As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a content writer.
That’s not just an excuse to reference a favourite 90s gangster movie. Thanks to an observant teacher (thank you, Mr. Evans), I really did discover early on that I found writing a bit easier and a lot more fun than my classmates.
I used an automated machine in a train station to print my own business cards for my writing services. (I also made a card saying I’d be a big-shot film producer in Palm Springs, but that’s another, shorter post – “The Unrealities of Becoming a Big-Shot Film Producer in Palm Springs”).
However, content writing wasn’t a thing then. The internet was still mysterious and I was still in school. While the world of content creation gestated, I wrote novels and short fiction.
rakatakata – ting!
I’m passionate about fiction, but I also love writing content, which is also storytelling. Creating content is a great way to develop writing muscles by writing consistently on various topics and turning them into a fun, engaging, and informative read for audiences.
Not to mention – creating concise, 1000-word-or-so blog posts on given topics can be a more stable and immediate way to earn a living than writing novels, which can feel like throwing hundreds of thousands of words at a time into the ether. That’s another thing – it feels good to be read, so I enjoy crafting content that people will take pleasure in reading.
At university, I studied Writing with a capital W, not because I felt like I needed a formal education to write, but because I thought a degree in something I enjoyed would be helpful.
The principles of that degree seem to make sense for all sorts of writing, whatever the media or subject.
Whether they’re creating high-fantasy literary novels or building high-performing web content, writers pretty much use the same method.
The amount of time invested in each stage might vary according to time constraints, the client’s requirements, and the writers’ level of professionalism. If you want content writing to be good, it takes a little time.
It also really helps to have writers with diverse backgrounds and expertise. Yes — learning about spelling and grammar is helpful. Studying some writing techniques will make life better for everyone. But writing qualifications alone don’t make great content writers.
When I was tentatively approaching publishers for work, they wanted people with interests and experience in ANYTHING but publishing. I think writers also become more valuable when they have specialisms and interests beyond the technicalities of their writing ability.
While writers develop their writing skills by writing and reading, recognizing, and analyzing posts they enjoy, what might be most valuable is having a voice, being able to communicate ideas, and having some experience and interests to bring to the table, whether that’s the fall of the Roman empire, microbiology, or 90s gangster movies that should have won more Oscars.
A certain 90s gangster movie that should have won more Oscars.
Diverse interests, backgrounds, and expertise make more engaging writers and content, which is more important than ever in a world increasingly driven by formulas and data.
Many people get into content writing because it balances multiple benefits, the most common of which are:
Fortunately, expert content writers are in demand.
For starters, people expect businesses to maintain an online presence. Beyond that, high-quality, optimized content is how hot leads find a business and how existing clients continue to gain value throughout all the stages of their customer journey.
Increasingly, people’s purchasing decisions are influenced by businesses’ goals and values.
Are they nice to their workers? Do they use eco-packaging? Are they reliable?
Experienced content writers are excellent at answering these kinds of questions proactively for existing and potential customers via website content, ebooks, newsletters, and social media.
Digital marketing adds value to products and services by creating content that attracts customers because it’s so useful and entertaining. This is a win-win for businesses and customers. Email marketing alone has a 3600% ROI.
Creating useful, interesting, engaging content is far more rewarding than making cold calls (I ignore about three spam calls per day at the moment, but I should answer and suggest they try content writing instead).
Not everyone can write clearly and concisely. Using those skills to move a team toward its business goals is rewarding. We whack two birds with one stone: help businesses achieve goals and help their audience learn new things.
Content writing is kind of like its own university.
Writing a blog post is one thing, but writing a year of content, on schedule, thematically relevant for clients, that gets results, is another. There’s a huge amount to learn and you never stop improving some aspect of what you do.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s a guide on choosing the best seat on a jumbo jet!
And you don’t just learn about writing. I’ve had the opportunity to study marketing, internet security, and emotional intelligence while working, all of which have not only helped my clients but have also helped me personally.
Like many creative people, content writers may well feel the drive to create something every day. Whether it’s a fictional story or storytelling for a brand, taking ideas and making them real becomes more than a pleasure. It becomes a need.
Giving niche subjects wide appeal is fun. That doesn’t necessarily need to be the primary objective, but it’s an underlying directive for me as a writer. While I work on understanding the target audience, I also aim to make whatever I’m writing interesting to someone who would normally be bored by the subject.
I stay motivated by thinking about the reader. A real person that you can connect with. A person whose life you can make a little bit better.
Writers are often advised to think about one person and write for them. That helps us use accessible language and consider the connections we’re making. My target reader has Netflix open in another tab but is willing to give me about 5 seconds. If I can get the next 5 seconds, and then the next after that, and so on, I’ve achieved a major goal.
