Over the last three years, I have spent time writing all kinds of content, from articles and whitepapers to blog posts; search engine optimized (SEO) content, search engine marketing (SEM) ads, social media marketing content, and even dabbled with copy writing. All of my writing skills are self taught and for those content writers who have just landed themselves a job, here are a few tips.
To begin with, nothing you learnt in your journalism class or mass communication course could have prepared you for this, but then you must be thinking, “Well I know that…. that’s about the only think I can vouch for infact :)”.
On your new job, be prepared for a hard struggle for at least the first four to six months. Keep your eyes on the goal, your attention on the task, you will be learning and implementing what you learn at a rapid pace. So rapid, you may need to think on your feet; it is here that Google becomes your best friend, comrade, teacher and philosopher.
Through the first few months on the job keep your mind open, become a sponge and soak in all you can.
Write client centric content
When writing, keep your client at the centre. Your client has commissioned content for certain very specific purposes -and not to see your writing talent, so put away the fluff and ego- these are to gain better and more online visibility, get back links for their website and blog, educate prospective clients, customers and partners, brand their product and services, project themselves as thought leaders and on the whole increase their conversion rate. To sell more. No company can survive without sales, and your content will be constantly used by the company’s marketing team to sell their products. You owe it to your client to give nothing but world class content.
If you keep the client and his needs in mind, you will also realize along the way that the client knows best. Listen very carefully to what the client wants, if not ask him very clearly what he hopes to achieve through the content.
Tailor your content and delivery what your client wants
Your client walks the beat. He knows the market, he lives it day in and day out and so, obviously, he knows best. Yes you may have interesting ideas and suggestions, but if the client is not in a mood to experiment, or has passed through that phase and identified a sweet spot, go with it. If you look at it in a positive way, it makes your writing job so much easier, because now you don’t have to think, you have a clear mandate and expectation and all you need to do is write and deliver J.
Read, Read, Read
As a content writer you need to be reading all the time. Hopefully you don’t smoke so when you need to take a break, visit a news site and read. Read as much as you can, stay updated on all things, because often times, delivery dates are close, often hours away, something you had read months before may give you a head start and help you save precious time.
The more you write the better you become
Well everybody knows that, but the stress of those first few months of writing may sometimes actually make you doubt yourself. Much later you will actually be laughing at this self doubt, that’s when you know, content writing is finally under your skin.
Content writing is an evolving skill, you can never be good enough, you need to always be learning with as much humility you can musterJ.
Your audience is changing all the time in the way they consume information, you need to be aware of this and keep modifying your style all the time, experimenting and learning and of course, writing.
Stick to being a writer
As a writer, your job is to write. Don’t waste your time finding out where or when your article will get published. Once you send an article to your client the article is no longer yours. As a content writer you are like a surrogate mother. Once this is clearly understood, you take pleasure in just writing your piece and doing a good job of it.
Keep your audience in mind
You write not for yourself but for your client who pays you, and for your audience, who will favour you by reading your content. Keep your audience in mind and tailor your content accordingly. Keep in mind their experience and expectations, and chose your words accordingly.
Content writers need to know psychology
If you have not studies psychology, it may be a good idea to learn aspects like memory, retention, how the brain works under certain circumstances, how people read on the web and offline in hard copy publications. Learn how a person’s age, gender, education level and experience influences the way they consume information, the kind of language each age group likes and uses. You need to understand the emotion and feelings that words create and use them accordingly depending upon the product you are selling. You need to be aware of how people in different geographic locations consume information and work this into your content accordingly.
The more you understand human psychology and the way they consume and process information the more you will see yourself not just as a content writer but as a potter, moulding words and sentences, to create shapes, and things, and giving meaning to things.
Content writers need to type fast and while you may become fast using just two fingers to type, knowing typing ensures your fingers keep pace with your train of thought and you don’t need to look at the keyboard while you tap away furiously at the keyboard :).
There are lots of online typing tutorials that you can download and learn, so typing is a skill worth acquiring.
Keep working on your grammar and editing skills
Your client pays you or your company good money when they commission content work, poor English and grammar in the content is insulting to them to say the least. Ensure your grammar is good and keep working on it. Plug even those tiny holes; this is especially true for us in India, as English is an acquired language.
Even if your company has an in-house editor, it is best for you to develop your editing skills. Start by reading a few articles on what goes into good editing, edit your own articles; an extra word here or there can completely change the meaning of the sentence. Editing your own content is a great way to sharpen your usage of English and grammar. Another way is to take up a local newspaper and read it critically, scratching out unnecessary words, rearranging sentences to improve flow and noting how you would have written it had you been the writer.
Don’t let a new, unfamiliar word pass you by
Thankfully, we content writer’s not longer need to keep that thick dictionary on our table, knowing fully well that new words are being added to it all the time. Bookmark an online dictionary and check the meaning of new words or meanings of words you are not sure about. This way you increase your vocabulary and learn the exact meaning of words. Don’t ever use a word in an article if you don’t know its meaning or are unsure of it.
After completing an article don’t rush to dispatch it. Complete it; sleep over it, a good time to look at it afresh is to review it early the next morning. If you have others on the team, get them to review your content too and when you are completely satisfied that it is a job well done, dispatch it to the client.
Be passionate about your work
Content writing is a vast field; it is dynamic and ever changing, in subtle yet sophisticated and strangely powerful ways. But if you are not passionate about your profession as a writer, you will not realize these aspects and the joy of writing will be lost. If the desire to write does not burn in you, does not consume you, you might be in the wrong profession, or you may not be feeding yourself with the right information about the profession. Spend time motivating yourself; your recognition may most often come from within you :).