Writing for a living is liberating, rewarding and potentially lucrative. To be successful at it though, you need to stay one step ahead of the competition and that means you need to avoid being complacent or just ‘going through the motions’.
When someone orders an article from you or some web page content, you need to treat this as an opportunity to form a new business relationship. This isn’t just one isolated order – this is your chance to impress. You need to make your writing work for them to meet their goals because that way they’ll be much more inclined to order from you again next time.
This means constantly keeping a few things in mind as you’re writing. Here are some of the most important examples…
No matter what your client’s goals are, the first step to achieving them as a writer is to engage the audience. That means you need to grab attention and keep it and you need to think about how your article is achieving that.
A good place to start is with the opening paragraph. You need to grab attention right away here and that means getting to the point or opening with an interesting statement. Then you need to keep that reader hooked by delivering value (unique ideas and actionable points) and getting them emotionally invested (mainly by thinking about how your product will benefit the reader).
Another way to ensure that your readers keep reading is to maintain flow throughout your content. This means that your writing should feel natural to read, almost as though it were spoken. You can also ensure you’re maintaining flow by reading through your own work – are there any break points where your attention might start to wander?
We touched on this in the introduction but it bears further emphasis. When a client orders your writing, they are interested in what your writing can do for them. So if it’s a sales letter you’ve been hired to write, then that letter needs to be persuasive and it needs to sell. If it’s an e-book on a given subject, then that book needs to provide the $30 of value that your clients are probably charging for it. If it’s a blog post, then that post needs to be sharable and it needs to help the owner to build authority in their niche.
Ask yourself at every step as you write: is what you’re writing going to help the client get the results they want?
At the same time, you also need to think about what the readers want. Imagine it’s you reading your own article – would you come away feeling that you had gained some kind of unique insight? Something that you couldn’t have found anywhere else?
If you’re writing a review then you need to make sure you answer all the questions that a prospective buyer might have. If you’re writing a homepage, then you need to ensure you tell the reader everything they need to know about the business/website they’ve come across. And if your article is meant to be funny, make sure it would actually make someone laugh.
A lot of this is about being original. As with any product, an exemplary article should either be ‘the best’ (as in, the most comprehensive) or ‘unique’ in order to stand out. It’s much easier to write content that’s unique than it is to write content that’s the most comprehensive – especially with a fixed word count.
I’m not talking about content that passes Copyscape here – that should be a given. Rather, I’m talking about content that presents a new viewpoint on a subject or a new angle. Again, ask yourself: would you read this?
You’ll do research sure, but if you’re just rewriting the first few results on Google then you’re not providing value.
Depending on the client, your tone and your voice will need to change. You should always have a ‘writer’s voice’ but whether that’s written in a colloquial, formal or humorous tone will depend on the blog or website it’s going to go on. Again, think about the goals and the audience of your client and let this dictate the tone.
This is important because even content that is technically sufficient won’t cut the mustard if it doesn’t fit the style and tone of the rest of the blog or website and it won’t serve the purpose for which it is intended either. Robotic writing or overly familiar writing is not good writing.
How to Make the Transition
That all sounds great on paper and in theory but how do you go about actually making it happen? How do you keep the energy and the enthusiasm high when you have countless clients ordering content that you have no interest in?
The answer is to find what makes it interesting to you and then to write about it. This is how you put yourself into your content and it’s how you make it unique, personal and passionate. When you’re writing something that you find interesting and that you are proud of, suddenly you’ll find that the content flows and the quality goes way up. And if you know nothing about the subject? Then try to get excited about the opportunity to learn.
This is also how you beat ‘writers’ block’ by the way. Any screenwriter will tell you that writers’ block happens when the scene you’re writing isn’t that interesting and you’re putting off writing it. What’s the solution? Change the scene! If you’re finding it boring to write, then do you really think people are going to find it interesting to read? Set that same scene at a football game and suddenly you have something more exciting that serves the same purpose.
How do you do this when you’re writing about vacuum pumps? That’s up to you – but the science of air pressure is actually fairly interesting and vacuum pumps are crucial components in all kinds of machinery… You’ll think of something!