I’m most pleased when I can turn something complex into something understandable. I love a bit of practical advice. Even when writing high-level cybersecurity content, there are things people can do that don’t require technical expertise. (If your password is 123456, we need to talk).
I contend that it is possible to be witty about cybersecurity regulations for critical infrastructure. Not everyone wants to hear those jokes, but various approaches are worth thinking about to make services more accessible to the people that would benefit from them.
After years of going it alone, working with editors at Writer&Co. is a joy.
OK, we’re not technically in the same room, but…
Editing isn’t just about shooting writers for apostrophe crime’s. Working with an editor helps writers stay on track and make sure they are meeting the overall objectives of the business. It’s not always easy to keep those in focus when you’re into the minutiae of content writing or you’re working too hard to get gangster movie references into your post about content writing.
An editor can take a step back from the text and spot things that the writer might not notice.
Discovering that you often start sentences the same way, or have paragraphs of the same length, or some other not-so-cute idiosyncrasy, allows you to acknowledge it and change your writing so that it becomes stronger and more engaging.
Some writers have found AI useful for generating ideas. It is also good at looking at existing posts and extracting the most salient points to use in further content marketing.
As a tool, it’s interesting. But there’s also an exciting opportunity for content writers to make content and, by extension, the internet, more human.
There are a lot of stats flying around that encourage new content writers to follow formulas. While these stats are helpful starting points, what remains most important about content writing is that it is engaging, authentic, and relevant to the people reading it.
Humans are really good at engaging other humans. It helps when the writer cares about the subject and the reader. Get that combination and you’re flying.
Formulas and stats are useful, but it’s critical to remember to write for people, not algorithms.
Even Google agrees and has long been pushing the importance of authentic content by propelling genuinely useful content with a human touch up the rankings.
Content writers need to ask themselves whether they want the web to be a supermall of repeated content or do they want artisans that surprise them.
For this reason, authenticity and ethics are super important for content writers today. And every post counts. If we can create something honest and new every single time, we help keep the internet relevant and vibrant.
Since we’re being honest…
It can be hard to turn on the enthusiasm tap.
Just as customers like a business that aligns with their values, writers often do best when they are matched with clients that suit their backgrounds and ideals.
Also, as a professional content writer, you need to be able to produce quality content on schedule, which can be challenging if you’re writing on a topic with niche appeal.
Writing 8,000 words on concrete and asphalt was almost as difficult as my dissertation.
But alas, I’m a man of duty.
Writers I know overcome challenges like that by working hard to understand the need for the product or service, thus understanding what customers need to know about it, and by empathizing with the business and the people that work there.
Building relationships with businesses and their clients is key to being a great content writer. Content reads better when the writer has something to say and knows why they are saying it, as opposed to finding different ways to string keywords together until they hit their prescribed word count.
Not being able to claim the greatest work you’ve ever done can be challenging. That’s something many content writers have to suck up.
It’s all about the client and the customer. Egos take a back seat, next to the potential bylines.
Hello, don’t mind me, I’ll be your writer this evening.
However, if you’re working closely with clients or with a good team, you’ll know when your work makes a difference and that’s rewarding. For many writers, the work itself is the reward. The salary doesn’t hurt, either.
Professional writers often help businesses get their own content machines up and running, boosting their awareness of excellent content development and content creation and raising the bar for everyone.
Forget about the stock photography of pristine desks shot from a bird-eye angle and the white cups of unsipped coffee with perfect swirls.
This couldn’t be any further removed from my reality. For one, I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that top.
Real content writers work in offices and bedrooms and caravans, in libraries and parks, with headphones or in silence. From every continent, they work best in beds and in chairs and standing up, and they almost always prefer to work in the morning, or at night, or in the middle of the day.
All content writers are single, except for those in relationships.
And all content writers have always dreamed of being content writers, apart from those that started off doing other things and got into content writing by happy accident.
We’re all a bit different, which is useful, because businesses are made up of people and so all businesses are a bit different from each other, too.
Getting the right writer or mix of creatives can help a business stand out and connect with customers. And great content writing is a team effort where different personalities and skills come together to express a brand’s core values in language that sounds natural and interesting to the reader.
There are no average nobodies (forgive the last-ditch referencing attempt) at Writer&Co. Just diverse individuals that will use their unique backgrounds and abilities to help you stand out and connect with customers.
Written by Dean Edwards
Dean lives in Southern France but was born in the UK, where he studied business and IT, and earned a degree in Writing. When he’s not creating content, he’s writing fiction, making music, and practicing martial arts. This is part bio and part affirmation.
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