How to perfect your Content Writing in 13 Easy Steps
Content Writing in 13 Easy Steps
Creating GREAT Content is a MINDSET.
Growing up, my Dad would tell me voting is a privilege. Not the inconvenient chore I grumbled about, but something we, as citizens, should be grateful for. Well, that's how I feel about writing. Freedom to openly publish your own words and thoughts for the world, whenever we feel like it, at the push of a button. This is a great privilege.
So, when I’m wrestling with a client's web copy or blog content that just doesn’t feel ‘right,' rather than immediately cracking the sh*ts, I try to apply this idea of privilege and being grateful. And I take a breath and start again.
For some, writing is easy. But for the majority of us, it's tough. It feels like a grind, an uphill battle. For those of you who want to start but don’t know how or where- this article is for you.
How To Get Started Creating Great Content
What’s YOUR goal? What’s the point of this piece of writing? It should align with business goals and marketing goals. It should be specific, not an overarching vision. Do you want to tell people about a feature of your product? An upcoming event you’re speaking at? An offer? Be crystal clear about the purpose of each piece of content.
2. So What?!
You’ve figured out what you want to say, but now you have to reframe it to appeal to the audience. Why does it matter? What’s in it for them? How can you better serve them? How does it solve a problem? How does it relieve friction from their lives? Where's the value for them? Remember, it's not about you and your promotion - it's always about your audience, and making their lives easier.
3. Stats & Facts
Quality content is backed up with data, research, or real-life examples. Find evidence which supports your idea. It’s okay to tap into your own personal experience, but don’t solely rely on it. Who else can you talk to? What other experiences can you draw on? I personally, enjoy reading articles that are relevant to what's going on in the news. Make your article relevant by giving it a place in the real world.
4. Write a killer headline.
You can spend hours polishing a fabulous piece of writing, but without a headline that grabs people, your writing will remain unnoticed. You need the initial click. Just like magazines and newspapers craft headlines that make people buy their publication. Some copywriters say "Spend 80% of your time on the headline, 20% on the article." My advice is- don’t make your headline good, make it great.
5. Decide your Structure
Decide what style of piece this will be. 'How To' guides, Lists, Narratives, etc. Organise the general outline. Know what you want your sub-headers and headers to be. Put the skeleton in place as a guide, so you don’t get lost.
6. Write to One Person
This was a game changer for me. So often I would feel paralysed not knowing how to write to my ‘audience’. After all, my audience could be vastly different people in very different circumstances. It made my writing flabby, convoluted, or I just didn't write at all. Write to one person. Get a clear picture of who that is, how you hope to serve them, how you can change their life, and write directly to them.
7. Draft 1
Nope, it’s not going to be pretty. It's not meant to be! Let go of perfectionism. Just get it down. Get it on paper. Don’t worry about grammar and mistakes. Just get it out of your head, in whatever form it rears its ugly head.
8. Walk Away
Take a break. Get a coffee. Leave it for a day. Come back to it with clear eyes and a fresh perspective. And when you do sit back down, always start by putting yourself in the shoes of your customer.
9. Draft 2
The re-write. Clean it up. Organise your thoughts a little more strategically. What does your audience want to read? Where are you losing them? Where are they dropping off? What’s going to make them keep reading? Have you solved a problem? Answered a question? Offered an alternative? Clean up your writing and polish the key take-away ideas.
10. Edit & Proofread
It's near impossible to spot your own typos, so outsource your proofreading. Before I became a copywriter, I would get my Mum to proofread my writing. She’s a school teacher and isn't afraid to get out her big, red Texta to 'enhance' my work. We didn’t always agree; her old school grammar rules clashed with my conversational tone. But she always spotted typos, she always suggested minor changes that just lifted things or created more meaning. She helped make my writing more succinct. Ask a family member, friend, colleague, or buddy up with someone else to swap work once a week. Or, pay a professional editor or proofreader. But whatever you do, don’t skip this step.
11. Final checks
At this stage, the piece is all but finished. You’re now scanning for readability, general ease of reading, minor changes. Make sure you have at least one image to break things up, bold headings or important points you want to stand out from the body of copy. Lists and numbers or dot points work well and catch the eye of the reader.
12. Call to Action
Your final consideration. What do you want people to do when they finish reading this piece? How do you want them to act? There is a saying in content marketing, “No content without conversion.” Copywriting follows the same rule. We write to convert. We write so the audience will take action. This could mean subscribing to a newsletter, signing up for more information, connecting via social media, buying a product or service, registering for an event or trial - and so much more. It’s not always about sales; it's about creating connection and leading the reader to take action.
13. Press 'Publish'
Feels good doesn’t it! Sending your work out into the Interwebz. Take a breath, be grateful, feel proud - you did it. And that’s no easy feat.
Thanks for being here.
** Inspiration for this post came from three books I've recently read which I definitely recommend to those working on their writing skills and creativity in general. Ann Handley's 'Everybody Writes', Bernadette Jiwa's 'Meaningful' and Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Big Magic'.**