The earliest record I have of my own writing is a diary from elementary school.
I was probably about 8 or 9 when I started it. As I re-read my own words from so many years ago, I can’t help but laugh, cringe, and generally shake my head at my own prose. I’m thankful that no one (as far as I know) aside from me ever read it.
Now, however, I write content that has a life of its own. I publish my writing on the web, and it gets indexed, syndicated, and distributed in a variety of places. If I write something bad, I’m not just wasting electronic paper—I’m letting a lot of people down with my content. That’s absolutely the last thing I want to do.
Initially, I thought learning how to become a better content writer just meant looking back at my old content, ripping it to shreds, and trying to write something better the next time. But I think there’s more that we content creators can do to hone our craft, whether we’re writing website copy, blog posts, or the next Great American Novel.
Here are 7 things I do to improve my own content writing. I’d love to hear what tactics you use to optimize the quality and results of your content—let me know in the comments below!
1. Read Great Content
Successful authors all agree that reading is a great way to hone your craft. Studying how really fantastic writers craft content can help you identify best practices and ideas that will help improve your own content marketing efforts.
2. Write for Fun
By day, I write articles about marketing and design. By night and weekends, I write fantasy and speculative fiction that has nothing to do with my day job. Even if those side projects never see the light of day on a publisher’s desk, the hours I put into writing for myself make me a better content writer in my day job. The old adage “practice makes perfect” really is true, especially when it comes to writing.
3. Spend Time with Readers
The best thing you can do if you feel like your content isn’t quite resonating with your audience is go and spend time with them. Participate in user tests. Sit in on sales calls. Ask your customer success team for a list of happy customers to speak to. The more you engage with your potential readers, the more you’ll be able to craft your content around their interests, challenges, and questions.
4. Interview Writers You Admire
Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I love to read interviews with him that talk about how he got started, what his process looks like, and where he gets his inspiration. I may not be able to call Neil and ask him questions directly (unless someone has his phone number and wants to share!), but if there are bloggers or journalists you admire, I bet you can hunt them down on social or Google. Reach out and see if they’d be up for a quick interview to help you learn more about how they do what you do. Hear other people talk about their content creation processes can help you refine your own.
5. Learn What Works for Others
Everyone loves a good how-to post, amirite? I’m a sucker for articles with titles like “How I Increased My Blog Readership by 1,000,000%” because I want to know how people have achieved success with their content. Here are a few resources I rely on to learn what’s working for other content writers:
6. Experiment with New Approaches
Pushing yourself as a writer means trying new things when it comes to your content. Are you really good at long-form editorial pieces? Then try shorter listicle-style articles. Are you really awesome at whitepapers? Mix it up with a video script. The goal of any content program is to find what works and do more of it, but it’s important to allocate a percentage of your writing hours to R&D. Otherwise, you may miss out on something new and exciting that can have a big impact on your program.
7. Analyze Your Results
If you want to become a more effective content marketer, it’s important to analyze how the content you produce is performing. Once you get a sense of what’s getting read and shared, you can tailor your writing efforts to amplify those positive results.
The Bottom Line
There’s no standard formula for becoming a better content writer, but I do know that exposing yourself to great writing, doing a lot of writing, and continuing to test and tweak your approach can go a long way toward improving your skills and results.