As much as we would like to think that our personal creative well is infinite, there are times when writer’s block creeps in and starts to make it to run a little dry. Long-term blogging gigs or bulk content assignments can put you at risk for this type of scenario.
Editor’s note: This post was written by Aby League, a qualitative researcher and a passionate writer. She is an innovator and technology enthusiast. She has been writing about health, psychology, home improvement and technology. You can see more of her articles on Elite Daily. To know her more, follow @abyleague on Twitter.
Everything in the virtual world is intended for humans. These humans are not merely numbers, projections, or KPIs. They are real and they decide whether to love you or leave you, whether your brand rocks or sucks. Every single piece of content you put out there must have the H factor, the human factor. Forget B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer) in your content marketing strategy, from now on it is H2H, human to human.
Forget buzzwords and all your intimidating jargon. Increase engagement and boost relevance by humanizing your content. A study by Janrain called Online Personal Experience found that 74% of consumers get frustrated with websites that publish content that does not interest them or does not seem relevant. If consumers cannot relate with the content, why should they even care?
Learn how to humanize your content with these surefire tips.
Understand their persona
This is perhaps the most basic and yet most important aspect of content marketing. You have to be able to craft a content persona to humanize your content marketing. Go beyond bio data information like age or location when you are defining your target market. You have to know what interests them, what they like and what they don’t like, what motivates them, what moves them to act. If you are selling dresses online for example, figure out if your audience is Beyonce sexy or Taylor Swift sweet.
Have a personality
Your audience has a persona and so must your brand. You should know who you are. Are you funny? Helpful? Expert? Or a little bit of everything? Your personality must be reflected in all platforms, online and offline. If you are funny online but your customer service center is grumpy, then you have a problem. Be consistent.
Show that your team is human
Once in a while, let your fans and followers know who the team is, what they’re like, how they look. Instead of a brand logo, why not use your team’s “groufie” as your profile picture? Also, encourage employees to be social. It makes your audience feel like they know your team, like you’re family. Pictures of real people show that your brand is human intended for humans.
Stop with the robot language
A screen already goes between your brand and your consumer. Don’t make it any worse by talking like a robot. Be creative and interesting every step of the way. Remember that you are not writing a legal or a technical paper. Do not look for a synonym for every word just to impress your audience because chances are they are not getting it anyway. What is important is you find your brand’s voice and express it in the most precise, truthful, and interesting manner. Kill the business babble and just speak clearly.
Tell a story
People love stories. Stories make them human. If you are working on humanizing your content, tell stories that are consistent with what your brand stands for. Stories make for competitive content. If you’re a sports brand, share stories about dreams and making them happen. Publish stories that inspire, motivate, dare, and empower. This is how you can humanize your brand on social media where human-interest stories always work.
Forget promotion, go for emotion
Emotions make us human. If you are looking for ways to humanize your visuals and narratives, make sure they strike an emotional chord because people will never forget how you made them feel. A survey by the Corporate Executive Board found that brands that can connect with their audience on an emotional level are twice as effective compared to those promoting a brand using functional value. Marketing is personal and emotional. Publish content that make people laugh, amused, even angry and anxious.
Laugh it out
A little bit of humor will not hurt you. In fact, people love it. Humanize your content by injecting humor and tickling your audience’s funny bone. A global survey by Ogilvy & Mather and SurveyMonkey reveals that 40% of social media users share content just because it is funny and entertaining. Do not think that humor makes you less of an expert, because if at all, it makes you a cool one.
Use visuals more
Humans are visual creatures. If you want their attention, you have to be visually stimulating. No wonder 70% of marketers plan to increase visual content this year. Infuse images, short videos, gifs, memes, and infographics in your textual content. Strike a balance and don’t be boring. Make sure your visuals tell a story, gripping, and consistent with the personality of your brand.
Build a community
Social channels are about building a community. Without a community, your content is merely an advertisement. Make your fans and followers feel that they are a part of something bigger. Stay social on social media. Encourage people to interact with each other and don’t underrate the value of responding to questions, comments, and real conversations. It would be nice if you have a community manager and introduce him in a fun and amusing way.
Say sorry and man up
Screwing up is part of being human. This is not to suggest that you should make mistakes just to have an opportunity to humanize your brand. But if and when you publish a content that is insensitive, offensive, and even politically incorrect, own up and say sorry. No one expects you to be perfect. People will move on from your little faux pas sooner than you expected and your brand will emerge as a brand that can man up.
