Being a good content writer requires more than “wordsmithing.” In today’s blog post, we’ll focus on the qualities of a good content writer and develop the skills necessary for achieving incredible success working for yourself (or others) as a content writer.
Whether you’re a freelance writer or you’re running your own blog, it’s a given that you should at least know the fundamentals of writing: basic grammar, how to compose a sentence, and the structure of an article (introduction, body, conclusion).
If you’d like to develop or improve these “pillars” of content writing skills, I strongly recommend “The Elements of Style“ by Strunk & White. There’s never been a better book published on the foundations.
If you’re reading an article about developing content writer skills, it’s probably safe to assume you have a basic understanding of these fundamentals. However, simply being a good writer isn’t enough to create high-quality content for online readers. There are many more aspects to content writing than putting words on a page.
The content you’re creating should have a purpose that moves you toward your ultimate goal. This content needs to be well-researched, competently-written, and optimized for readers as well as search engines and social media.
That (and more) is what we’ll be talking about today.
Here are the most important qualities of a good content writer that you can focus on to further your professional career.
Let’s go through each of these one-by-one.
First and foremost, you should have a basic understanding of grammar, spelling, and sentence construction. Not only is this the foundation of good writing, but lacking it decreases your credibility.
The good news is that communication skills are pretty’s straightforward to learn. There are plenty of resources online, numerous helpful free tools, and when you’re in doubt about a sentence, you’re a Google search away from resolving your doubt.
Being able to correct and update your own work is part of being a good content writer.
After you write an article, take a short break and take off your writer’s hat. Then, sit back down and put on your editor’s hat instead.
I’ve been writing professionally for over a decade. I still find typos after editing an article once or twice. One of our community members recently plowed through multiple pieces of content only to realize through the help of our community and some of his friends that the content was near-impossible to read. He spent days going back and rewriting/editing all of it, and ultimately it required more time than simply proofreading & editing the content the first time around would have.
Checking for errors after you write the first draft of your blog post may take time, and you might think it’s more productive to use that time for other blog maintenance activities or to create new content, but this is not the case.
Putting out error-free, high-quality content less frequently is SIGNIFICANTLY more preferable than churning out error-ridden, low-quality content more frequently.
How is writing different from storytelling?
Telling a story is beyond grammar, word choice, and spelling. It’s using your own experiences and perceptions to break down a complex topic and relate it to your readers.
Great storytellers are able to entertain readers while teaching them something and can evoke emotions while being concise. The more skilled you become at weaving storytelling into your content writing (no matter the topic) the more effective your content will be.
To feel any sort of connection to you, people need to feel that they’re reading content written by an actual person and not an article generator (it’s a real thing — and they’re becoming even more prominent with the rise of artificial intelligence technology).
Telling real, relatable stories involves offering up a bit of yourself to your readers. It can be scary, but you don’t need to reveal everything.
A good content writer is able to reveal enough humanity and individuality to connect with their readers, compel them to read their content, and keep coming back.
A well-written piece of content is good, but a well-researched piece of content is even better. For online content, the insights you provide that your competitors do not is what gives you the edge and directly correlates with your content’s success. Those insights come from research.
The point of creating content is to provide your readers with as much useful information as you can. You can only achieve that when you know how to research, and where to find reliable sources of information.
Google is invaluable for research, but there are other sources that you might be overlooking. Reddit (one of the best sources of unbiased, community-driven information), Quora, and other community-based websites are goldmines of insider information.
As a content writer, you should be able to find out which websites are credible and which bloggers and influencers are prominent in the niche you’re writing for. Remember, your content is only as good as your sources of information.
Writing for the sake of writing is useless. There’s enough fluff on the internet.
You need to have a clear idea of who you want to read your content. If you’re a blogger and you’ve conducted your audience research when you were deciding on your blog niche, you should already have an idea of who your target readers are.
On the contrary, if you’re a freelance writer who’s hired as a content writer for a website or blog, you need to thoroughly consult with the marketing team or the business owner to find out who their target audience is.
Your target reader informs your writing style, word choice, and even the content format, so fully understanding who you’re writing for is key to creating the best content possible.
Writing skills are based on the relatively solid foundations of language, but the digital climate is constantly changing. What’s trending today may be gone tomorrow, and there’s always an up-and-coming craze or new social media platform waiting for its turn in the spotlight.
