Are you looking to sharpen your skills as a content writer?
In the field of copywriting, you not only need to write well but also understand the mechanics of marketing and Internet SEO. Bringing this all together presents, at times, an overwhelming task. A writer of copy myself, I sometimes struggle to put a quality post together or to know if the one just written will get the job done.
Fortunately, I am not alone. From the newbie to the experienced, all copywriters need to pursue growth and learning. In other words, room for improvement always exists. Without the continual development of our craft, stale, unengaging, ineffective content results.
A writer’s nightmare.
After all, if the reader does not love our product, what is the point? So, I have compiled 25 (there are plenty more) secrets to honing your skills as a copywriter. Some of these shared secrets address the writing process while others refer specifically to writing web-based content.
Admittedly, I feel a bit selfish in composing this blog. Perhaps the motivation in penning these words rests in the fact that I need to review these hints time and again myself. Even if this proves true, I trust the ideas will inspire you to greater writing as well. Because, ultimately, we writers are in this together.
1. Consume the Written Word.
Reading quality blogs, novels, magazine articles or anything you get your hands on fuels your brain with language. Without this influx, output proves difficult. A wide variety of material, even outside your preferred genre, expands your mind and inspires creativity. Think news sources, mystery, science fiction, classic literature and more to engage your thinking.
2. Access Well Written Media.
Are you a film buff? A theater enthusiast? A YouTube addict? Do not let the guilt of needing to write stop you from pursuing these interests. Watching quality media and well-crafted productions may seem frivolous in a fast-paced working world, but these activities relax your mind while filling it with fodder for your next project.
3. Write, Write More, Then Write Even More.
Pouring words onto the page, whether by pen or keyboard, gives you the opportunity to hone your skills. After all, we are all well aware of the adage, “Practice makes perfect.” Find varying avenues to compose tidbits for whether it be a local news article, a church newsletter, a friend’s blog, letters to a serviceman or your personal journal. Set a goal (a friend once recommended 300 words per day to start). And, simply get to writing.
4. Enroll in Relevant Courses.
Whether your degree is in writing, marketing, ballroom dance or you have no degree at all, the truth is that learning takes place throughout our careers and lives. Seeking out courses on the Internet, at the library or through a local college on content writing, marketing strategies, or SEO and keyword use brings new understanding and knowledge to your work. Podcasts and webinars offer flexible access to learning at home and on the go.
5. Heed the Experts.
Find the top names in content writing, SEO and other topics relevant to your writing. While not all advice will fit you personally, wisely consider their views by:
- Talking with them personally, if possible.
- Following them on social media.
- Reading their blogs and other content.
- Listening to their expertise.
- Linking your blog posts to theirs for credibility.
6. Study the Ways of Others.
Beyond experts, look to other bloggers and content writers. Read their material. Learn from their methods and practices. Discover:
- What components of their writing inspire you?
- How do they continue to spin out quality content?
- What insider tips can they share to grow your writing?
One ongoing source of inspiration comes in developing a social media group or joining an existing one to trade ideas and share content writing secrets. Again, we are in this together.
Stop talking. Quieting your actual voice allows you to hear what others are saying. Whether knowledge of experts in your field, feedback from your boss, input from a client, inspiration from a podcast or the desires of your audience, hearing the words around you helps your written material hit the mark. And, after all, this continues to be the point.
Remember laying on the grass as a child, watching the clouds float by as a wash of thoughts flooded your mind? There is no need to give up this practice as an adult. Daydreaming helps you solve problems, increases creativity, engenders productivity, births innovative ideas and more. So, let your mind drift.
9. Engage Your Senses.
Creativity and inspiration birth from the use of our five senses. Carve out time each day to quiet yourself and experience the world through sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Your writing will be richer for it. And, you will learn to live more fully. Next point.
10. Live Fully.
An extension of engaging the senses, writing requires that you live. In other words, get out and experience the world on weekends, over vacations, even on a lunch break. Interactions with life’s activities and people bring understanding and depth to your writing. Plus, it proves a lot more fun and inspirational than sitting at a computer all day.
11. Write in Your Mind.
Have you ever experienced the flood of ideas when you step away from the computer screen? A bit like daydreaming, but more focused, imagining blog posts or social media content in your mind gets thoughts flowing naturally. A voice recording app helps catch all the great content before it slips out of sight.
12. Grab a Pen.
The light of a computer screen can lull the most focused of us into a dangerously mundane routine or a case of writer’s block. Mix it up. Grab a favorite pen and a journal, notebook, scrap of paper or a cocktail napkin. And, start writing. Often times, the physical act of putting pen to paper in a new way jump starts ideas and content with a renewed perspective.
13. Maintain Research Mode.
Typically, content writers naturally find inspiration and post support when they are not writing. Develop and maintain this constant mode of research. Use an app such as Evernote to jot ideas as they come or to paste relevant URLs as resources. When you sit down to write, you may just find your research completed.
14. Use Your Voice.
With the plethora of written content flooding the Internet, you possess one key that no one else does. Your voice. As you learn from others, develop and retain your individual style. Find unexpected angles from which to write that speak to your audience. Ultimately, your work should become recognizable to those who read it based on its voice alone.
