Wondering if you have what it takes to become a content writer? Here we explain 10 skills that are required for content writing and becoming a successful content writer.
Content writing is the process that involves research, writing, publishing, and promotion of online content. There are various skills required for content writing.
But before we discuss the skills required to become a professional content writer, let us first talk about the process of content writing.
Content writing jobs have increased in numbers recently with the rise in demand for content writers. This has also lead to a higher interest in the field. More people now aspire to become content writers than ever before.
This rise in interest has been more pronounced in countries like India where the writers work at lower rates and also have good proficiency in the English language.
There are many insane benefits of a content writing career too that are simply unmatched by most other careers. And these careers include ones that require even graduate degrees. That’s right, content writers with the right experience and skillset can earn even more than corporates with the same level of experience.
You may also find this detailed guide on How good a career in Content Writing is useful
What is the process of writing content?
In the process of writing content, the content writer first receives a brief from the client. This may be for a single article or a bulk assignment. After various negotiations and discussions, a content writer is brought on board by the client.
The first job of a content writer is to research. The research can be about company history, ideal buyer persona, demographics, price segment, tone of voice, product range, and so on. This is done so that the writer gains some insight into the company’s past, its values. and its mission.
This gives a perspective on what the client’s major occupation is and their history with communication with the audience.
The next step is to create a content strategy based on the client’s goals and requirements with the content. This is often discussed with the client before the writer starts working on the content. The client’s goals vary greatly across assignments. Some businesses require more sales, some may require just more website traffic to sell ads, some may just be aiming to provide helpful information and create a brand.
Once the goal has been determined, the content writer searches for different key phrases on which to create pieces of content. There are various ways to do this and different writers prefer different methods.
These key phrases are not just any popular keyphrases. There are various factors on which these keywords are judged. Some of these are ease of ranking, competition, and position in the sales funnel.
Once the writer has identified the keyphrases, he/she starts working on the pieces of content. This step also involves research of its own. The credibility of an article increases when it is backed by a study so writers aim to find such sources to build trust in the data provided in the article.
The work at this stage is mostly composed of SEO.
When the pieces of articles are finished, the content writer verifies the assignments with the client. Often, there are back and forth exchanges of pointers due to the changes that clients want in their content before publishing.
Once the client is satisfied with the work, the content is published. The pieces of content may be delivered to the client one by one or in bulk.
There are different payment schedules that depend on the writer’s preferences and is done on a case-by-case basis. Some writers prefer to take an advance while some may be okay with taking the payment after they have delivered the assignments.
These were the various steps involved in the process of content writing. This procedure is largely valid for freelance content writers. For content writers working in a content agency, the client relations are managed by separate staff while the writers only have to deal with writing the content as per the brief received.
Writers working in an agency get fixed payment at the end of the month. While freelance writers get paid after every assignment. Freelance writers also charge higher for the same amount of work. But agency writers have the advantage of guaranteed work and is a safe option.
Agency writers also do not have to actively look for clients like freelance writers. Different professional writers prefer different models of work in content writing.
This freelance model has big benefits and content writers enjoy them to the fullest. Content writers can work from anywhere, work for any hours, and decide their own rates.
They can decide which sector or niche they want to work in and develop their knowledge inside that niche. Technical writers working freelance have even greater benefits. They can work anytime they want and also get paid a high remuneration. This goes to their extra income which can be pretty hefty on its own.
There are many perks of being a content writer. You can read this article if you want to find out how good is a content writing career.
Now let’s learn what are the skills require to become a content writer.
What are the skills required for content writing?
Content writing is not one skill but a collection of many skills in just one person. A person who wishes to become a successful content writer must have a creative flair, some technical skills, and would also need to be a salesman at times, as part of the various skills required for content writing.
A content writer would be required to search for creative solutions to various problems and find directions in a fixed or limited budget.
A content writer would always need to have some analytical skills so that he/she can study trends and make actionable insights from them. Then they can be used in creating new content.
There are many required skills for content writing. Let’s go through each one of them in detail.
Content writing may be a part of digital marketing, but before anything else, it is writing. A content writer must be great at writing. But what does it mean?
As a content writer, a person must be able to express his/her opinion and use his own repository of ideas to create rhetoric. He/she must be able to think of ideas and organize them into the structure of an article, blog post, email, newsletter, podcast, or anything.
This is easier said than done. It takes lots of practice to become good at a craft. Every person uses language in conversations but few would be able to produce a 1000-word essay on a random topic.