In the end, it’s the relationships that matter
Invest and focus on relationships. These are not very easy to come by. Do not think like a corporate engine and instead be real in conversations and publish content that establishes a connection. Do not ignore them. When relationships are strong enough, expect your audience to follow you despite how the virtual landscape changes.
Don’t fake it. That is the first rule in being human. Don’t try to be what you’re not because the audience is going to find out sooner than you think. Your followers are your brand’s best critics, motivators, and supporters. They are your friends. Treat them like you would a friend.
Also read: 7 Tips to Make Your Writing More Engaging
As a writer, one of your most important jobs is to grab your reader’s attention and pull them into your blog post or article. You want to get the reader excited about what they are going to find when they delve into your words. Keep in mind that you are competing against scores of other material that is also promising to give “your” reader the same type of exciting, informative and helpful information. You have to take steps to make your writing more engaging than another person’s material on a similar topic.
Starting your own blog is an excellent way to showcase your own writing style, independent from work that has been commissioned by clients. It’s your own space on the Internet where you are free to write as yourself and not in the parameters ordered by someone else. There is certainly something freeing in working on your own projects for a change, and this is also a good way to promote your writing business and attract new clients who may be interested in hiring you for some business blogging.
We all want to be better writers, right? I’m also willing to bet that, more than that, you want to write faster. After all, if you write better and faster, the more client work you can take on, and the more you can charge for your work.
There’s no lack of articles online – and offline – giving pieces of advice on how to write better and faster. We even published one recently – How to Become a Better Writer.
Today, I came across this infographic which can serve as a quick pick-me-upper and/or guide for those who want to write better and faster.
I agree with most points – especially number 9 (which obviously doesn’t apply to those who don’t drink) – but what do you think? As fellow writers, what can you say about this infographic? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments?
Via Brennan Reid
Editor’s note: This post was written by Gary Dek, the blogger behind StartABlog123.com and Gajizmo.com. He offers small businesses and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density research to recovering from Panda/Penguin updates to promoting their blogs and growing traffic.
Are you inspired and motivated to become a great writer? Do you read writing blogs and get the urge to start one, too? Maybe you’re looking for a second income to pay off your debts faster or just had a baby and want to make money from home as a freelance writer.
But you’re worried that you don’t have what it takes to become a professional writer. You don’t think you’re an expert on anything worth writing about, and even if you were, why should anyone hire you specifically? Do you have the habits of a successful writer, or are you doomed to be nothing but a writing wannabe?
Here are a few tips on becoming a better writer and how to differentiate yourself.
What Is Good Writing?
Some individuals in the writing community are book snobs. They think that classic literature is more valid than ‘chick lit’ or that magazines are literary garbage. There are others who think that bloggers are wannabe journalists or that if you self-publish a book, then it must be bad because no publisher would touch it.
What is good and worthy is subjective and relative. The only way to tell if you’re a good writer is to measure the impact you have on your readers. Did you offer a solution to an everyday problem? Did you persuade them to change or improve? Did you captivate or engage them? Did you connect with them on a personal or emotional level?
These are the types of questions you should ask yourself because, at the end of the day, they’re the ones that matter. Using complex sentence structures, alluding to a Shakespearean sonnet, or incorporating SAT vocabulary that only an Oxford Scholar would understand doesn’t make you a great writer. As a freelance writer or blogger, it can make you seem cold, distant, and disconnected.
Ways you might be able to measure whether your writing affects people include:
- User comments and discussions on your blog.
- Direct emails from readers expressing appreciation or asking for additional information.
- Good reviews of your latest Kindle novel, eBook, podcast, etc.
- Social shares that demonstrate strong connections with your work.
Any kind of attention or feedback means your writing is compelling in some way. Otherwise, you’re either writing about something no one wants to read or your style is too dry and boring. Neither of those qualities is desired by publishers.
Steps To Better Writing
Before you can become a better and popular writer, you must hone your skills. While what is considered good may be relative, the habits you must acquire are universal. The following are solid, proven methods to improve your skills.
Learn The Craft
If you want to be a chef, you must first learn how to cook; and if you want to be a writer, you have to learn the principles of writing, including but not limited to: grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary and punctuation. You may have great ideas for your writing style, but for it to be any good, you must first learn the rules. Then you can go ahead and break them as you see fit.
You must also learn story-writing essentials such as purpose, tone, plot, character development, and structure. Learn how to write realistic dialogue so your characters don’t come off as wooden and one dimensional.
The best way to achieve this is to read. Ever notice how the best writers are voracious readers? This is because exposure to quality work sets a standard in your mind and what we learn as readers, we’ll implement as writers.
