Maybe you're not getting jobs because you just can't write

In a post a good long while ago, Do you need to be a good writer to be a good blogger, Deb points out that yes, it helps a great deal to know how to write if you’re a blogger.

I agree. Knowing how to write is important. However, I know plenty of excellent writers who don’t get blogging and web writing gigs – writers who are likely better than me. I can write sure, but I’m not one of those genius born to write or die type writers, yet I still get plenty of work.

So, how do I and lots of other writers get blogging and web writing jobs, when many amazing writers are passed over? The people I know who get these jobs (self included) tend to follow some general web writing rules. If a client checks out your work and you’re NOT following these rules you may be passed over for someone who does play by the rules.

Write for the web: Writing for the web is totally different then writing for magazines, college paper, print ad copy, and other writing mediums. The best way to learn how to write for the web is to write for the web – i.e. start a blog. Another good way to learn is to read popular blogs and check out their style. Blog readers aren’t looking for the next great American novel, they’re looking for information, entertainment, newsy clips, and so fourth.

Write casual and personable text: Big fancy words, pages of text (within one post), and a dictating rather than conversational tone sets you apart as someone who doesn’t know how to write for the web. You can connect with readers better when you speak to them, or with them, rather than at them. Plus creating text peppered with jargon, smarty pants research paper college speak, or poetic nonsense is just plain annoying. There’s a place for stuff like this, but a blog isn’t that place. Use words that people understand ALL the time.

Write with a purpose: When you’re writing for the web it can feel a little more slack but you should still write with purpose. I always ask myself the ‘So What’ question and most of the time it makes me a better blogger.

Write with a style that’s all you: Not all bloggers and web writers have a completely unique style, but most have some sort of voice that comes through in their work. Say you have a cooking blog – so what? There are dozens and dozens of cooking blogs out there. What the heck sets you apart from the rest? A good example of a blog with a clear voice is Garden Rant – a typical garden blog, of which there are many, but this blog has a distinct voice. Another blog with a very clear voice is Tremendous News, which is really unfocused topic wise, but you just keep reading because it’s so damn hilarious and the blogger’s voice shines through each post.

Write in a blog or web readable style: The best writing in the world won’t get you a gig if you can’t produce web copy that’s readable. And by readable I mean easy to scan, useful, and somewhat attention grabbing. Bullets are good. Snappy titles rock. Bold print in moderation is good. Hitting enter is super excellent. Clients like to see that you can pull these simple tasks off.

Write with an honest opinion: When blogging for clients it’s typical to cover products and press releases but it’s important to be honest and opinionated. Anyone can write about global warming or a sofa that’s on sale or offer parenting tips. What’s key is your opinion on the topic. What’s your slant? What’s your real take? A good example are blogs where you’ll see 50 product reviews and they all rock. There’s no way that 50 products all rock. If you’re just spitting out what PR folks are selling, without developing your own opinions, it looks fake, seems lame, and people won’t trust that you’re telling the truth.

It’s great if you know how to write, it’s cool if you have a writing degree, but keep in mind that web writing is different. Cultivate your skills as it pertains to this medium if you want to snag gigs.

Coming up soon… why your lack of confidence might be messing with your ability to get gigs, more tips from clients, what bloggers are making money wise, and more.

You tell me – have you adjusted your writing style so that it works for the web?

Comments

  1. “Maybe you’re not getting jobs because you just can’t write”

    Oh no you didn’t…

    Thanks for continuing to tell it like it is.

  2. I’ve always been a writer, but writing for the web has definitely been a switch. Gone are the “on must do this” and “one must do that.” At first, dropping that formality was difficult, but with a little practice, “one” can adjust.

  3. I am SOOO glad I’m not the only one telling it like it is, even when it’s not nice. I am often told to turn it down, dial it back and be nicer…but damn, when it’s true, it’s true. Hooray for other writers telling it straight.

    My own two cents of advice is that just like with print mags, it’s a good idea to scope out the blog or website you want to write for and get a good feel for the audience, the style and tone and the demographics that blog is aiming for. Then you can approach that site with confidence.

  4. I have learned to make my sentences shorter. Faulkner does not make good internet copy. I tend to write in an inverted pyramid style, but I make it interesting with headlines that catch attention. Of course I have to adapt my style to fit certain sites.

  5. Thank you. I found this helpful in distinguishing the difference between writing for the web and writing for print. From what I understand, writing for the web has greater freedom to be yourself and say what you are thinking in often the same style you usually speak in.

  6. I think I write fairly well. In fact, I get paid to write but I’ve been turned down several times for web gigs. I HAVE TALENT. I’ve been writing since the age of 8 when I was reconginzed as HAVING TALENT. What in the hell am I doing wrong? Just had to vent it.

    • Well, there’s a lot to it. In some cases I think people aren’t getting gigs because yeah, maybe they can’t write. In other cases people that may not write well do get gigs and it’s likely because they come off well during the hiring process or apply a lot or use other smart freelance job hunting tactics. Personally, I’ve been told I’m a good writer, but I know many writers who I think are way better than me, yet I get the gigs not them – it’s because I apply for many gigs; especially ones I know I’m very qualified for, I’m confident when I apply, and I have other skills that appeal to web clients. To get the higher paying gigs you sort of have to be the whole package. If you’re not getting jobs, something you’re doing needs to be tweaked.

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