For me, it’s literal. I do some of my best brainstorming when my hands are busy, so I’ve taken up the hobby of juggling.
When I get stuck at the keyboard, I push back from the desk, reach for my bean bags, and practice. I still spend more time chasing them than catching them, but that elusive idea will almost always coalesce as I split my focus between two tasks.
The Juggling Act
Most writers love a good metaphor—so let’s see how far we can take this one. Inspired content creation requires the coordination of a juggler and the concentration of a master. The most successful professional writers keep at least three balls in the air on any assignment: client, audience, and message.
- Client: The best content creation starts with serious research. If the customer already has a website, that’s your must-see starting point for understanding the company’s business, branding, and bottom line. If you’re helping them to build a website, take the time to send an email or conduct a phone interview. Use a few focused questions to help you understand who they are and what they need.
- Audience: Once you have a handle on the client’s position and business, understanding your client’s audience is crucial. I’ve had businesses request blogs that appeal to multiple audiences – to realtors and their clients, for example, or to both beginning and experienced students of yoga. Suddenly, you may have four or five balls in the air, and your content will shine only if you have the mental dexterity to keep all of them in smooth rotation.
- Message: No matter how well you know your readers and your client, you won’t help your customer if you don’t know your subject matter. Research is the backbone of successful content writing. If you’re building a company website, there’s no substitute for knowing your client’s business inside and out. If you’re writing a blog post or advertising content, you must speak as a voice of authority. Otherwise, you’ll be plagued by “fluff” copy that disappoints your customers and bores their customers.
When your clients are disappointed and your readers are bored, you’ve dropped all your balls. Pick them up, dust yourself off, and try again – or risk being replaced by more discerning, quality-oriented professional writers.
A content writer writes for two audiences: the client and the client’s customers. The message must please the former and engage the latter. Think about it – if a live audience at a carnival sits silent in their seats, the performers know the act hasn’t reached the people it’s designed to please. If the audience comes alive, then the performance is a success. Only copy that excites your customer and gets positive, concrete responses from their customers can endear you to the industry professionals who hire writers. Otherwise, you’re destined to put out maximum work for minimum pay – the Vaudeville of the content world.
Luckily, my writing has come farther than my juggling. I’ve devoured style guides, surfed thousands of business websites, and become a connoisseur of blogs. Through the sheer volume of words I’ve dissected, I’ve begun to learn what speaks, what sings, and what fall as flat as my juggling balls on every other toss. Nothing but practice and devotion to craft can build a good performer – or a good content writer.
Ellie M is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments. WriterAccess is powered by ideaLaunch.