For the past few months, I have been working on a book on how to build your own successful content writing business, and in one of the chapters, I talk about the qualities that make you a great content writer.
Now, by any stretch, I wouldn’t openly admit that I’m a great content writer, although secretly, I may fantasize about being one. I still need to learn a lot. I still need to polish my skill. There are some awesome content writers on the web who can easily give me a run for my money.
But there is one thing: I can recognize great content. I can recognize content writers who really give it their all. It’s like, even if you cannot perform classical music, you can appreciate the quality and the grandeur.
Simply to be able to write doesn’t make you a great content writer, especially not a professional content writer who consistently gets paid for his or her skills. Below I’m listing 7 skills or qualities that make you a great content writer.
1. You are a writer from within
I recently read a writer saying that the process of writing can make you cry the tears of blood. I wouldn’t go that far, at least not while you’re not writing something to challenge Tolstoy, but writing can be difficult.
For the past couple of months, I have been writing for a company that develops blockchain applications. I’m a tech savvy person but for me this technology is fairly new. I know zilch about blockchain, crypto coins, cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens. Nonetheless, I’m quite satisfied by the work I have done so far. It is difficult. Very difficult. Not because the topic is difficult. Anyway…
What I’m saying is, writing doesn’t always come easy, but still, your basic ability to write must come easy. It should flow. You must be a writer from within. When you are writing on complex topics, only the topic should be complex, not your writing process. Your writing must flow smoothly.
When you see a dancer, you can make out whether she is dancing from within, or simply pretending to be a dancer. The same is applied to your writing skills. You cannot pretend to be a writer or a content writer. You need to be a writer from within. No matter how tough the topic is.
2. You have strong research skills
Whereas you don’t need to be a research scholar in a university to be a great content writer, your basic research skills must be solid. You must be able to find the information that enables you to write content.
Researching doesn’t mean doing a few searches on Google, randomly opening multiple links in multiple tabs and then regurgitating whatever content you come across.
Strong research skills means finding the useful information, grasping it according to your own understanding, compiling it in a logical manner, and then expressing it in your own, distinct language.
Of course, it also means finding the right information. For that you must know what search terms to use. To give you a straightforward example, if you want to find information on content writing, you shouldn’t start your search with “content marketing tips” or “digital marketing tips”, because these topics are quite vast. Learn to narrow down your search and know exactly what to look for.
3. You are comfortable with technology
By “technology” I mean the tools of the trade. It may also involve basic knowledge of hardware and software, especially when you are working as a content writer on your own.
Are you comfortable with all the mainstream word processors? Do you know their basic capabilities? If you’re not happy with your current word processor, can you find alternatives on your own? What about not using a word processor at all (I do that quite often)?
What about curating information? Do you use notetaking apps like Evernote, OneNote, or Google Keep? How do you organize the information that you can find even after two years? Do you use mind mapping tools? Do you know basic image editing using Photoshop or another image editing tool?
These may not be a part of a typical content writers daily routine; they instill a sense of confidence in you. Since as a professional content writer, you will be mostly providing your services on the Internet, you should also be comfortable with the related technologies.
4. You can empathize with people
The Oxford dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand another person’s feelings and experience.”
Frankly, if you cannot empathize, forget about being a great content writer, you cannot even be an average content writer.
You will be mostly writing content for businesses. Businesses cater to customers and clients. Through their content (which, they get written from you), they aim to solve their customers’ and clients’ problems. You cannot solve their problems unless you understand what those problems are, how those problems are affecting people, and how important it is to solve those problems. You need to be able to connect emotionally. You need to be able to write passionately and passion comes with empathy, understanding, and acknowledgement.
5. You are completely original
Most of the content writers are not original. They’re simply picking sentences and paragraphs and shuffling words here and there and then passing them on to their clients as original pieces. This is mostly junk content.
To be a great content writer you should be able to write original content. By original what I mean is, whatever you write, comes from you.
Of course, the information may not be original. Even the facts that you may be using in your writing may not be original because you will be taking them from other sources.
But how you present those facts and thoughts in your own unique manner, will be original. This is what is valued by clients. Most of the clients who respect their businesses know how difficult it is to publish original content and that’s why they value content writers who can write original content.
6. You can write in an engaging manner
People should want to read what you write. If you simply drone, nobody is going to read. You must write engagingly. You must directly talk to your reader. The excitement must rub onto your reader. If you don’t feel excited about what you’re expressing, believe me, people will get bored and disinterested in your proposition.
How do you write engagingly?
Have a conversation with your readers. Present information in short, digestible bites. Strategically use single words. Use a mix of short and long paragraphs. Ask questions. Instill doubt. Alarm them. Invoke a sense of urgency. Reassure them. Make them feel as if someone is sitting right in front of them and talking to them.
7. You don’t just write for money
There are many content writers who approach me and when I suggest that they should hone their skills by writing regularly even when they are not getting paid, they don’t pay attention. They want to spend their time writing only when there is a prospect of being paid.
Consider any art, or even any sport. If you are an athlete, do you practice only when a major event is approaching, or do you practice every day even when no one is there to appreciate your effort?
If you are the singer, do you sing only when you have an audience in front of you, or when you are being paid for your talent, or do you practice every day? Can you even sing at the performance level if you don’t practice every day? Fat chance.
Nonserious content writers think that since they know how to write, they will be able to write whenever they are offered a paid assignment.
A great content writer knows that just like any other skill, writing skills must be honed daily. You must write everyday whether you’re being paid or not. Whether you want to write or not, you must write because you know this is a skill that you value from your heart.
Writing should be a labor of love, not a forced occupation. If you cannot write without getting paid, you won’t be able to write better when you are being paid.
As you have read above, being a great content writer doesn’t mean that you simply need to write impeccable sentences and paragraphs and you should be able to use grandiloquent words and phrases. You can write very short sentences. You can use very basic words. Still you can be a great content writer if you empathize with your readers, write in a conversational manner, are able to find the right information, and can use the appropriate technological tools.