There are a lot of things that go into a successful content writing practice. Client screening and selection, expectation management, business acumen, and good, old-fashioned luck all play a role in your success. But, at the end of the day, all of the stars in the sky can align and you still won’t manage to make it if your writing isn’t on point. Continue reading below to learn my best, actionable content writing tips for beginners.
Content Writing Tip #1: Read
This one’s real simple: read. A lot. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read the newspaper. Read websites and blogs. Read ad copy, books, and subtitles. The more you read, the more you’ll develop your ability to write a decent sentence or two.
The reason you don’t want to limit your reading to just one category of prose (like fiction novels or business journals) is that content writers are required to write in a variety of different voices and styles. It’s just the nature of the game. You’ll need to be able to adapt your writing to suit a multitude of different circumstances and audiences. One of the best ways to do this is to expose yourself to as many different kinds of writing as possible.
Try to be mindful of the text you encounter in unexpected places. Read the advertisements you see on the subway and the sentence on the back of a business card. You’ll soon begin to get an idea of what sounds and looks good, and what could use improvement.
Content Writing Tip #2: Write
Again, this one’s kind of a no-brainer. You should be writing a lot. Ideally, you should be writing for an audience who can give you feedback, but even if you’re just writing in a journal that no one sees it’ll be helpful.
I strongly recommend that you start a blog. It doesn’t matter what topic you choose or audience you seek (as long as its not totally incompatible with your professional image). It doesn’t even matter if anyone visits it at first. You just want to develop your writing muscles at the beginning of your writing career. “Practice makes perfect” is a cliche for a reason.
Content Writing Tip #3: Read About Writing
There are a few great books about writing that every aspiring content writer should read. My favorites are Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss and The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. There are countless others, however, and you can choose your favorites.
Reading about writing is a great way to get a peek into the minds of how other people perform what is, at its core, a very solitary activity. It opens you up to new ways of doing things and understanding words.
Content Writing Tip #4: Stick To Your Strengths
If you’re reading this blog you’re likely a professional who wants to start a side hustle as a content writer. You probably have an area of expertise in which you’re very comfortable with your level of subject matter knowledge. And while it’s never a good idea to be too inflexible in your approach to content writing (after all, clients will inevitably want a wide range of work), as a rule you should stick to what you know.
If you’re a teacher with a woodworking hobby, write about education and woodworking. If you’re a lawyer, write about the law. Not only will you know what you’re talking about, you’ll have more credibility with your audience and client.
Content Writing Tip #5: Let Go Of Your Ego
The vast majority of content writing, especially at the beginning, involves ghostwriting or other unattributed work. When you’re first starting out, you can forget about “getting your name out there” with your work because almost all of it will be published under someone else’s name.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As a freelance content writer, you’re basically a mercenary. You’ll frequently write pieces and content you wouldn’t want attributed to you. Not because they’re offensive or of poor quality (hopefully), but because they don’t align with your professional persona or personal opinions.
So, get used to writing under someone else’s byline. This is another good reason to have a blog of your own. It lets you express your own views for a change. After four hours a day of writing for other people, it’s nice to sit down and write what you want to write.
You won’t become an amazing writer overnight. But you can definitely improve your skills in a very short amount of time by following the aforementioned tips and tricks. If you remember to read and write a lot, stick to subject matter you know well, and don’t expect a lot of recognition at the beginning, you’ll be surprised how quickly you develop as a content writer.
If you’d like some more tips suited to the beginning content writer, why not check out my article on how to start content writing? It’s got the foundational info you’ll need to get a running start at your new side hustle.