Work inspiration with
Sara Wachter-Boettcher

  • Sara Wachter-Boettcher

    Sara Wachter-Boettcher

    Content strategy consultant, editor in chief of A List Apart

It's hard to talk about what I do in just a few words. I'm a content strategy consultant, which means I help clients make sense of the complex information they're publishing online. That means spending lots of time understanding who they are and what's important to their organization, as well as to their audiences. It means making sense of the barriers they have to publishing great, useful content now, and helping them overcome them. Right now, it means a lot of work helping clients see their content in more modular ways and deal with the demands of mobile. Sometimes I partner with agencies to work on a website or product, and sometimes I lead more workshop-oriented, facilitative projects directly with clients. Either way, it's all about figuring out what's important, getting realistic, and thinking about content flexibly. 

I'm also the author of the book Content Everywhere from Rosenfeld Media, and the editor in chief of A List Apart, which I love because it keeps me connected to so many fascinating topics and people from across our industry, not just in my niche. When I'm not doing those things, I speak and write—this year, I've been writing a monthly installment for The Pastry Box, which is a pretty cool little project. 

Tools

Very little! I have a Macbook Air that goes with me everywhere. I travel at least twice a month, so a setup that's easy to pack is essential. I don't use an extra display at home, but I keep thinking that I'll start. I always carry a dongle and a slide advancer when I travel, even if I'm not going to a conference. Other than that, I use a lot of scratch paper and a whiteboard to sketch out ideas. And that's about it! 

Software

Most of what I need to do, honestly, can be done with sketching on a whiteboard, some basic word processing, and a whole lot of browser tabs.

I use a little bit of Omnigraffle for drawing simple diagrams like content models, but not usually for wireframing, because I'm more likely to sketch something really quick and ugly instead, and collaborate with a designer to get it into a prototype. I love Evernote for keeping track of conversations I have with clients or for taking notes during a new business call. Actually, Evernote is good for almost everything.

Editorially is my new best friend for writing and editing—I use it personally to draft most of my articles and blog posts, and frequently with ALA authors and friends who want to run a conference talk or post idea by me.

Of course, I do end up in documentation-land sometimes, since I need to deliver things that clients can share around or approve. This typically means cracking open some combination of Word or Pages, Excel, and Keynote. But that's tending to be more late in the game now—I work with lightweight tools as long as I can, then get material into one of those programs.

For time tracking, invoicing, etc., I like Harvest. For to-dos, I like Teux Deux—or at least, I've tried other to-do list services, and this is the only one I've fairly consistently stuck to! 

Dream

The number-one thing I want is an awesome desk/chair setup. I've avoided spending money on it because we keep moving (for my husband's academic career), but as soon as we get somewhere more permanent, I'm getting something I love, like maybe a really beautifully cared for Danish modern piece from the '60s—but with a contemporary chair that's a little nicer than the Ikea one I have now.  Honestly, this is what I dream about—a desk and a chair that I love and want to keep…and that I don't have to move every year!  

Honestly, this is what I dream about—a desk and a chair that I love and want to keep…and that I don't have to move every year!  

Inspiration

I am absolutely inspired by the people I meet—clients who are embracing change, users who are trying to get things done, readers who want to be informed and inspired. The web is people. The work we do is all about people. And so, I find that I am most inspired by thinking about all the people I have the chance to affect: Can my blog posts help a peer who's feeling stuck in her job feel a little more confident? Can I guide a client's team to make adapting to a new authoring process, or a new CMS, or a new strategy, a little easier? Can I make content easier for a user to find and understand? 

I am absolutely inspired by the people I meet—clients who are embracing change, users who are trying to get things done, readers who want to be informed and inspired. The web is people. The work we do is all about people.