Write, Write, and Write
This may seem a bit obvious, but writers have to actually write. Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. The more you practice writing, the easier you can put your thoughts into words. You must create a daily writing habit and commit to it.
If you are a new freelancer and don’t have any writing gigs yet, start a personal blog and make it a habit to write every day, even when you don’t feel like it. If you are serious about becoming a successful freelance writer, it has to feel like a job – pick a time, start working and stay until you’ve finished.
If you aren’t tech-savvy, use the step-by-step tutorial provided by StartABlog123.com to learn how to set up a blog in under 20 minutes. Once you start getting freelancing jobs, your blog will serve as your resume and portfolio.
Seek Out Criticism
The feedback you receive from peers, writers, professors, and mentors is invaluable. They may not represent your target audience, but the constructive criticism you’ll get from them will help you determine your shortcoming and where you need focus.
It may bruise the ego to hear that something you’ve written is falling flat, especially if it’s something you took a particular liking to, but this is how you learn to sharpen your instincts.
The Intangibles That Can’t Be Taught
While the above tips will strengthen your technical and fundamental writing skills, there is a bit more to “good writing” than having proper grammar and sentence structure. The easiest way to describe it is that each literary piece you produce must have personality.
Here are a few qualities that will allow you to genuinely connect with readers and evoke positive emotions with your work.
- Compassion gives you the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, which in turn helps you create realistic and relatable characters. Empathy helps a writer tap into the audience’s emotional pulse.
- Ingenuity is what helps a fiction writer create an imaginative and intriguing setting for a story. A writer with imagination or unique problem-solving skills is able to attack an old dilemma with a different point of view. The latter is especially crucial for freelance writers trying to stand out in a crowded niche.
- Dedication is what separates a serious writer from a wishful thinker. Good writers tend to live and breathe their writing. They can’t go a day without it; they are always thinking about their next post, short story, editorial, satire, novel, etc. A great writer is passionate about language, communication and using both to tell stories that capture hearts and minds. That passion will be what keeps you committed despite the occasional failure.
These character traits may or may not be learned; it really depends on you as an individual. Sometimes experiences and environments can change people, as can purposeful behavioral modification. If you believe your writing lacks these qualities, how can you acquire them?
Get Some Life Experience and Share It
One of the oldest rules for writers is to write what you know, but in order to have anything insightful to share, you’re going to have to live a little. Step outside of your comfort zone and be adventurous, experiencing moments that challenge you mentally, physically, and/or emotionally. Make new friends and listen to different perspectives to further develop empathy.
Develop A Taste For Diversity
Open your mind to the possibility that you are wrong about everything you believe in. Exposing yourself to a wide range of topics, personalities, and philosophies rather than sticking with what you know and love, will help you build your imagination. If you tend to only watch comedy films, branch out to documentaries and science fiction. Only interested in classic literature? Try reading something from a recent bestseller list. Never been out of the country? Travel to Peru and visit Machu Picchu, the Peruvian Amazon Basin, and Lake Titicaca. Unique experiences will engage readers and spark new ideas, helping you stand out.
One of my favorite quotes to support this is from Steve Jobs:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Be More Open and Less Repressed
Beware of dismissing what you love out of fear of appearing uncool or weird. Indifference is a creative energy killer. Indulge your passions, share them with others, and find others who have similar interests. Learn to accept what makes you unique, and embrace being you.
Anyone Can Become A Better Writer
It takes work to be a better writer, but you can do it. You have to be willing to learn your craft, make time to write and accept productive criticism when necessary. Working with mentors, professors and other talented and dedicated writers can also increase your odds. But if you want to succeed, you can’t just mechanically follow these steps. Ultimately, you must transform yourself into someone with a unique voice worth reading. If you can educate and uplift your audience, you’ll always be in demand.
Writing time is always a touchy subject, as there is no such thing as a set length of time wherein a writer can finish a piece of work. Whether it’s a blog post, an article for a magazine, a short story, or a novel, it does not matter. How long you write is not a one-size-fits-all matter.
There are, however, some things that writers can do to cut down on writing time. This is especially important for freelance writers who get “paid per piece or per word or perhaps”, as humorist Robert Benchley said. The writing process may be touch and go at times, but more often than not, we need to hunker down and finish articles as fast as we can without sacrificing quality.
I’ve been writing for a living for many years now, and I’d like to think I have reached the point where I can write really fast when I need to. I have to admit, however, that there is still room for improvement. Here are some of the things I have learned over the years, and I hope they can help you cut down writing time, too.
