Earlier in September, frustrated at the bad writing I was seeing on the daily as a full-time content writer, I wrote an anger-fuelled article titled “8 Tips to Start Writing Better“.
Now, three months down the road, I wouldn’t say that I’ve grown phenomenally as a writer (that being too short a period of time for most people), but that I’ve been stretched, challenged and grown some. These past few months, my goal has been to learn as much as possible from my current role, both in writing itself and in the field I’m in. (I’m going to keep my company confidential for obvious reasons.)
If you’ve been following my blog for long enough and read enough of my content, you’ll know by now that I studied as an English major in university. Although I’m now technically a ‘professional writer’, I’m still forced to constantly learn about my new field on the fly. Beyond improving just their writing itself, new content writers like myself will know the struggle of having to suddenly be ‘experts’ in marketing, branding, management and other corporate topics.
Although I’ve only been a content writer for about four months, the learning curve has been sharp and steep. Whether or not you’re a corporate content writer or are simply writing for a topic you don’t have experience with, there are always ways to adapt so that you can be Here are my 3 tips on learning to write better, this time, in an unfamiliar field.
1. Read Up As Much As You Can
If you love writing, there’s a high chance you love reading too. There’s also a high chance that one of things you lament about your new job is the decrease in your time, energy and motivation to read books.
But you still have to read if you want to improve in your new, unfamiliar field. One of the main things that has helped me immensely as a content writer is reading other people’s writing. Both in my field (mostly marketing related) and content writing from various other fields.
Reading within my field helps me pick up on the jargon, trends and concepts much faster. It also helps me get a feel of how experts in this area speak and write, what works and what doesn’t. Understanding your field when you write about it, and using the right words and phrases, really helps your writing look better to the other experts in the field reading it. At the same time, it’s always important to not overuse jargon and convoluted writing for the sake of looking ‘professional’. The point is to understand the market you are working with and use their common language but still communicate clearly at the same time.
Reading outside of my field helps my mind stay fresh, and get unique perspectives and ideas I can apply to my own writing.
The other reading I do on an extremely regular basis is reading about content writing itself. Since starting my new job I have bookmarked multiple sites on writing. No matter how long or short you’ve been in a profession, there is always room to learn from others. This lesson can be applied to other fields that are new for you, whether you’re a technical writer trying to write your first novel, or a poet who’s started writing web content: keep learning as much as you can.
2. Always Have a Rationale Before You Pitch
I haven’t been in this field for terribly long. I’ve done part-time/freelance content writing for about two years and full-time content writing for four months. But my guess from observation is that majority of the time, companies hire content writers because they can’t write themselves.
Unless you’re lucky enough to work in a team of established writers, I’ve figured that many of the managers content writers report to don’t exactly know what they want out of the writers. At the baseline, they want the writers to make their content look ‘good’, ‘smart’ and ‘professional’. Yet, they don’t quite know what that looks like, or they would’ve done the job themselves.
It’s up to the writer to do our own research and pitch the ideas most of the time. Always make sure you have a rationale for every pitch, even if it’s a short one-liner. Managers want to know that they’ve hired someone who knows what they’re doing and who will lead their team’s content marketing in the right direction.
Even for assigned topics (when you are given a topic with a set of bullet points to write on), don’t just take the what’s given at face value. Bosses assume it’s the writer’s job to improve on everything writing related… and you should, too. Research the topic thoroughly and if necessary, propose better angles, more points and better ways of phrasing things. If the assigner refuses to accept it, at least you’ll know that you’ve done your job.
Alternate Between Evergreen and Trendy Content
And while you’re preparing your pitches, remember to have various kinds of content.
Evergreen content refers to content that stands the test of time and can be used as a valuable resource for years to come. Trendy content refers to content that can usually only be applied for certain timeframes and/or seasons. For example, writing an piece teaching readers on what integrated marketing is—evergreen—as compared to writing one on the kinds of events to look out for in November 2018.
3. Always Try to Have an Alternative Writing Outlet
You got into full-time writing (hopefully) because you love writing.
However, the long hours of writing, the fact that you most probably don’t own your content and are writing on topics that may not be your favourite, may dim your love of writing overtime.
Counter that by always having an alternative writing outlet that isn’t your full-time job. This could be a blog, writing for other websites whose subject matter you are passionate about, or just a private journal where you free-write your thoughts in.
Always find ways to keep writing fresh, and your love for it going strong. After all, if you have passion enough to actually spend a large majority of your time writing, the last thing you want to do is lose that.
Finally, congratulations: you are actually a writer!
Many, many people dream of being writers. Most are hobbyists, and while there is so much to be proud of about that, you’re one of those who actually took it one step further and became a full-time writer. Although that can be debatably madness or suicide (trust me, I’m a writer), becoming a full-time writer is an accomplishment you should be proud of.
Learning is a continuous process, and one must never be complacent. Personally, I don’t know how long I’ll stay in this profession, but thus far, it has been an incredibly interesting, frustrating and unexpected journey that I’m happy to be experiencing.
If you’re a full-time writer too, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well as how your journey has been. If you have any other tips you’d think might help myself and others, do share them too! For 8 more tips on writing better in general check out this post here.