In our digital-savvy world, there is an increasing demand for content writers. Whether you are a business owner who requires sales copy for your website, or you have always dreamt of pursuing a career as a writer, you might still be wondering just what is a content writer?
What is a content writer?
A content writer is someone who specialises in producing relevant, engaging written content for websites. Every website is designed with a specific target audience in mind and requires well-written, informative and generally high-quality content to speak to that audience. Typically, the content that a content writer will produce will contain keywords aimed at enhancing a website’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Keywords are specific, business-related words/phrases which internet users may enter when searching for certain services or products. By targeting these, content writers maximise the chances that people will find their content when they enter relevant terms into search engines.
Content marketing is a field that has grown rapidly in recent times, and as such content writers are in high demand. According to CMI, 78% of the increase in success for content marketers over the past year is attributed to higher quality content creation. And a whopping 47% of marketers are now outsourcing their content.
At its most basic level, content is information. On the web, it can come in a variety of forms, including:
- Blog posts
- Web pages
- Social media posts
- Video/audio content
- White papers
- Press releases
- Email marketing
Content writers specialise in written content, and a good content writer will possess the skills to write for most or all of these online mediums. A good content writer will have a profound understanding of the purpose of a specific type of content in order to produce high-quality work.
According to Time, the average reader will only spend 8 seconds reading a piece of content, so they need to be engaged quickly.
The content should engage a particular, specified audience which could be existing customers, prospective customers, stakeholders, employees or investors. Content that is well-written and researched, with a creative writing style, is not doing its job if it doesn’t speak to the intended audience.
So, what skills does a content writer need?
Content writers need to be versatile and well-rounded – a ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ in the writing world. This skill set can seem daunting for anyone looking to get into the field, but all it takes to become a master of these traits is plenty of practice. To succeed as a content writer, you must possess a minimum of the following skills:
- The ability to research swiftly and effectively
- A strong grip on spelling, grammar and style
- The ability to write quickly and consistently meet tight deadlines
- The ability to write in different tones of voice, on a range of subjects and within a variety of contexts/structures
It also helps to specialise in certain fields, with a strong knowledge of your specialism, and to have the creativity to generate ideas on the fly. So pure writing ability is a key factor of being a content writer, but it is far from the only skill needed to succeed. Creativity, knowledge and the ability to work quickly are all essential.
Breaking down the roles a content writer will take on
No matter who the client is, or what sort of content is being created, every content writer will have to perform their own research. In most cases, the content writer will be working with subject matter that they aren’t familiar with, so extensive research is necessary to ensure the content created is accurate, up to date, and in line with the company’s existing messaging. Good research makes for good content writing.
When a web content writer develops a piece for a client, they must ensure the content is formatted to display nicely on-screen. With clever placement of sub-headings, bullet points and other handy tricks, the content writer ensures that copy doesn’t simply look like an uninviting chunk of text. They should even know some basic HTML tricks to lay out the content, add links and highlight certain words or sections.
A good content writer will have a good working knowledge of SEO best practice to be able to target keywords effectively. They will understand the value of a good headline, appropriate keyword density and correct keyword placement to maximise the chances of the content ranking highly on search engines.
Sometimes the guidance or existing copy provided to a content writer is somewhat lacking. The content writer will have to wade through poorly written content to edit and polish it. This can be arduous, but it is an important part of a content writer’s job.
Global content marketers New Media Services actually promote the need to have both a content writer AND a content developer in this article. Experienced content writers will have been through a job where their skills are spread too thin for a fee that doesn’t really reflect the workload involved – when a company has a content developer, the content writer’s work can be laser-focused to ensure they deliver their full potential.
How do you start out as a content writer?
The simplest way to get your foot in the door is to apply to a content writing service or to bid on contracts via a freelance job board. Content writing services work hard to establish lasting relationships with businesses and clients that consistently need content, and their writers provide that content.
Freelance job boards are more generic sites where writers make a profile and compete for jobs that are directly posted by clients. These clients may be individuals or organisations, and you will usually find that content writing is just one of the services clients need – they may also need web designers, video editors, and all manner of other specialist services that can be done remotely.
Content writing services typically offer better job opportunities and make it easier to actually take jobs. Freelance job boards are often served by established, experienced professional writers, and you may find it difficult to compete with them when you are starting out.
A good content writer should be more than just another contractor or employee. They are a company’s ally in achieving success online and can generate real results that can then be used in their portfolio to demonstrate an ability to create quality, effective content that reaches and engages a large audience.
Main image credit: Caio Resende
Internal image credits: Annie Roi, rawpixel.com, revac film’s&photography