The 5 Skills You Need to Become a Successful Content Writer
Content writers these days are doing oh so much more than just putting words on paper.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Writing is a dream job, but not for everyone. Some writers are hired to write product descriptions for catalogs, and some turn out to be J.K. Rowling. Unfortunately, however, most writers have a better chance of writing product descriptions than they do of becoming best-selling authors.
Related: How to Create Great Content for Your Website
While successful content writers seem to have an enviable life -- they work from home, make their own schedules and work as much or as little as they please -- the vast majority have a hard time making a living of it. They lack the skills necessary to succeed. Because no matter how talented they are, writing skill is simply not enough. So, if you want to become successful as a content writer, you need a full toolkit of marketable skills.
1. Successful content writers must master different writing styles.
The reason is that each form of writing has its own style. News is delivered AP style, in short, informational paragraphs with the meat of the story at the top. Blogging is personable, friendly and often opinionated. Ad copy is short and persuasive. White papers are long; they describe a problem and provide the solution. But, regardless, each and every category is content, and each style writers master makes them more valuable and in demand.
2. Successful content writers don't pick random subjects.
"Ideation" is a marketing industry buzzword that describes the creative process of finding a subject, title and angle to write about; and ideation begins with analytics. Most ideation is done in a team setting, but freelance writers are usually on their own. Which is why it's helpful to know how professional marketing teams generate ideas. Before doing that, successful content writers need to:
- Understand their audience. Marketers call it creating a "buyer persona." If you know who your readers are, you can write what they want to read. You write for your audience. Not for yourself, not for your company, not for your brand.
- Perform keyword research. Buzzsumo.com showed that "content writing" is a better keyword than "content writer," which is what led to a title change. The site also revealed that writing how-to posts are popular. One by Neil Patel on how to come up with topic ideas was shared nearly 16,000 times. (swoon)
- Check out the competition. What successful content are others in your industry sharing? A competitive content audit gives you a ton of information. Not just about what your competitors are sharing, but who is linking to their content, blogging about it, tweeting it out and posting it elsewhere.
- Craft a snappy title. After you have keyword, competitor and reader knowledge, take your time, choose your subject and craft a title that will interest readers. The title compels people to read. . . or not. The most important words on your post are the title and the meta description.
3. Successful content writers are original.
It's your reputation. Every post with your name on it should be original. That probably sounds crazy, with all the tens of thousands of people writing about the same subjects, but it's easier than it seems. Every talented writer can bring a unique voice, different perspective or new light to an overworked subject.
Related: 6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Content
Plagiarized content is bad for SEO, bad for your employers and even worse for you. Protect your reputation and your career by taking precautions. Before you submit your work, use an online program to check for plagiarism. With all the content out there, it's easy to accidentally duplicate writing.
4. Successful content writers know SEO, HTML, CSS and WordPress.
Don't panic. You only need a few basics. WordPress themes have varying levels of automatic functions, and sometimes the only way to make your text appear the way you want it to is to dig into the text/HTML tab and manipulate the code to make a title tag or fix a spacing issue. It's worth your time to learn the basics.
Updated SEO knowledge is also critical. Search engine algorithms change constantly, and writers have to keep up. One thing remains constant: High quality is always in demand. If you can write in-depth content from a unique perspective, you'll be in demand.
5. Successful content writers are social media specialists.
Name recognition is important. Social media puts everything you need within your grasp. Build your audience, meet publishers and talk to industry experts. When your writing is published, the fun has only just begun. The more active you are on social media, the more likely your followers will be to recommend your content. Successful content writers are active, public and friendly.
So, think again about writing "success." It stops being about words on paper as soon as "content" is added to "writer." Content writers are marketing experts, SEO specialists, on-page coders and social media butterflies. With the right skill set, you'll succeed and find that yours is the best job in the world.
Related: The 5 Reasons Why Long-Form Content Needs to be in Your Marketing Strategy