At what point does an average content writer becomes a good content writer and a good one becomes a great content writer? When I started freelancing back in 2011, I wasn’t a very good writer. In fact, I was pretty rubbish when I look at it today. I didn’t bother to do proper research, my articles were full of fluff just for the sake of reaching word count. They were generic for the most part. Also, I knew nothing about writing proper headlines, using subheadings, bullet points. Typography, simply put, was something I knew nothing about and, to be perfectly honest, most readers probably didn’t even bother reading the content itself. If they did, they would notice a lack of actually useful information and that I lacked of any editing or proofreading skills at the time.
Oh yeah, I was really bad. But in six years I’ve worked as a freelancer writer, I believe I picked a few things here and there and improved my skills. Want to know how I did it?
Ready to learn how to become a better writer? Then join me in this epic journey from a novice to a pro content writer.
Learn from the Best in the Industry
The best singers are those that have something in their voice no one else has. The same is true for content writers. If you have a voice in your articles that is unique only to you and nobody else has, your content will be much more noticeable and memorable than that of other writers out there.
Anyone can writer generic and cookie-cutter web content. Just the same, anyone can copy other people. Don’t do that. Aim to have your own, individual style that will instantly be recognized. How to do that?
Find a couple of content writers whose style resonates with you. Read their work and study it:
- How does their headline look?
- What does the first sentence look like?
- What does the first paragraph look like?
- How they introduce you to what they’re writing about
- How they introduce the solution?
- How is their article structured? Look at the typography.
- How they close?
These seven points are not here to get you to copy someone else. Rather, I put to give you an outline of some things that work for the best content writers and could work for you too. So next time you read someone like Neil Patel or Kristi Hines, pay attention to what the masters of the art are doing and you’ll be a step closer to them.
Do Not Copy Others
I am not talking just about being original and not copying other people’s work. That goes without saying if you want to build or maintain your reputation. In fact, one of the first things you should do after you finish writing an article is to check it for plagiarism. Even if you didn’t mean to do it, it can still happen and Google might penalize you for it. Use an online program such as Copyscape for this.
No, I am talking about having an ability to find a new point of view to a topic that has been chewed over a thousand times already.
Of course, there is more to it than simply spinning, rewriting and using Thesaurus to find synonyms for certain words. If you do just that and nothing else, your content will still look the same as the next writer’s. But if you bring a different perspective, a different opinion, you’re on a good way to become a top notch content writer.
A Content Writer Plans and Does His Research
If you want to provide useful and actionable content, you have to do your homework on the topic. Stop using the web for idle browsing. Instead, be more proactive in its use and start paying attention. The Internet is not only a place to find click-bait articles and YouTube videos with cats in starring roles, but a treasure trove of interesting information that might be useful to your readers as well.
As Neil Patel points out in his Advanced Guide to Content Marketing, you need to “stay in research mode at all times“. Not just when you already have a topic to write about, but any time an idea pops in your mind. Immediately save it in your notebook, Evernote or on a sticky note so you don’t forget it. Start researching the topic, how others are tackling it and begin planning your own presentation of it.
Pay a Lot of Attention to Headlines
Copyblogger, another go-to website if you’re a content writer, explains the value of your headline by saying that 80% people will read the headline and only 20% the actual content. This only shows how important the headline is. This is the first thing anyone will see of your whole article. If it’s weak and doesn’t arouse the reader’s interest, he will skip the rest altogether.
But, if you’re headline is strong, it will pull readers into your story better than anything else can. In fact, many content writers spend nearly half the time writing their piece just on the headline. It is that important! You have only a split second to make an impression on your readers and a good headline is the perfect vessel to do that.
If you struggle with your headlines, there’s no shame in asking for help. I use a great tool called Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Of course, you shouldn’t forget the value of practice, so for each article, it’s a good idea to have at least five headlines before you pick the one that will help you drive traffic, searches and shares.
Here are some headline types that always work well:
- Top or best #of something
- How to (do this or that)
- How X does Y
- # of (insert something interesting or useful here)
- Ask “why” and provide an answer in your content
If you want to know more about writing powerful headlines, hop over to one of my other posts here where I explain the ins and outs of writing headlines.
Write Actually Useful Content
How many times have you read something and could later do nothing with the information? Have you ever returned to that website? Probably not.
Your writing should be in the service of your audience. It should be about their problems and it should provide an answer to those problems. But it also needs to be actionable. Because even the best information will mean nothing to your readers if it isn’t feasible. If you’re giving advice, and a lot of times as a content writer you’ll do just that, make sure the reader can apply your information straight away.
Of course, the main prerequisite for content to be useful is to be correct. That’s where research comes in. Do it. Otherwise, you could give your audience the wrong advice and then it’s bye-bye reputation.
Focus on What You’re Writing About and Nothing Else
When I sit down to write, I turn off the WiFi on my phone and stay clear of YouTube and Facebook. Otherwise, it might take me 23 minutes to get back into the article. Eliminate anything that distracts you before you start writing. Keep only the essentials on your desk. For example, other than my laptop, monitor, mobile phone, notebook and a bottle of water, I remove everything else to the side. This allows me to focus to the task at hand.
You should also remove any outside distractions. Make sure you are not bothered in your working space by either your coworkers, friends, family, kids or pets. Once you close the door, everyone should know not to bother you, unless in extreme emergencies. A distracted content writer is never a productive content writer.
Speaking of focus, you should also focus your content. to just one (1) point. Don’t jump from point to point. That way, you’ll distract and confuse the reader and they won’t know what you’re telling him. No matter if your content is a short, 250-word article or a long 2,500 word blog post, it should all lead to a single point.
Think About More Than Writing
Not everyone likes to read. Some people like images and videos better. Be sure to introduce visuals like these as well as infographics whenever you can into your content. Take one more lesson from your high school textbooks and offer your readers other ways to learn about your topic.
Of course, the writing should still be the main focus of your content and images and videos are only there to complement it. Typically, a good rule is to have an image after every 300 words, so every subheading should ideally have its own image or video. So, be judicious in your use of visuals and be careful to use only something that adds value to the content.
Okay, now it’s your turn. What do you think makes a good content writer? Do you agree with the points I made here? Have any questions or thoughts about this? Let’s hear them in the comments below!