Glancing at the laptop screen, waiting for that email to pop up. Spending hours on a draft, researching and sculpting it, just to find out it got rejected. You’re frustrated and running out of patience—after all, you’ve put in a lot of work. More importantly, this is not how it goes in those success stories!
A word about success stories, before we move further.
The thing is, a lot of them are not true. Those shady one-page websites stuffed with testimonials—I’m sure you’ve come across a few of them.
They are easy to spot and therefore not as unhealthy as the sugar-coated stories inspired by true events—highly customized to fabricate false expectations. Success stories work like a charm when it comes to attracting people.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against successful writers offering advice. In fact, I’ve picked up some valuable tips myself from such sources.
But it’s important to avoid getting lured into buying courses based merely on stories and a cheerful picture of the supposed guru on the front page, where they are clearly forcing a smile. Despite what they may want you to think, there’s no shortcut. Apply yourself—successful writers evolve, they don’t exist. Every aspiring writer proceeds slowly, putting together bits and pieces.
Beginners get tricked easily because they are intimidated by the crowd of writers. It seems impossible to stand out and write your way out of the mediocracy.
Well, I have some good news!
The majority of writers seeking opportunities online don’t have the faintest idea of their responsibilities, the trends of their industry (if they are specialized enough), or any originality. They can be regarded as false competition.
Writing online has low barriers, and as a result, this profession attracts a lot of people. Most of them give up within the first few months.
You’ll also come across skilled and experienced professionals. How do you plan to compete against them? Well, you don’t compete with them directly, at least while starting out. There are ample opportunities on the internet for new talent.
The only challenge is to excel each time you get a chance. Mediocre content won’t cut it, as saturation is too dense. As I mentioned above, writing attracts many short-term aspirants, but few of them survive.
Standing out as a writer comes down to your skills and finding the right clients (or audience). Everyone knows marketing a bad product doesn’t work out in the long haul. You need to emphasize your writing skills more than anything.
Sounds a little obvious, but think of it this way: Would you ever consider paying someone with writing skills such as yours? Finding the right clients or audience is the other part of standing out. However, we’ll stick with refining your writing skills and developing the right mindset.
All set to stand out and let the writer within you thrive? Alright then.
Purpose of Writing
Vague ideas grow into wandering pieces of content. Comprehend first, then convey! Your content will suffer if you don’t have a direction—it’ll carry unnecessary information.
Ask yourself, what is the purpose of your content? Make sure the primary takeaways are prominent. Successful writers yearn to convey. Their message is never buried beneath the fluff.
At times you’ll be required to convey multiple messages in a single piece. In such instances, have a plan and prioritize the different points. Also, associating a rough word limit to each section works well.
As Antoine de Saint-Exupery aptly said, “Perfection is achieved … when there is nothing left to take away.” This concept highlights the importance of the research and planning phase. Rambling and mixed up ideas reflect a lack of planning, and editing such pieces will turn into a nightmare.
Think about it, do you want to get through your piece making it look good—hiding gaps in your knowledge and planning? This way you’ll lose control over your content as a writer. Camouflaging your flaws will disrupt the entire flow—consequently, it’ll be more work on the reader’s end.
I mean, you wouldn’t ever get an instructional book (or even a story book) with a couple of chapters missing, right?
Here’s what my planning phase looks like:
- It starts with brainstorming followed by extensive research to strengthen my grip on the idea.
- I proceed by mapping out all the topics and subtopics, highlighting (and mostly deleting) the odd ones out. If I don’t, they’ll mess with the entire framework of my piece.
- Now that I have a direction, it’s time to write! I prefer to take up an entire section at a time, completely switching off the autosuggestions in my head to avoid any creativity obstructions.
- This is the part where I begin again from the top, sculpting each section for the aspect of beauty—note that I’m still in my writer shoes. I prefer sleeping on it before editing.
- At this point, I actually transform into a ruthless editor (with visible horns on my head).
Now that your words have a direction, let’s talk about connecting with the audience.
Crave to Connect
If you write online for a living, the audience comes first—your masterpiece is pretty much useless if it doesn’t connect with them. I’m not asking you to abandon your voice, but some writing will resonate with your audience more than others. Depending on your readers, you can try the following:
- Go through the previously published posts from the same source if you’re publishing for a blog.
- Use the first or second person perspective in your content.
- Avoid jargon and keep it simple.
