So you want to learn how to write content?
Maybe you want to write content for your employer or your own venture, and don’t want to outsource content writing.
Or maybe you got lured by the idea of making money from anywhere by writing content for other brands.
Either way, you’ve got to be serious about this. Content writing may look easy, but it’s certainly not.
You’ll need to have realistic expectations, some creativity, and willingness to put in a lot of time and effort. If you can do that, I promise it’s going to be a really rewarding experience.
So here’s the process to follow when you’re wondering how to go about learning and building your content writing skills.
Step 1: Start Reading Regularly
If you want to master content writing, get into the habit of reading masterful content, especially in the niches you plan to write for.
To find the best content and copywriting to read in your niche, there are a number of things you can try:
- Find bestselling books on Amazon
- Use a search engine to find blogs (for example, search “fitness blogs”)
- Read brochures and websites of related brands
- Look out for ads when you are browsing online or going out.
But just reading is not enough. You’ll need to practice reading closely and deeply.
Most of us are passive readers. We go from one sentence to another without giving much thought to how it was written. Or we just quickly scan the whole thing to get to the gist.
To be a master content writer, you need to practice reading analytically. Take notice of the finer details like:
- How the writer conveyed the information in each paragraph?
- What kind of grammar, words, phrases and idioms were used?
- Overall structure/outline and what type of information was covered.
- Usage of any images/graphics or external citations.
- What was the objective and how does the content meet that objective?
- How was the tone, voice and writing style?
- What did the content make you feel as a reader?
- Did the writer convey personality and humor? How?
In fact, I’d recommend that as you read different types of content everyday, take a note of the pieces/parts which are written really well, and which are really bad.
Start collecting these into a file for later reference. The good content will help you learn and emulate best practices, and the bad one will help you steer clear of mistakes to avoid.
In copywriting terms, this is known as a swipe file. You can also use a note taking app to make this process more convenient, and to be able to access your collection from anywhere.
Step 2: Assess Your Skillset
There are more aspects to being a successful content writer than simply writing words on a page.
You need to have the skill to craft compelling content in a specific niche that will engage readers and compel them to take action. For example, here are some essential skills expected from a content writer.
To be a good copywriter, it’s essential to be a good writer. 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.
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.
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.
For more information, ready my guide to the top 10 content writing skills. Use the guide to understand where you are now, what are the gaps in your knowledge you need to fill, and how to get to where you want to be.
This will help you build a solid roadmap for your content writing education as you go through the remaining steps I have covered below.
Step 3: Improve English Grammar & Usage
Write like you talk - a common, well-intentioned advice you’ll often hear from people in the world of writing. Following this principle helps a lot when you’re trying to give a conversational touch to your writing.
But it becomes an issue when misinterpreted. We take a lot of liberties in language when speaking or talking which are simply not acceptable in writing. This is especially true in today’s world, with Instagram, WhatsApp and SMS text messaging.
Having an impeccable grammar, flow and proper usage of words, phrases and sentences is a must for a content writer.
So put in the effort to brush up on your punctuation, spelling and sentence flow. Here are some great resources to help improve your English grammar.
Step 4: Take A Writing Course
There are plenty of online courses on topics such as copywriting, non fiction writing, technical writing etc. available today. You can take these content writing courses from the comfort of your home and at your own pace.
A lot of writing advice is spread over the web here and there. But courses give you the opportunity to learn all the major aspects of a writing topic in a single, organized manner.
Check out my list of high quality courses which cover those aspects of content writing that I wish every aspiring content writer knew.
However, do keep in mind that there is no single content writing course which covers everything about all types of content writing.
You’ll have to decide on your own which of these courses, along with some excellent books, are best fit for your content writing education.
Step 5: Hit The Books
Just like there is no single course which can teach you everything you need to know, the same is the case with content writing books.
A number of content writing books are published every year. But it’s not possible to read them all. You could only have so much time and money to spend on books to learn about content writing.
So what’s great is you can stick to the proven copywriting books that have stood the test of time. It’s not necessary to read each and every new book out there.
In this regard, here are some great books about writing for the web which should be on every content writer’s shelf.
Hopefully these books about writing for the web will give you a head start in developing your content development skills.
Step 6: Subscribe To Writing Blogs
Step one was about getting into the habit of reading the kind of content you would be writing. But this step is about reading blogs which regularly post useful writing advice.
There are several excellent blogs by successful authors and bloggers who know what they’re talking about. Reading their posts can help you master content writing. Here are the some of the brightest:
This blog helps you with the know-how to write more persuasive copy. Their blog posts are filled with actionable and useful insights on the craft.