Usually, it takes months before a person can expect to become a decent writer. These months would be filled with deliberate practice regularly. And the timeline is different for different people. Not everyone starts from the same starting line.
A piece of good advice to remember here, as part of the various skills required for content writing, would be to not compare your progress with someone else’s. Everyone has a different journey. For example, a person who is not a native English speaker would take years before they can learn the complexities of the language enough to become a good writer.
Speaking of which, it is always a better idea to write in your mother tongue rather than in an acquired language. An advantage of many people in the Indian subcontinent is that many of them know good English. This helps them take assignments from western countries and earn in US dollars.
A content writer would also need to understand the variations between different forms of writing. These forms of writing include a blog, ad copy, email, newsletter, press releases, website copy, product descriptions, podcasts, video and film scripts, and so on.
Every form has its own characteristics. For example, a blog is more descriptive and also involves SEO whereas an ad copy tries to convey maximum information in the minimum of words.
Knowing the audience
In marketing, content is not created for ourselves, it is created for the market. With that information, it is logical that before trying to communicate or persuade an audience, we should get to know a thing or two about them.
Marketing research involves finding information about the audience. As part of the various skills required for content writing, working on different projects would also involve targeting different types of audiences every time.
Various parameters that are often considered before writing high-quality content include demographics, age, interests, preferences, income bracket, language, dialect, and so on.
Knowing these parameters before designing content for these audiences would prove much more efficient and fruitful.
The audience would relate more to the content and the content will get better reception. This is more conducive to the ultimate purpose of the content, ie. either to create brand recognition or convert visitors into paid customers.
Marketing research helps the writer understand the needs and requirements of the audience and create content that solves their problems. It is obvious that businesses would want to create content that helps their audience. A great piece of content cannot exist in oblivion.
Great content writers don’t just write on any topic at random. The topics in a blog that ranks high on SERPs are carefully thought and researched.
Various online tools like Google keyword planner, Ubersuggest, Ahrefs, Moz, Buzzsumo, and more help find marketers and content writers topics for their blog as part of the different skills required for content writing.
The keyword ideas are compared on the basis of search traffic, the difficulty of ranking, and whether it fits in the content strategy of the business.
This is a major difference between amateur content writers and writers with years of experience.
A competitive audit is a process where marketers analyze their competition for content ideas. This process helps them better understand the preferences and habits of their audience.
Research before writing content is different from marketing research. Here, the writer looks for information on the topic he/she is about to write.
Many amateur writers must think about why should a writer do that, as part of the skills required for content writing. Is it not necessary for the article to be original? Does the writer have no knowledge of what he is going to write about? Then why did he/she take the job?
Even professional writers who are experts research ideas before beginning to write. This is because it is always better to create a list of all the points that are going to be discussed in the article.
Researching also helps in generating new ideas. These ideas can then be adopted into the article.
Researching also helps find studies that reveal actual figures and statistics. These statistics can then be incorporated by citing these studies in the article to portray credibility and authority.
Even after topic research and gathering ideas from various sources, a writer must be original. But what does it mean to be original in the context of the various skills required for content writing?
Successful writers often present the same idea from a different perspective. They often include interesting observations that are original and new to the audience.
They can also give more weightage to a particular opinion that has not been talked about before. They can also give an altogether different style of expressing the information.
There are many ways to be creative. It’s a writer’s job to experiment and come up with something new to give to the audience. Because if you doing the same thing everyone else is doing, it is not going to stick with the audience.
Another meaning of originality is in the literal sense. A writer must do research so that he/she does not end up copying another page’s content or style. Duplicate content is penalized by search engines and it may hurt the rankings of the domain. This would render the whole domain useless and it may invite serious implications on a writer’s career.
This is a technical skill required for content writing that becomes extremely important in content for blogs. SEO is defined as the set of parameters that help search engines identify what the content is about.
There are various ways to do that that involve keyword density, keyword popularity, images, inbound and outbound links, meta description, alt tags, meta tags, page title, URL, domain name, and many more.
According to Google, the most popular search engine, it considers more than 200 different parameters in SEO.
SEO helps search engines decide how to rank webpages for any particular search query. Often one webpage ranks for more than one keyword or search queries.
This is why search engine algorithms are extremely complex and have transformed greatly over the years. Most of them have existed for more than 20 years and their formulae are closely guarded secrets in fear that every website would exploit them.
