I have been spending a lot of time reading about copywriting, content writing, writing for the web – you get the picture. Levelling up my skills and putting myself out into the world as a freelance content writer means staying on top of trends, SEO strategies and becoming a marketer.
There is a TON of information out there. Lots of helpful, educational content, and some strong opinions of all these topic.
Something I’ve noticed, though, is a lack of “do what works for you” advice.
Now I recognize that “do what works for you” doesn’t really apply to something like SEO strategies, but it absolutely counts when you’re practicing your writing skills. There are thousands of ways to improve your writing, but they all stem from the same basics.
There are a lot of suggested things that I don’t do as a writer:
- I don’t write from an outline – I’m more of a stream-of-consciousness writer who edits like crazy.
- I don’t have brain-dump sessions – when I come up with an idea, I get working on it right away.
- And I don’t often write with keywords in mind – I’ll write on my topic, and go back and add keywords, if they didn’t naturally appear in my copy.
Why do you care what I do, or don’t do?
Because I want you to know it’s okay to work differently than others. No two people are alike, so it makes sense that no two people would work the same way.
Taking suggestions and advice is a great way to learn and grow. But knowing when to let advice go is also a skill.
A few of my favourite sites for continuous learning are:
- Neil Patel – he shares so much great info you could spend weeks reading his posts and learn something every single day. I’ve signed up for his emails so I can stay on top of what’s new with him.
- Content Ghost – she shares articles on why businesses should have a blog, layout tips and tricks, and some ideas on how to market yourself as a content writer.
- Elna Cain – she’s a blogger and freelance writer who’s got a fabulous list of articles covering topics from “How to start a blog” to “Self care for Freelancers”. She also sells courses and has a FB group (which I belong to) to provide support and networking for other writers.
I have a small collection of articles, as well, that talk about content writing, copywriting, and my learning journey so far.
Keep in mind, some things won’t work for you. There’s no point in trying to absorb those techniques or ideas. Simply process them, determine if it seems helpful to you, and, if not, let it go.
This applies to all areas of your life. Your job, parenting, relationships, your entire lifestyle – if the advice doesn’t fit, let it go.
But do read, research, learn, and grow as well.
So, how do you improve your writing in a way that won’t change over time?
This is a tough question.
Algorithms change, audience attention spans are short, and the internet is ever-evolving.
Some basic writing rules that don’t change are:
This is a no-brainer, but I see so many errors when reading (even news sites or professional websites.) Sometimes it’s a case of the context – the wrong spelling of a word (here, hear) which a spell check wouldn’t pick up, but other times it’s evident there was no editing done at all.
If you struggle with spelling, have someone else read your work. Or drop it into Grammarly (the link is in the next section) and let them catch your mistakes. Spelling needs to be learned, and if you spend time finding and fixing your errors, you will become better at spelling things right the first time.
This is harder, I know. Do your grammar check after you’ve left the piece to sit for a few hours. It’s a lot easier to see these errors when you return to a document, than right after you’ve created it.
Another trick is to read your article or document in the preview pane (if you’re working inside a content management system like WordPress.) Often just the difference in the look of the article makes your brain think it’s something new and different and you will read more critically.
If you need more help, run it through Grammarly. It’s a great tool for catching those errors you gloss over in your own re-reading, and the basic plan is free.
When writing for internet readers, small paragraphs and lots of white space are easy on the eyes, and allow for a quick skim, from those inclined to do such a thing.
Use headers! This is how you slow those skim-readers down. By breaking your content into sections, people can pick and choose which areas they want to read more easily.
Bullet points are your friend. When listing things, make it eye catching with bullets, or as a numbered list. This is another trick to catch those skim-readers and make them want to take a deeper look at your article.
Of course, layout requirements may change over time, but generally these are the three big things I would suggest you focus on if you’re going to be writing for an online audience.
The moral of this story is to know yourself. Know how YOU work. And if some advice doesn’t feel right, don’t use it.
Don’t limit yourself to what others say you should do, but also take time to learn the basics. A healthy understanding of spelling and grammar will save you a lot of time (or money) editing your work.
Need a pair of eyes for your writing work? I can help you improve your writing as an editor or proofreader. Email me to discuss a collaboration.
What other skills do you think are necessary as a content or copy writer? Leave them in the comments so I can continue to learn as well.