matthew Philpott is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, a JofA editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.