Are you wondering if you have the skills to be a great web content writer? Or perhaps you want to hire a copywriter and don’t know the skills you should check for?
There are more aspects to being a successful content writer than simply writing words on a page. You need to craft compelling content in a specific niche that will engage readers and compel them to take action.
In this post, I’ll talk about the most essential skills employers expect when hiring for content writing jobs. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Duh! Obvious right? I only wish I could exclude this point, since it’s plain common sense. But after working with hundreds of content writers from around the globe, I am surprised to see how many are just delusional.
Despite not knowing how to form proper sentences, use correct grammar and other pure basics of English language, they think they write well enough to sell it as a service.
What’s even surprising is that they still manage to get projects from clients who don’t know any better. To be a good copywriter, it’s essential to be a good writer.
So if you’re struggling in this area, I beg you. Please don’t start polluting the industry unless you have improved on it. Otherwise, you’re doing a disservice to both you and the people who hire you.
Become a good reader first. Make a habit of reading blogs and books to get a sense of what good writing looks like. Learn english grammar, usage and writing strategies.
I am not saying you need to be the next Hemingway, but at least understand the fundamentals in terms of writing for the web clearly and concisely, and adopting a conversational and friendly content writing tone.
Research skills are invaluable for a content writer. As a writer, your content is only as good as your information sources.
You need to be able to produce well-researched content pieces, even when writing about topics that you’re not familiar with.
To do this, you must know where and how to dig up reliable information. Here are some of the most commonly used sources:
In addition, keep in mind the following tips:
- Use Credible Websites: These include government and educational websites (.gov and .edu) that have reliable statistics and studies.
- Use Advanced Search: Google’s advanced search option allows you to put filters on your topic so you can bring up the best information.
- Check Trust Signals: Before you cite or borrow information from a page, check things like date of publication, author credentials, website authority etc.
If there is still a question of whether the information is accurate or not, you must dig even deeper to get to the root source of the information.
By improving your copywriting research skills, you will be able to create content that is packed full of useful information and delivers real value to your readers.
Focus & Organizational Skills
As a content writer, you should be excellent at keeping 3 things focused and organized: your life, your work and your content.
- An organized life is essential to have the peace of mind and adequate time everyday which can be devoted to thinking and writing.
- Having your work organized helps keep track of your research sources, findings, drafts in process and deadlines to meet.
- Being able to write a great draft with solid ideas is of no use unless you can really organize those ideas in a cohesive, easy to digest order.
As you can see, keeping these 3 things organized is crucial to your growth as a content writer.
When it comes to organizing your life and work, there are a number of tools you can rely on to free yourself from distractions. These include calendars, to do lists, note taking applications and more.
But organizing your content properly is a different beast. It takes the patience and objectivity to really read your work as a reader and see how it flows from one point to another. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.
HTML Markup & CMS
Yes, I know. You’re a writer, not a programmer.
But if you’re going to be writing for the web, you need to be familiar with the basics of HTML and the top content management systems (CMS).
A grasp of basic concepts like image naming and alt tags, headlines (h1, h2 tags etc.), and editing/publishing content in a CMS (like WordPress, Shopify etc.) is essential for a content writer.
You’ll often be working with clients/employers who don’t just want you to write, but also publish or edit the content on their websites. And you’ll be able to do that only when you are acquainted with the CMS they are using.
Most CMS allow you to build content without any coding skills, but you may often run into HTML tag related issues. When this happens in copywriting, your HTML knowledge will come in handy.
Basic Photo Editing
Visual aids like photos, charts and other graphics make your content easier to understand and more interesting to read.
Hence, a content writer must know how to spice up a piece of content with relevant and informative visuals. In fact, this is one of the main content writing skills that differentiate successful bloggers and content writers from the rest.
While you can borrow graphics from other sources with proper permissions, it’s better to be able to create/edit on your own.
Now, I understand graphic design is a huge field with a big learning curve. You can’t just become a photoshop wizard overnight.
So give it a try. Not only will you be creating great graphics in less time, but also have fun.
At the very least, you should know basic image manipulation methods, like resizing, cropping, compression and conversion from one file type to another.
These skills are essential to write for the web, and will come in handy when you are trying to embed images in your content in a way that they look good and load fast.
Editing/ Quality Assurance
A first draft is never perfect. No matter how much expertise you have, it takes multiple edits and rewrites to produce a high quality piece of work.
As a content writer, don’t be surprised if you’re spending more time editing than writing. Because that’s how it’s supposed to be. And that’s how it is even for the most famous writers.