Similarly, the audience needs to connect with humor and expressions as well. For instance, non-native writers cannot have an idea in their native language and simply transcribe—it won’t hold the punch. Word preference varies with location, and as a writer, it’s your job to interpret your audience.
Apart from picking the right words, writers engage with their readers in various other ways:
- Storytelling – Incorporating storytelling into your writing captivate your readers. As humans, we are wired to learn from stories. We share them all the time, often learning from the experiences of others. I’ve got some tips for you to get started:
- Don’t make up stories; rather, let them come from your experiences.
- Plot the sequences chronologically to avoid getting tangled.
- Don’t let the details of the story overshadow the content.
- Use TV series and movies as a source of inspiration.
- Cultivating curiosity – Occasional interrogative sentences entice the readers, ensuring their undivided attention. Also, they can further engross the reader by triggering thought processes. As a reader, do you think it works?
- Make them smile – Another great tactic is rewarding your readers with humor. Don’t overdo it though, and refrain from wasting too many words on building up. Here’s a great article on mixing humor into your writing.
Here’s a piece of advice for you. Speak to readers through your words—sound like yourself. This brings us to the next section.
Keep It Conversational
A casual style of writing has taken over most websites and blogs, as it connects better with readers. At first, you might find it hard to unlearn all those academic rules, as grammar is often compromised here for the sake of expression.
We try to avoid walls of text in this style of writing. Paragraphs shouldn’t be four or five sentences. Instead, break the text into paragraphs often to enhance readability.
Although the conversational style of writing is inspired by spoken language, it’s more concise. Don’t use it as an excuse for rambling.
Notice how my paragraphs are short and easy to read. Also, I’m addressing you as a peer, but at the same time, there’s no off-topic information to create a diversion.
Now that you are being casual with your readers, sprinkle a bit of your personality over the content to make it sound unique and more interesting. People connect with personalities.
I don’t know the rules of grammar … If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.—David Ogilvy
Craft Your Content 😉
Your audience doesn’t want a pile of lifeless sentences. They prefer well-crafted content. What do I mean by well-crafted? Well, there’s no official definition to address that, but the following guidelines will give you an idea.
- A piece could very well be grammatically correct, yet lifeless. Considering the short attention spans, dull content won’t grip your audience—they’ll start skimming. Add life to your words. Keep your piece interactive throughout, and don’t just command them.
- The majority of writers neglect the aspect of beauty, and that makes it a great way to stand out. Strive to combine ingredients of writing to shape the perfect expression. The conversational style of writing has a great room for artistic writers.
- Read your draft aloud after finishing up and hear (not look) for what’s missing in the “mix.” Could you use more visual words? Does it sound smooth throughout? Have you used passive voice too often? Let your ears do the work.
- The artistic approach is subjective to different blogs and their style guide. Practice it within boundaries unless you have complete authority. Traditional writing has been declining, but it still exists.
To summarize, grammar isn’t everything when it comes to bonding with readers. Act as a wordsmith, and convey in the most effective way.
Find Your Voice
In real life, we can easily recognize people based on the way they speak. We notice how they phrase sentences, their inclination toward certain words, tone, and many other things. It goes similarly for written content. Readers grasp a lot of minute details.
Think of your voice as your trademark. Your audience will develop an affinity for your voice, and you’ll build a loyal following. To cut through the noise of online writers, you’ll need a unique voice—one that conveys and entertains at the same time.
Copycats will struggle harder to find their voice, as ideas borrowed from multiple sources won’t always fit together.
Your own writing voice is something that develops over time and with practice, but you can speed up the process by reading and writing more. The words you choose clearly reflect your personality to the readers. Keep in mind that not every single reader will resonate with you, and that’s fine.
Explore your writing voice by asking:
- What are the dominant traits of my personality?
- Who am I writing for?
- Am I completely honest with my readers?
- Have I written enough words to have a voice?
Almost Out of Ink
You’ll be alright as long as you genuinely care about your audience. Usually, bad content happens because writers lack not potential, but rather enthusiasm to deliver a message.
Reading helped me a lot in the initial days. Let me rephrase that: Reading quality content helped me a lot in the initial days.
Whenever you come across a quality writer, stalk them and read all their posts. Analyze the recurring elements, and think about what makes their writing impactful.
Lastly, try not to get lost in the sea of suggestions. You’ll make real progress by actually doing it—writing. At times, tutorials that wax poetic about how to write can turn into an excuse to not write.
Don’t hold up anymore. Captivate your readers, and start writing now—the comment section is a good place to start.
What’s your secret sauce for standing out?