Have a running list of topics/ideas.
If you write for a blog – whether it’s your own or a client’s – this is one of the things that can make your life so much easier. We all know that ideas don’t always come when we need them to. Indeed, they always seem to run away when the need is dire, but come in droves when you’re drifting away to sleep.
The trick, I have found, is to have a running list of topics or ideas that come to you. That’s why a notebook is always handy, and I know that many of you carry one around with you. What I do, though, is always have TextEdit (any other similar program will do) open, where I can quickly jot down ideas.
Of course, if you write for several blogs, then you need to be a bit more organized with these lists. Evernote is a great app for that.
The point, though, is to have a list you can refer to whenever you find your well of inspiration drying up. And, if you get the “thinking of an idea” part away, you cut down on your total writing time.
More than having a running list, which does not have to be your default resource, by the way, you also need to plan. Planning can mean different things, depending on what you are working on.
For example, having an editorial calendar gives your blog a more cohesive “look” in terms of content. You can plan series of posts, and even if you don’t, at least you have an overview of what you are going to do for the month.
You can also take note of upcoming holidays so that you can plan topics that fit the theme.
Overthinking is something I am guilty of, and when it comes to writing, overthinking makes the process a whole lot longer than it should take. This applies to choosing the “perfect” word, making sure that the sentence structure is exactly how you want it to be, and so on. While these things are NOT bad – they actually make sure your piece is written well – overdoing them can be counterproductive.
This also applies to “research”. When writing for a client, you may need to do some research about the topic, product, niche, or business. This is essential to writing a high quality article. But, how much research do you need to do? How much of your research do you actually use in your piece? It may take a while, but you need to find the balance – don’t over research.
When you’re on a roll, ditch your other plans if possible.
When you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll. Your fingers fly across the keyboard like an F1 car heading toward the finish line. You probably already know that these moments are to be treasured, and that if possible, don’t stop even if you have other things planned. This way, you can get more things done in a shorter span of time.
What are your tricks to cut down writing time?
When your income is determined by the amount of content you create, the pressure to be productive as a freelance writer can be debilitating.
Don’t allow diminished output to be the white whale of your writing career. Increase your writing productivity with these six easy suggestions:
Create a Flexible Schedule
Freelance writers need a daily writing plan to stay on track, especially if they juggle simultaneous projects or write several articles per day. But when using a schedule, permit some flexibility. Don’t become so tied to your calendar that you deny your own creative impulses. Allow yourself to be inspired rather than shying away from bursts of genius simply because your writing plan dictates you finish an assignment. Your schedule should drive you, not dominate you.
Get Some Air
You’ll be more productive if you learn to take breaks. Staring at a blinking cursor for hours on end is the antithesis of productivity, as is forcing yourself to type lifeless paragraphs you’ll delete at the end of the day. When your productivity is waning, seek a change in scenery. Take a walk around your block, go for a short drive, or simply open your front door and inhale. Fresh air equals a fresh perspective.
Improve Your Typing Skills
Typing well doesn’t inherently mean that you will write well, but well-founded typing skills make it easier to convert thoughts into text. Improving your typing speed and accuracy will mediate those instances when your brain fires ideas faster than your fingers can document, as well as lessen the time you and your editor spend proofreading.
Thanks to the World Wide Web, there are a ton of free and fun online typing tools that make exciting work of otherwise bland skill assessments. Websites like 10 Fast Fingers and TypeRacer test your speed, accuracy, and keystroke count. TypeRacer even allows you to enter a carnival style typing competition against your friends or other Internet users where your “digital car” is fueled by your typing speed and accuracy. Some challengers clock in at over 180 wpm!
Log out of Your Social Media Accounts
Social media is a double-edged sword for freelance writers. As much as an online presence is vital to building your platform, it is equally detrimental to writing productivity.
No matter how passionate you are about a project, it’s practically impossible to compete when you see dramatic changes in relationship statuses, 140-character celebrity meltdowns, hypnotic photos of decadent foods, or cats. It’s always the cats.
Before you start writing, sign out of your social media accounts and implement the following additional strategies to disengage from digital socialization during work hours:
• Manage separate user accounts and browsers for your personal and professional Internet needs
• Turn off social media notifications on your mobile devices
• Don’t check your social media accounts until the end of your work day
In addition to enhancing your physical well-being, exercise boosts your brain. For up to three hours after a workout you can enjoy the benefits of heightened focus, which clears the way for increased writing productivity. Before you pen your next project, complete 30 minutes of physical activity. This short burst of exercise will provide you with more motivation and energy to write.
