By Sherry Gray July 1, 2015Opinions 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.
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.
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 write