Apart from digital trends, consumer preferences constantly change as well. Your target demographic may change their preferences in a heartbeat; something that’s popular among them now may be obsolete in a few months or even a few weeks.
If you’re unable to catch up with these changes, your content will suffer for it. It might seem like you’re serving up quality content just as you always have, but readers will think that it’s no longer relevant and will stop reading it (along with anything else you write in the future).
A good content writer evolves with the ever-changing tide and never lets their content become dated.
Social media marketing is something most businesses turn to for promoting their products, services, and content these days.
Content that goes viral on social media increases the chances of reaching large swaths of your target audience. Bonus: web content that’s popular on social media tends to rank better with Google and other search engines as well.
Aside from being a tool to promote your content, developing at least basic social media skills are a great way to get in touch with your target audience and get to know them better. As I mentioned, knowing your target audience is a key aspect of creating valuable content.
Even the best content is worthless if no one can find it.
It can be complicated, so if you feel it distracts you from creating your content, you don’t have to go too deep . However, you need to know at least the basics.
When you feel you can handle it, you can always read up on advanced SEO techniques, but always remember that creating relevant, helpful content should be your priority.
In today’s era of content marketing and native advertising, being transparent is more important than ever.
People are tired of being sold to, and they’re tired of being lied to about being sold to. As they digest more online content, consumers have gotten significantly better at spotting sponsored posts (i.e. posts created to promote affiliate links).
If you insist on hiding this important fact and your readers find out, you can say goodbye to your credibility and goodbye to your audience.
Rather than be perceived as untrustworthy, just practice transparency. Anyone reading this post likely realizes by now that I run the internet’s most radically honest blogging community — I create content to find likeminded, aspiring bloggers and help them achieve their goals.
It costs you nothing to be honest. Always clearly indicate within your article if you were paid by a company to write about their product or service.
In addition to full disclosures about being sponsored, your integrity should manifest through 100% original content.
As you write, you’ll likely come across other well-written articles and be tempted into thinking, “Hmmm, maybe no one will notice if I copy/paste this article and publish this instead.”
At the very least, search engines will notice.
If your blog gets flagged for having duplicate content, things can get ugly REAL quick. Best(!) case scenario, you get penalized and have more difficulty ranking your content. Worst-case scenario, you get sued by the copyright holder of the article.
And if you posted that content on a client’s blog, they can get penalized, and they can sue you for damages. Not to mention the fact that you’re almost certainly fired.
TL;DR: always write unique content.
If you’re running your own blog, you’ll have so much more to juggle than just content creation. You’ll have to optimize your content for search engines to find, promote your content, maintain your blog, and more.
By contrast, if you’re a freelance content writer, you don’t have to deal with maintaining your own blog, but you do have to work around your client’s schedule and that means you’ll have firm deadlines for your content. Not to mention all of the time you’ll be dedicating toward keeping your income & workload consistent.
Either way, you’ll need to manage your time efficiently and organize your tasks so you can meet your targets, whether they’re set by yourself or by a client.
There will be times when you just won’t feel like writing; like everything you’re typing right now is crap.
Here’s a reassuring (or discouraging) thought: ALL content writers go through that.
The only way you can go over this feeling is to just show up. Day after day after day, just sit your butt down in front of your workspace and get to it.
Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert gave an incredible Ted talk on this exact topic: Your Elusive Creative Genius.
What comes out may be crap at first, but crap can be polished, edited, and restructured so that you have at least a semblance of an article that’s worth publishing.
Writing crap is better than not writing at all, so keep at it. Just show up.
It’s important for a content writer have competent writing skills, but it’s not enough. You must also have other skills that are specific to writing for an online audience.
Here again are the qualities of a good content writer.
I have one more thing to say before you go and write your heart out.
Just because you don’t have the qualities I listed above doesn’t mean you’ll never be a good content writer. It just means you have to work harder to and practice to develop these traits.
The good thing about these qualities is that, even if they don’t come naturally to you at first, you can work on developing them. Developing the skills of a content writer and improving oneself is an investment that will pay dividends throughout your writing career.
If you want step-by-step guidance for becoming a full-time writer and working for yourself (rather than unpredictable freelance work for clients), check out our free workshop to get started in the right direction!
Do you agree with the points I made? What other attributes do you think make a good content writer? Tell me in the comments section below!
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