The gig economy's popularity is exploding and that's both a good thing and a bad thing. It's a good thing because I think remote work is pretty awesome, and I'm excited about its future.
Yet, the growing popularity of the gig economy also puts a lot of pressure on freelancers to not sound like everyone else. You're probably thinking something along the lines of the following:
Isn't that something that all creative people have experienced at some point, pre and post digital age?
Although yes, one can argue that the fear of sounding the same as everyone has always existed, I would definitely argue that this is a fear that has become a hundred times stronger.
So how do you create authentic content? How do you convince people that you're not just a clone of peers that have similar specialties?
Today I'm going to share the tips and tricks that I've picked up while writing for both my personal blog and a wide variety of blogs and websites.
1) Do your research
If you want to write for someone else besides yourself, especially online, you have to do your research. Doing your research will help you adapt your own writing style to your audience's needs and interests.
Fortunately, you don't need to fill notebooks with pages and pages of notes. You don't even have to read tons of articles. You just need to listen to your audience.
To give you a good idea of what I mean by that here's what I do before I start writing a blog post:
- Talk to the content manager, business owner, or whoever has asked me to write something for them. Find out what they want, and what they're hoping to accomplish.
- Read a wider variety of affiliated content that the company or publication that I'm writing for has already produced.
- See what other people are saying, and how they respond, via forums such as social media, Yelp, Quora, the company blog's comments section, etc.
- Read relevant content by credible sources. See if any relevant stats or news items have been released on this topic.
- Start writing draft one.
Authenticity is about engaging with your audience. If you want to engage with your audience on a personal level, without sounding out of touch or patronizing, doing your research is extremely important.
2) Find your Writing Voice
Early on in their careers a lot of writers struggle to find their writing voice. This was never a concern for me because I've got a lot of formal training in writing over the years, but not everyone has had similar opportunities, and that's okay.
If you haven't found your writing voice yet, take the time to practice. Set some time aside to write for the sake of writing.
Maintain a weekly diary. Do some freewriting (a fancy term for writing, non-stop for a sustained period of time, and not censoring the words that show up on paper.) Join a writing group if there are any in your community. These are just a few suggestions on how you can find your writing voice.
If you want to successfully stick out in a crowd of thousands, your writing style is what will help editors and long-term clients decide if you're the perfect fit for their publication.
3) Find a new spin on popular topics
When I'm out of blog post ideas I often check out Twitter, Quora, and Reddit to see what people's burning questions are about the subject that I'm focusing on. When I do a quick Google search I sometimes find that I'm not the only one that's written about this topic.
If others are writing about the same topic this is a sign that it's a topic that an audience will find engaging.
If you want to make a popular topic authentic, find a new angle, and provide your perspective on what others are saying about the topic that you're discussing.
4) Use your expertise to fill the gap of something that's missing on someone's blog or website
One of the biggest accomplishments of this year thus far was when I scored a guest blogging opportunity on a popular site for bloggers. Want to know how I did it?
I used a similar strategy. Because I have experience writing about image editing tools, and I'm a blogger myself, I started off by checking out what articles on image editing software were available on the site.
I only found one result, and it was an opinion piece by the site's founder. Then, I found the email address of the managing editor, and made this the unique selling point of my pitch:
And guess what? She loved it:
If you want people to be wowed by your content's authenticity, take a reader first approach, and use what you know to educate readers on something that might be extremely unfamiliar, but also useful, to them.
5) Last but not least: stop comparing yourself to others
If you want to write authentic content you need to stop comparing yourself to others because feeling like an imposter is really bad for creativity.
Freelance writer, coach, and stay-at-home mom, Elna Cain put it best when she said that no one can write like you. Why? Because you automatically bring your own values and how you tend to talk, to everything that you write.
That's exactly why the right writer, for a specific publication, is never the most experienced, but the one that has a similar writing style and background.
Never feel like you need to change your writing style because a writer that you respect did something similar. Otherwise, your web copy will be robotic and dull.
Every freelancer is different, so whenever you feel overwhelmed by:
- The impressive publications that someone wrote for
- The quality of someone's website
Always remember that there's probably a lot you don't know about how a fellow freelancer managed to get from point A to point B.
Keep on learning, and always use whatever resources you can to use your unique writing style to develop authentic content. Because let's face it, writing is yet another activity where practice makes perfect.
Over to you...
How do you keep your online content authentic? Is this something you've found challenging? Feel free to comment in the comment section below.