SEO is of two types, classified on the grounds of ethics. The white hat SEO involves ethical and genuine practices aimed at delivering real value to the customers. They do not aim to manipulate search engine algorithms and instead tend to work alongside them.
The other one is black-hat SEO. It involves using unfair techniques and exploiting weaknesses and loopholes in search algorithms. A content ranked using black-hat SEO, even after gaining the rank, loses it when users realize it does not contain what they want.
Today, it is very hard to trick search engines into ranking a piece of content. After pumping billions of dollars and man-hours into perfecting search engines, it is natural to expect that.
In addition to SEO, it also helps content writers to learn HTML, CSS, and various CMS platforms like WordPress and Blogger. Although not necessary, these skills, as part of the various skills required for content writing, may help content writers provide much-customized service to their clients.
Using social media
The job of a content writer does not get over with writing and delivering content. On most assignments, content writers are also required to do content promotion on social platforms. So learning social media is also an indispensable part of the various skills required for content writing,
Today, it is a required skill for content writers to be proficient in handling different social media platforms. Social media is a perfect channel for content promotion. Facebook, the most popular of all, has over 2.5 billion people as per social media usage stats from January 2020. Instagram has 1 billion, Twitter has about 340 million, and Snapchat has 382 million.
These platforms are places where brands can easily reach their customers. Gone are the days when the ways of advertising were limited to TV and newspaper.
Even in the case of content that is ranking for many keywords and is getting traffic from search, it is beneficial to get some more traffic from social media platforms. Brands have pages where users follow for brand communication. Brands can use their large following to promote a piece of content, news, press release, a new offer, a new product, and so on.
Social media is the easiest and the cheapest way brands can reach and communicate with their audience. Users are known to bring grievances and complaints to the brand’s knowledge using social media. Brands today have become very conscious of their social media image.
A content creator would be required to post content to generate engagement. The more the engagement the better promotion would it be for the brand. If the post is received by a few users positively it would be shown to more users but if it is not, the platform algorithm reduces its reach.
Social media is also a great place to build personal relationships with users. It is more likely to turn a first time user into a loyal customer with social media by offering perks and promo offers publicly. This is the easiest way to create buzz and make more people interested.
Readability has increasingly become more important on any blog for ranking purposes, But it is also necessary for the user. The content on the web is supposed to be easily readable for an average user. This helps the user maintain flow and makes the user stick to the content for long.
If the user does not finish the content by reading it till the end, search engine analytical tools record this information. This shows the engines that the content is not what the user was looking for. If this happens repeatedly with users over time, the ranking of the webpage is affected.
There are various parameters that come under readability, as a component of the many skills required for content writing.
First is the Flesch reading score that determines how easy or difficult a piece of content would be to read for an average reader. A higher Flesch reading score is preferred.
Another tip to increase the usage of active voice. This has an impact on the reader and keeps them alert.
It is also not recommended to use heavy vocabulary and technical jargon unless the writer is essentially targeting a particular group of audience, for example, lawyers, doctors, or engineers. An average person would likely exit the page if he/she encounters a lot of terms he/she does not understand.
People do not like to go to the dictionary for seemingly small pieces of information. It’s too much effort.
It is also advised to use simple language and structure and use a more direct voice. Trying to complicate by using out-of-context information or satire may end up confusing the reader.
As a good practice, it is better just to talk about one topic in one piece of content. Writers always write different pieces for different topics. This is also better for users. Digressing from the topic may make the reader leave the page, further increasing the bounce-back rate.
As a writer, it is necessary to be adept in basic writing skills such as grammar, spelling, and the right usage of various words. Often words that have similar meanings are used in very different contexts. Writers can improve these skills by reading more. Here is a list of books for content writers.
Additionally, content writers can also use writing tools like Grammarly and Hemingway to improve their writing in a technical sense. There is no tool out there that can make you creative.
Call to action
A CTA is an essential part of content if the brand is intending to sell a product or a service or an idea through the blog. A good CTA may be anything that makes the reader feel compelled to take action, make a purchase, subscribe to the newsletter, buy an eBook, and so on.
A CTA is absolutely necessary so the user knows what is the next step he/she has to take. Giving various promo offers like a free trial, limited period access, combo offers, are examples of persuasion to make the user follow a Call-to-action.
As we have seen, a content writer in today’s world not only writes. He/she is responsible for many activities that also make him/her a marketer, a salesman, an analyst, an artist, in addition to a content writer.
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