15. Speak it Naturally.
Content which flows naturally as if spoken draws readers. Include this tone in your writing as you practice. Humor, anecdotes and even your point of view bring a genuineness to a piece and help avoid a robotic feel. Developing the feel of conversation from varying tones and for differing clients takes time. But, efforts pay off in improved skills and quality output.
16. Describe Your Audience.
Take time to sit down and write out a description of your audience. This practice constructs a fuller picture of your reader and cements in your mind for whom you are writing. Plus, if you discover gaps in your knowledge, you can set out to discover more about this group. After all, knowing the point of view, interests, habits, problems, needs and desires of your target audience produces relevant and engaging written content.
17. Focus on the Reader.
The craft of writing dangerously draws content writers to love their words and the interplay of them. Unfortunately, the writer is not the focus of a post. Keep your each piece pinpointed on the reader and his or her needs. Also, work to address one point and only one point. This could be a solution to a problem, the filling of a need or offering information but stay focused.
18. Create an Experience.
Using your senses and experiences brings stories to the reader which engage, inspire, build curiosity or warn. Remember that content writing is not simply facts on the screen but weaves tales and information to create a sense of being heard, a sense of belonging for your audience. Also, including personal storylines connects readers to you.
19. Give the Title Due Attention.
In truth, 80 percent of Internet readers stop at a post’s headline. Armed with this information, content writers do well to learn the art of crafting these titles. Time, know-how and understanding of headline value effect the effort you put into this component of your content. To pen effective titles:
- Study the teaser headlines of magazines in the checkout line.
- Write a lot of headlines. Yes, again, practice, practice, practice.
- Use a headline generator to get the creative juices flowing.
A quality copywriter uses white space to an advantage. In other words, the screen does not bury the reader in words. Here are a few simplifying tips to get you started:
- Clean up extraneous information. For instance, if a great sentence does not hit the main point, nix it.
- Get comfortable limiting information to the space in front of you. In other words, do not cram even good material into a post. Likely, it will not get read if you do.
- Keep paragraphs short and to the point. Remember, time is a precious commodity to Internet surfers.
- Befriend headlines and bullet points. Informative, skimmable material informs a scanning reader but offers quality content to those wanting more.
21. Attack the Start and Finish.
From a long-ago high school English class, you may recall that the first and last items in a paper or speech prove the most remembered. This truth informs content marketing and, therefore, your writing. Working to eliminate any warm up to your main point, crafting an irresistible lead and closing with a killer call to action (CTA) grabs readers and elevates your writing to Internet-worthy material.
Hint: Write your lead and closer last using empathy, curiosity, a promise, problem, quote or surprise to engage the reader.
22. Hone Your Grammar Skills.
Do you remember the last time you read an article laden with grammar and spelling errors? More than downright irritating, often these mistakes leave you with an unfavorable impression of the author’s intelligence, capability and credibility. Using the Associated Press Stylebook or researching correct punctuation, abbreviations and other grammar unknowns online offer help and education. Tools such as Grammarly and PlagScan help catch issues your eyes miss.
23. Take Breaks.
The flurry of fingers on the keys when you find yourself inspired and on pace likely should not be interrupted. However, writing more often follows an ebb and flow pattern. Breaks offer important and needed distance from a project. One such method, the Pomodoro Technique, suggests 25-minute work blocks with five minutes of rest between and, occasionally, longer breaks. The result? Increased productivity.
24. Edit, Edit Again and Edit Once More.
Many a content writer shares the secret of drafting words by simply pouring thoughts out on the page. In other words, just keep typing. No correcting. No editing. However, once the main thrust of a project is written your editing skills need to be in tip-top shape. Know how to recognize grammar and spelling errors, remove distracting content and retain material which focuses on the bottom line. Ruthlessly edit, read your words aloud for another edit, take a break and edit once more.
25. Test Your Tactics.
The only way to know if your abilities as a content writer are growing is to test them. Seeking feedback from a boss, client or other copywriters proves useful in this regard. But, more formal means of checking the effectiveness of headlines, subject lines, SEO and content quality exist. Run A/B tests and utilize software tools to determine effectiveness. Knowing if your content moves readers to the next step toward conversion is the end game.
Thriving as a Content Writer
Writing content for the quickly changing, daily updating web world may prove overwhelming. After all, it is a unique combination of technical writing skills, creativity and marketing know-how,not to mention technological expertise. But, two principles help you thrive as a content writer and undergird any secret you might be told, including the 25 above:
- Be sincere and humble in all your writing.
- Keep learning and sharpening your skills.
Living these principles as a writer leads to improved content and success in copywriting. May we inspire one another to pursue these ideas and the secrets that stem from them. After all, flooding the Internet with great copy would certainly be a goal worth achieving for each of us. Do you agree?
Still overwhelmed? Just looking for more information? It would be great to talk with you about growing as a content writer or on accessing copywriter services. Give us a shout today.
P.S. If you liked this post, will you share it with a friend? Or, if you have a secret to improving your writing skills, please share it in the comments below. We would love to learn from you as well.