Are people constantly telling you how good a writer you are? Can you unravel an anagram at the drop of a hat, or pen a verse worthy of your favourite wordsmith?
These are great skills to have and can set you up for a multitude of careers. In fact, journalism and editorial work are often convenient crossovers for a career in content marketing.
The transferable skills are aplenty: content marketing and journalism both require keen proofreading skills, an eye for detail, and a generous helping of creative flair.
There are, however, important differences. So, how do you start content writing? We'll take a look at the skills writers need in order to embark on a successful career in content, and the key skills Digital Media Stream look for when recruiting our teams.
Because, to paraphrase Shania Twain (she’s cool): “yeah you got the brains but have you, got the (commercial) touch”.
Yes, commercial thinking is important.
First off, you need to be writing constantly. This is an essential, cover-all-bases tip for writers of any ilk. Define your style (but keep it varied), iron out any snags, and just practice.
It could be a blog, short-form or long-form articles, essays or novellas. In whatever way, shape or form, practice makes perfect.
With that kernel of knowledge out of the way, we are now going to set out 7 tips to starting your career in content.
Improve Your Writing and Research Skills
It’s time to hone your skills. Hone, hone, hone until the cows come home. And then some. As Rick Astley said many moons ago: “never gonna give you up”. He was talking about writing, we’re sure of it.
In all seriousness though – practise, and aim for economy. Say what you need to say in as few words as possible. It’s often a balancing act. Remember that brevity should not be at the cost of rich, plentiful content.
Aside from the actual writing itself, research is important too. In content, you’ll likely be expected to write about topics you’re not familiar with. One day you could be creating copy for a technical SEO article, the next you’re writing a blog post about life insurance.
Your research, then, is vital.
Maintain a Blog or Website
This is almost an add-on to the previous tip. Having a platform which you regularly update with fresh, hot-off-the-press content will impress your peers and look great on your CV.
It can also be used as a portfolio. It’s your go-to platform, and you can use it as leverage for job opportunities. Take a few pieces of your content into interviews and you’ll be on your way to impressing your future boss.
This is what you can do with your portfolio. Self-promotion is key. In content, you’re in the business of marketing others, but you mustn’t forget about marketing yourself in the process.
It applies to your social media too. You can use it to build your profile, attract a following, and let friends and family know you’re in the business of content marketing.
Stop, Collaborate and Listen
We’re not sure if Vanilla Ice was referring to content marketing when he released his hit 1990 single 'Ice, Ice, Baby', but it sure is relevant.
Collaboration is vital in creative fields. No man is an island, and if you show you have the skills to listen to others, and work with the creatives alongside you, you’ll be much richer for it.
Be Open to Criticism
Being open to criticism is important, too. If you’ve never experienced the anguish, torment and pain of having your content critiqued then you have a lot to learn. Suck it up: it gets easier and, in all honesty, you’ll soon grow a thicker skin.
If you had any Mad Men-esque ideas, you may be left somewhat underwhelmed. Far from the glitzy razzmatazz of the ad world, day-to-day content marketing is a place where you have to create large chunks of copy in a short space of time, optimise for keywords, and argue your case for a shorter meta-description.
The landscape has changed, but the demand for able writers has not. The work may sometimes feel a little like clocking in at a content mill, but the longer you practice the more efficient you’ll get.
Find Your Niche
Think about it: everyone wants to write about the “fun stuff”. Whether this is music, film or fashion, you can set yourself apart from the rest by finding your specialism and sticking to it (unless you’re especially passionate in these areas, of course).
Areas like finance or law can still be creative, and fun to work on. It’s all about how you approach it. By being a little more specialist, you can open far more doors.
Get Up Close and Personal with SEO
SEO knowledge is a must-have for content writers, and the more technical you are about it the better. You should know which tools to use, how to use them, and how to track results.
As a writer, your brain is likely geared to more creative thinking. Words have always made more sense to you than numbers, right? We’re sensitive to this, but the modern world of content requires you to be a little more analytical.
Get Over Yourself
Know that, in your capacity as a content writer, you are no longer writing for yourself. You may have great, gushing creative ideas issuing from your pen, or a 600-page novel in the works, but this is on your own time.
You’re using your skill as a writer to wear the shoes of your clients. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be surprised at how good you’ll look in them.
Cut the Jargon
No matter how specialist, niche or technological your client is, jargon will always alienate your reader. It assumes too much of the reader, and expects them to understand whatever vernacular you’re using.
Keep it simple, direct and human. Avoid techno-babble like the plague, your audience won’t appreciate it.
It’s Not Just Blog Posts, y’know
Your title suggests that you should work across a whole range of content types, not just blog posts.
Far too many content writers limit themselves to blogs, and while they’re great and are most likely the bread-and-butter of your marketing mix, it’s advantageous to all if you broaden your horizons.
So, consider infographics, look at whitepapers and stroke your furtive brow at the prospect of video content. The world of content is your oyster, so why spend all your time snacking on blog posts?
And, that’s your lot. There’s much more that goes into being a content writer, and in many respects it is a lot more involved than any other kind of writing.
You’ve got more verticals to consider, and it takes both creativity and analytical thinking (which many would argue are two very different beasts).
One final note – be flexible. This covers lots of areas: be a flexible writer, welcome change (especially your editor’s), be open to criticism, and invite mistakes (as long as you learn from them, of course!).