You Write, Therefore You Are
You’ve made it. The interview is yours, a new opportunity is barely a breath away and your smile feels genuine on your mouth. They sit across from you, fingers folded around a coffee cup, sizing up your voice, your eyes and your proficiencies. The questions arrive. You’re ready for them or you think you are. Suddenly, you’re not sure. Was it the right thing to say? It seemed comfortable before you placed the idea on the table, but you wish to take it back. Take a breath…
Confidence is key - you are a writer. You read often. You understand the fundamentals of audience, pacing and composition. You have looked into the industry and know how your skills apply. Be definitive and above all, be prepared. And remember, you wouldn’t be interviewing for a position governed by words if they doubted your content credentials.
Write Without Limits
Of course, the traditional interview scenario is but one possibility in a spider web of choices your professional content writing career could take. While you’re refining your CV and hunting down an internal position, start reading, researching and creating a shortlist of websites where your work will one day live. Study their article preferences – do their writers favour a short and snappy style? Are long-form pieces like this one common? Have they littered their posts with chat speak and acronyms? Can you picture your name in the by-line without feeling weird about it?
When you have a digital address or two in mind, comment, share and engage. Become an active part of the community. Learn the politics of the comments section and the temperaments of those who reside there, get a feel for what they like to read, what they hate to read and what provokes a reaction, for good or ill.
This is not an either/or process. You can work internally, blog on the side and volunteer as a part time editor for a small, start-up e-zine without sacrificing more than your sanity and the hours you’d spend loitering on the Internet anyway. Online writing is limitless in how it is defined, scoped, implemented, delivered and digested.
You will work hard, but you’ll love it. Most of the time.
Know When to Let Go
We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
No doubt you’ve been instructed time and time again to send your darlings out into the world without a hope they may return in one piece or at all. Good writers have trouble prying their pride loose of their latest masterpiece and great ones just hide it better.
The truth is, it is rarely possible for any creative to completely suspend their humanity in the same way we ask an audience to suspend their disbelief during a fictional story. Knowing when to let go is simply a lesson in compartmentalisation. Shut away your ego, lock up your pride and keep your justifications to yourself – take what is useful, sort through the rest and go back to your piece with a renewed perspective. Keep your drafts in an assigned folder and use the scraps for future pieces – you’ll soon inspire yourself.
Be Open, Even When it Sucks
Although you may not be aware of it, your creative tendencies enable your brain to tap into the feelings and thoughts of others. Be prepared for what you might hear, what you may see and the things you cannot unsee – humans can really suck sometimes.
Simply going to work is an opportunity to study the every day practice of living – observe the people around you visually, verbally and physically. Listen to their tones, their pitches and their crutch phrases; chart their nervous reactions and their various expressions. Note when they choose to respond and when they hold their silence. Do this with as many people as you can. Often people leave their true meanings unsaid.
In online content creation, you’ll hear a lot said about personas. Most focus on marketing friendly variables, including age, stats, gender, job titles, technology use and potential obstacles blocking the brand from engaging with this generalised customer… it’s a bit detached. Enter empathy. As a writer, you need to consider marketing personas and human psychology as two complementary emotional and mental entities. Never forget your audience is human, even if everybody else perceives them as data points and conversion figures.
Don’t Judge Other Writers
We all start somewhere. The author of this piece once wrote SEO articles for the price of a burrito bowl and soft drink from a particularly popular Mexican eatery; days and nights consumed her as more dead content was released into the digital sphere in the name bolstering back linking profiles. This is not a bygone era. Agencies, brands and companies still employ writers to piece together churn and burn articles for the price of their ethics – fifteen dollars per 500 words, twenty, thirty or one hundred articles. Easy money, in theory. While principles are lovely and all very well, the pressing need to eat and pay rent forces even the canniest writer into a churn agreement.
You’ll be hard pressed to discover a writer without a portfolio of throwaway links and SEO pieces – they’re creative padding between “legitimate jobs”, often providing a catalyst for mainstream pieces down the track. We do not endorse this or any form of creative exploitation – that said, we also do not judge those writers who made their living by feeding the ugly, backlinking beast. Everybody has skeletons in their closet.
Are you still with us? Great. Becoming a professional content writer is a long process, so we’ve split this guide into chapters. You can get your hands on the next entry in a matter of days – keep checking back or stalk our social media channels for article alerts.
Next Time: Find Your Unique Writing Voice