According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 136,500 professional writers and authors working in the United States in 2014. If you expand that category to include technical writers, that number grows by an additional 52,000 people. And yet, anyone who has tried their hand at writing can tell you that making a living can be a lot easier said than done.
Literally anybody can BECOME a professional writer just by declaring themselves one. In 2016, all you need is a computer (or smartphone if you’re good with your thumbs) and an Internet connection. If you just said the sentence “I am a professional writer” out loud, congratulations on your new career path and we wish you nothing but the best.
Actually generating a steady income is something else entirely.
We recently sat down with Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, a medical writer and author of a book called “The Complete Guide to Article Writing: How to Write Successful Articles for Online and Print Markets,” to go into greater detail on this very topic. Over the course of our 41 minute webinar, Naveed provided valuable insight into the incredibly simple yet impossibly effective tips he uses on a daily basis to guarantee that his success as a professional writer not a question of “if,” but “when.”
Never Stop Working to Improve Your Writing Style
The minute that you think your writing style has evolved into the best possible version it can become, you’ve lost a game you never really understood in the first place. Never stop working to better yourself, as your writing style is and will always be the key to effective communication. Look for ways to simplify ideas, say more with less and strive to always present your thoughts in the most fluid, organic way possible and never, under any circumstances, stop trying to improve yourself every time you sit down at your computer to write a new piece for a new client.
Case in point: that previous sentence was a complete train wreck. Does it communicate an idea? Sure – a couple of them, actually. But it was absolutely not the most effective way to present them. You may get your point across, but it can always be better. Stronger. Faster. More organic.
Look for Ways to Improve Clarity Via Formatting
Formatting is one of the best ways to build clarity, especially when using elements like headers and lists to aid with organization. Relying on short sentences and short paragraphs can also help isolate ideas for not only maximum clarity, but maximum effectiveness as well.
Journalistic Values Create Better Content
Naveed went on to discuss how relying on a few tried-but-true journalistic values is something that always enables him to create better and more valuable content on a daily basis. He focuses on three core qualities in particular:
- Verification: Naveed always asks himself if what he is writing is attributable to facts or research.
- Transparency: Naveed always makes sure that he avoids conflicts of interest at all costs.
- Coherence. By presenting all valid options, this helps him present the most well-rounded and ultimately high value ideas in the best possible form.
Follow SEO Best Practices Like They’re Your Favorite Sports Team
The world of SEO is constantly evolving, as Google’s Panda algorithm update went a long way towards proving when it originally launched in 2011. It’s estimated that Google in particular changes its search algorithm between 500 and 600 times each year, meaning that just when you think you’ve got it all figured out a massive change can turn the entire industry on its head once again.
ALWAYS work hard to stay up-to-date on best practices in the SEO industry that will help you focus on creating better, more robust content. You should strive to use long-tail keywords whenever possible, for example, and always avoid keyword stuffing like it’s the plague – because for all intents and purposes, it is.
Build Your Online Reputation One Brick at a Time
In the digital age, one of the most important factors that helps generate success as a professional writer is your online reputation. In order to build the type of reputation you want and need, working hard to maximize your online presence is always recommended. You should be regularly posting links to your work and other useful or engaging content on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and more. Invest in yourself and your future by way of a quality website with samples of your work. More than anything, use social media to engage with your audience. Rest assured, engagement is very much a two-way street.
Pitch Your Own Ideas to Create Your Own Destiny as a Writer
If you truly want to succeed as a professional writer on your own terms, one of the best ways to do that is to follow your own path instead of someone else’s. [Tweet it] Pitch your own ideas to not only create a higher quality end product, but also to make sure that you’re enjoying what you’re writing about in the first place. If you’re pitching to editors, always take the effort to learn your publication as well as you can. Try to anticipate not what a publisher needs today, but what they’re going to need tomorrow.
As the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky always said, “don’t go where the puck is – go where the puck is going to be.” Pitching your own ideas helps you do precisely that all day, every day.
Your Voice is What Makes You Unique. Utilize It
Taking the time to cultivate your own distinct voice is a great way to not only stand out in an admittedly crowded marketplace, but to also carve out your own niche and keep things as entertaining and engaging as possible at the same time. Ten different people can all present the same basic idea, but in theory you should still wind up with ten completely different takes that are well worth reading if they’ve all spent time developing their voice.
However, your voice isn’t something you can just create overnight. It can take some time and work with an editor to find what makes your writing special and seize hold of it, but the end result will be more than worth it.
Read the complete transcript of our WriterAccess webinar with Naveed Saleh, MD, MS 7 Tips That Will Help You Succeed as a Professional Writer.
6-Star writer Stephen L earned his Bachelor of Arts in Film and Video Production at the University Of Toledo College Of Performing Arts in Toledo, Ohio. In addition, he also worked for a big box electronic retailer for three years specializing in high definition audio and video equipment as well as computers and software. He has created almost ten thousand pieces of SEO-driven content for various online clients on topics ranging from the entertainment industry, electronics, computer operating systems and general technology.
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