Take Pride in Your Work
Despite the widespread respect given to writer greats like Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Melville, modern writers are often viewed as hobbyists playing Pretend Career rather than as legitimate, studied professionals.
When this dismissiveness perpetuates, we writers begin to doubt ourselves and our work. We put off projects, abandon new ideas, and apologize to our families for taking time to write. Combat writer stereotyping by being proud of your work. After all, believing in your writing makes you want to do more of it.
image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
You’re a good writer, and you know it. If given a keyboard and Internet connection, you could craft ingenious articles in no time, but the only problem is –you’re not getting the work you need. Sitting in front of your computer all day, twiddling your thumbs, checking Facebook, and getting lost on the ‘top 10s’ of Buzzfeed isn’t going to pay the bills! You need to get your name out there, and start standing out.
It is easy to doubt whether or not it’s possible to make it as a freelance writer, but the fact of the matter is that it can be done. In fact, freelance writers are more in demand today than they have ever been, because of social media networks. There has never been a better time to become a writer, and if you’ve got the skills, then all you need to do is get your name out there and start marketing your services.
Ultimately, your goal is to make it so that you’re spending more time writing than marketing, and that will help you stand out as a writer for sure. Here are a few marketing tips to reach that goal.
Scheduling Your Day
All good freelancers know that if you aren’t prioritizing and scheduling out your day –then be prepared to flounder and get burnt out of the business. The temptation is to say, “I’ve got all day. I’ll just do my work when I feel like it.” However, the reality is that you’ll be spending all day thinking that you should be working, and when the time comes to relax …you’re busy working.
The same goes with marketing. You need an actual marketing strategy and a plan to go with it, scheduled out with specific goals. If you just think that you’re going to wing it, and try really, really hard to be consistent, then your marketing efforts won’t be nearly as effective.
The best way to go is get your calendar out or (even better) get a calendar app that allows you to sync it with your email and your cloud storage system. Then, begin to plan out your marketing efforts with real goals that are attainable. Believe it or not, your calendar is the first major asset in your other freelance marketing tools.
Figure Out Your Niche Market
One of the most crucial parts about effective marketing is in knowing your clientele. Targeting your market is the best way to increase your chances of finding business, but spreading your nets too widely is going to have you doing jobs you dislike –for less money than you want to make.
This is one of the best advantages about the writing business: everyone needs a writer. You are in demand! If you weren’t certain about that fact, then just take a step back and see what all online business truly is: all written content was crafted by a writer like you. This means that if you have a niche, skill, or favorite topic, then breaking into that business is only a matter of time –provided you use the right marketing practices. If you don’t want to be stuck with insignificant writing jobs and working for pittance, then it’s time to zero in on the clients and topics you truly want. If you’re an expert, you will get paid more… just like in any other line of work.
Basically, you are ‘branding’ yourself, and making your particular skill set known to your target market. You will know when your marketing effort is running well, when the clients you want are finding you, and not the other way around.
Using Social Networking To Your Advantage
- Facebook – Getting on Facebook is absolutely crucial, especially post 2013. Not only could Facebook represent the 3rd most populous country in the world, but also it is one of the most innovative and powerful marketing tools in history, and Facebook has recently changed their news feed algorithms to say that they love writers. How so? Basically, Facebook giving less clout to those cute, funny cat memes, and more news feed airtime to articles… and guess who’s writing them? Yep, people like you. Make sure that you have both a personal profile and at least one Facebook page.
- YouTube – One of the biggest aspects of marketing is standing out. Unfortunately, there are oceans of spam-like writers and ‘content mills’, which market like a bad weight loss ‘miracle supplement’. Clients want to work with a real person –which is why getting a YouTube account, recording your proposals and linking to them in your emails, and putting ‘welcome videos’ on your website or profile page can be a real money maker. People like personal people.
- Twitter – One of the basic reasons for using accounts like Twitter is just the fact that you can link the account into just about anything. Also, if you’ve got people following your account, then this looks really good to your potential clients.
Last Tip: If you don’t feel like coordinating all of these social media networking accounts manually, then there are apps like Hootsuite that can help you do so automatically. It’s super easy: just schedule out your posts a couple weeks in advance, and bam –you’ve just launched your marketing campaign for the next month. The best part is the fact that you can run your Twitter, Facebook, and even Google+ from the Hootsuite dashboard.
If you have ever been plagued by writer’s block, you know how painful the blank page or screen can be. While you may be concerned that the inability to get anything down is a sign of writer burnout, the two conditions are not the same thing.