This is a freelance writing blog headed up by Carol Tice, a prolific professional writer with years of experience in the field.
This is the blog of yours truly, which is me. I thought a little self-promotion won’t hurt. I regularly post in-depth guides on the craft of content writing.
There are several other great blogs out there to learn content writing. To find more, check out this list of 17 best blogs for content writers.
Step 7: Start Writing For Practice
No content writing education is complete without actual practice. Now that you have a good grasp of content writing fundamentals, it’s time to begin writing.
All the theory can only help you so much, unless you put it into action and learn from actual writing work.
In fact, I’d recommend that you pick a niche and start your own blog. This will help you with not just writing, but also learn the complementary skills that most employers and clients look for.
Moreover, having your own blog has a number of advantages:
- An active blog will help you promote yourself to get jobs and clients.
- Your blog content will act as a portfolio to showcase your writing skills.
- A blog can be monetized later in many ways to supplement your income.
It’s really cheap and super easy these days to create a blog and start publishing articles. You can get good quality website hosting and domain for as low as $5/month and install WordPress (the best blogging software) for free.
Even if you have zero budget, there are several free options. These include platforms like Medium, WordPress.com and LinkedIn.
Once the setup is complete, come up with a few topics to write about and start writing blog posts on them one by one.
Apart from the benefit of practicing and learning how to write content, building a blog is a great, fun, learning experience. So give it a try.
Step 8: Find A Mentor
Here’s the biggest mistake aspiring content writers make:
As soon as they’ve learned a bit about content writing, they start seeking writing gigs and projects to work on. And in their proposals, they bid a really low price, or even offer to work for free.
They figure that’s a good idea since they are looking to gain experience, build their portfolio, and learn on actual projects.
But here’s why your rush to acquire writing gigs will not help you learn content writing:
- Most low-paying clients are not qualified enough to assess your writing work and give quality feedback. They themselves may not know what good content should be like. So you’re not really “learning”.
- Low paying content is not necessarily high quality content. So it doesn’t add any value to your portfolio. In fact, it may even give a negative impression to a potential client/employer.
So what’s the solution?
What you should do in the beginning is to work with an experienced and knowledgeable mentor.
Ideally, this would be a person who has already amassed a reputation or following by writing content in your chosen niche. A person who you admire, and who is already where you want to be.
In fact, if you have followed the above steps, you already came across some of these people in your learning journey. You may have taken one of their courses, read their book or blog.
In fact, some of those people may already have coaching programs for aspiring writers. For more information, see my guide to hiring a content writing coach.
Even if they don’t sell coaching, you can go ahead and reach out to them. But don’t go straight to what you want. Build a bridge. Start a conversation.
For instance, email them to tell them how much you admire their work. Comment on their blog posts. Follow the pros on social media.
Then when it feels right, ask if they’d be willing to give feedback on your writing, or take you under their wing. Feel free to reach out to me too if you want. I’d be happy to help. Sometimes all it takes is a small ask.
Step 9: Write Guest Posts
Here’s another great way to get great feedback to improve your content writing, while also building a solid portfolio.
Pitch to contribute content to blogs and publications in your chosen niche. So you get learning and exposure and they get free content.
Well-established blogs or rising publications usually have high standards in the kind of content they accept. Many also have specific guidelines to meet to be able to publish the contributed content.
However, keep in mind that it’s not going to be easy. You’ll have to work hard and keep pitching to several websites.
Every owner, blogger or editor of a good magazine gets hundreds of pitches per month from people who want to contribute content. And they will also want to see some samples of your content writing work to assess the quality of your articles.
That’s why it’s crucial to make sure you already have some samples decent enough for them to consider working with you. That’s why I talked about this step after you’ve been working with a mentor to master content writing.
Step 10: Writing Project/Internship
The final piece to learning content writing is working on a real world content project. This could be through a full time job, a freelance gig or a part time internship.
The good news is that if you follow the steps I have outlined above, you’d also have built a small network of people you can reach out to and ask if they have any content writing needs.
In addition, there are many websites to identify and apply to content writing projects you may be interested in. These include Upwork, Fiverr, Problogger job board and more.
If you need more help and resources, check out this great piece by Elna Cain on finding writing clients.
Keep hustling, growing your network, and pitching to jobs at these platforms. Sooner or later, you’ll definitely find something to contribute to.
It’s no secret that learning to write content is not a walk in the park. It demands significant time and effort, especially when writing doesn’t come naturally to you.
If you’re willing to go down this road, this guide is your map. In addition, you might also want to check out my guide to start a writing business. I wish you the best.
If not, you could always consider outsourcing to a good content writing professional or agency.
Did I miss anything? Did you try these tips? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.
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