When writing for the web, you need to ensure that you deliver high-quality content that will not only rank high in the search engines, but will also keep readers engaged.
In addition, when writing a lot of content, it gets harder to maintain great quality. This is the tricky situation that a good content writer needs the ability to navigate.
One of the best ways to do this consistently is to have a checklist for quality delivery. Here’s an example:
Following a checklist will help you ensure that you deliver quality in every copy you write.
Adaptability To Different Tones/Voices
There are many different forms of content writing, with their unique tones, voices and styles. As a content writer, the more of them you master, the more in demand you will be.
- News is typically delivered AP-style, with short, punchy paragraphs.
- In blogging, the writing style is friendly, personable, and often opinionated.
- White papers are usually long, with a specific problem and solution.
- Ad copy, on the other hand, is short and persuasive.
If you want to stay in-demand as a web content writer, it’s important to have a knowledge of the different brand voices and tones. You also need to practice your ability to switch between them.
Empathy With Audience
“For God’s sake Hitesh! I want to be a writer, not a therapist. What does empathy have to do with anything?”
Is that what you’re thinking?
Empathy doesn’t just have to do with something, but everything. Let me say it again. When it comes to good content writing, empathy is everything.
Pick up any book or article on the subject of writing. One of the very first chapters or topics is always the same: Know Your Audience.
We read and hear this advice almost everywhere. But unfortunately, it has been repeated so many times over the years that we have grown immune to it.
I confess. I do it too. If I am reading a book on web writing skills and I see a chapter on knowing your audience, my natural instinct is something like “Oh, I know this part.” and move on to the next chapter.
Big mistake. As a content writer, you must learn how to do proper research on who your target audience are, what problems they have and what they want. Here are some ways to understand and define a target audience.
- Go through the products and services of the brand you’re writing content for. Think about what kind of people seek such solutions.
- Study the brand’s competitors. See what type of content they are writing and what does their content reflect about their target audience.
- Lurk in social media groups, forums, subreddits and Quora topics related to the brand you write content for.
Use the insights you get to build personas associated with different target segments. Once you have one or more basic personas, here’s a great exercise to incorporate empathy in your writing.
This exercise will help you get in your readers’ shoes. When writing a piece of content, think of words to describe how your reader may feel about this topic. Then use this information to personalize your content so it speaks directly to them.
If you want to learn more, check out this great article by Ruthanne Reid on how to show empathy in your writing.
Good SEO allows businesses to be found by their target customers online. A copywriter needs to develop their skills for optimizing content in order to help connect businesses to readers who are searching for the solutions they can provide.
Although SEO practices can be complicated, learning the basics of SEO doesn’t take much time. There’s no need to go in too deep at the beginning. Here are few of the basic you need to be aware of:
- Headline Title Tag: Create compelling headlines/title tags for your content.
- Intro and Body Content: Craft an introduction that hooks your reader.
- URL/Permalink: Make your URL/Permalink short, with main keywords.
- Meta Description: Make sure primary keywords are included in your meta description.
Here’s a graph by Databox which shows these elements by their importance.
However, keep in mind that even though SEO is vital to your success as a content creator, your priority should always be to produce relevant, helpful content that delivers value to your audience.
Most businesses and bloggers employ some type of social media strategy to promote their content, products, and services.
Each social media platform is different, with its own unique requirements. So you need to learn about each of them separately to understand what kind of web content works for them.
For instance, here’s a summary of allowed word counts for each platform.
Whether you’re writing for yourself or for clients, it’s important that you understand some of the social media best practices in order to create share-worthy content.
Writing With Personality
When you’re writing for an audience, just covering facts and information is not enough.
If you want to get their engagement, gain trust and build a long-term relationship, you need to invoke emotions through your writing.
You need to make your audience feel like they really know you.
In other words, whatever you write needs to have a heavy dose of your personality running through the words.
To learn more, see my top ways to elevate your writing with personality.
Upon seeing success of bloggers and content writers who are dominating their niche, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
But remember, every successful content writer was once a beginner. They took the initiative to correct their mistakes and acquire web writing skills they didn’t have to reach where they are.
Instead of comparing the beginning of your journey to the ending of some else’s, focus on educating yourself on content writing, and building your content writing skills, one at a time.
The more you practice a particular skill, the better you’ll master it. With every step you take toward honing your skills, you will be able to stay in-demand, be the best writer you can be, and command a higher rate for your services.
Did I miss any important skills? Do you have any questions or comments? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.