What does a content writer do?
Ok, this one really is fairly self-explanatory. But, since I’ve committed to explaining a bit about my work process as a freelance content writer, I’m going to go ahead and expand on it.
A content writer writes … well … content. In my case, I specialize in blog posts, white papers, business marketing materials, web pages, training manuals, general interest and niche magazine articles (print and online), and quite a bit more. I was that university student who absolutely loved writing essays.
I loved essay writing because it’s a clearly structured format. As long as you stick to that structure, you can argue anything you’d like (backed up by logic, of course).
Content writing is a lot like essay writing. I have to understand the structure of whatever content I’m writing. A print article will look different than an online article because the medium is different. A blog post will look different than a newsletter, and so on. Structure and format details matter.
At one time, leaving two spaces between a period and the beginning of the next sentence was common in print. That extra space helped break up the block of text. It made a print article visually appealing and easier to read. In a digital format, that extra space has the opposite effect. A series of double spaces between sentences can make a paragraph look like there’s a river running through it. It’s a little disconcerting and distracting.
My point is that content writers must know that the structure of a newsletter is different than a blog post is different than an email blast is different than a white paper is … well, you get the point.
The most important part of content writing is clear, accurate, and engaging content. While the first and third parts of that triumvirate depend on writing skill and practice, the second part – accuracy – depends on the writer’s ability to research properly.
As fabulous as the internet is, I do sometimes miss the days when researching meant poring through books at the library. Here’s the thing about internet research: not all websites are equal. There are websites, and then there are authoritative websites. Recognizing the difference is gold. If I’m writing about a topic where facts matter, you can bet I’m going to stick to a recognized source.
How do I work with a content writer?
Content writers love to write. We’re not necessarily talkers. Or at least, I’m not. But a good content writer should be a good listener.
Be prepared to be peppered with questions because we need to make sure we understand what kind of content you want, who your target audience is, the appropriate tone and style of writing you want, and lots more.
Writing is a craft that most writers never stop practicing. Assume that a good content writer will charge a rate that reflects their experience and fits within industry expectations. Rates vary across the country. But, you can start by checking the Professional Writers of Canada website.
From a content writer’s perspective, I choose to work on projects that fit my expertise. That boundary allows me to maximize how much writing I can accomplish in a day and clients get the full benefit of the subject-matter expertise I’ve built up over the years.
What does a content writer’s working week look like?
I’ve found that regardless of whether I work from home or at a client’s location, interruptions can kill my productivity. The way I make sure everything that needs doing gets done is to have a solid plan.
Every Friday, I look at upcoming deadlines and plot the work I have to do into my calendar for the coming week. I use my computer calendar exclusively now. But, I have to tell you that transitioning from the paper calendar that sat on my desk was tough!
Sixty to 70% of my day – Monday to Thursday – is made up of writing for clients. The remaining 30% to 40% of each day is spent tying up loose ends, making adjustments to the next day’s schedule, and returning calls and emails. Friday is the day I reserve to finish up projects or do some business housekeeping, like polishing off a blog post for my own website or connecting with past and potential future clients.
Working from my home office is the best! And when summer arrives, I move everything outside and work from there. The idea that working from home is not as productive as working on premises at a company office is just not true. Here’s some proof. Except for the fact that my pets demand attention every so often during the day, I find I’m much more able to block off uninterrupted quiet time to produce high quality work quickly.
How do content writers prioritize time?
Content writing is a lot more than putting pen to paper. (Yes, I still make handwritten notes.) There’s a lot of thinking, research, and idea organization that must happen before the first word is ever typed. In fact, actually writing the content is probably the easiest part. The key to staying on schedule is to keep the point of the content I’m writing front and centre. Remembering client and content goals helps me zero in on the right information that will move the piece forward quickly.
Once I’ve written the content, I take a short break. Stepping away for 10 minutes not only gives my eyes a break and my legs a stretch, it puts a little distance between me and the piece I just wrote. Afterwards, I can approach the content with the fresh perspective I need to perform a proper edit.
The final part of my content writing process is to send it to my client for approval and make any final edits.
Good content writing is a back-and-forth process between drafts and edits and writer and client.
Have any content writing day-in-the-life tips of your own you’d like to share? Comment below!