There’s a long battle between content creators:
Should you write the things that are important to you, or should you write things that matter to your audience?
The first, writing for yourself, is about writing that which is on your mind and heart. There is a story somewhere inside you that needs to be let out for the world to consume.
The second, writing for your audience, is about writing content that will be interesting to your audience. It is about embracing the Ideal Reader concept and doing everything to serve them.
Purists claim that the first is the only way to be true to your artistry.
Marketers claim that the second is the only way to engage a converting audience.
The internet is full of posts and articles specifically designed to achieve one of these goals. As a writer who has made a life in marketing, I can tell you neither of these serves the content creator fully.
You Shouldn’t Write For Yourself
I’ll admit, when I first started blogging, I wrote whatever was on my mind. In fact, my first post was titled What I Did Over My Bedrest ‘Vacation’ and detailed out the time I worked myself into the emergency room as a manager during the year-end sales push.
If you are someone who expresses themselves as a writer, then you absolutely need to work through your thoughts using your words at times.
Those times should likely be confined to a bedside journal or private online space, especially if you use written content as a means of income or a marketing tool.
Be vulnerable with your audience.
I’m fully in favor of that.
I’m against the posts that do nothing but serve your own interests.
Honestly, there are few people in the world who are that interesting. Take a look at your Facebook newsfeed—you know what I’m saying.
You Shouldn’t Write For An Audience
We’ve all read the posts and sales page before.
The ones where, halfway through the third paragraph, you realize you are standing in a used car lot talking to a guy in a 70’s leisure suit with an oily combover.
There is no personality (other than oily combover dude), and it is feels a little TOO set up. Everything is carefully stated to direct you into a buying mindset.
They don’t share anything about their brand, don’t offer any insight into their mission or vision, and often serve as a faceless organization.
People will go to them for business transactions, and they will feel adequately served.
They will never form the rabid audience-base that brands and businesses who share pieces of themselves attain.
Who Should You Write For Then?
Well, that just does nothing to help most folks struggling to find a voice, huh?
Don’t write for yourself— Don’t write for your audience— What’s left?
What is left is the secret hot spot for creating compelling content that converts.
Write for yourself, but always consider your audience
As a brand or business, you have fragments of your vision that you want to work into everything you write. Sometimes:
All of these are examples of content that is focused on YOU, but written to benefit THEM. It is how you share what you want to write, but do it in a way that someone else will want to read.
What If What You Want To Write Isn’t Right For Your Audience?
It may just be that what you are writing is something that needs to be written out of the public eye.
Get yourself signed up for a mastermind. Explore therapy options. Scribble furiously in your journal. Email your best friend.
DO NOT HOLD THESE THINGS INSIDE!
If they are bursting to get out, they need to be let out. Kept bottled in, thoughts and emotions will start leaking out and eventually explode in a very sticky mess.
But they do not belong in your content unless working through them will also help your audience.
If you find that sharing these things could benefit a group unlike your current readers, you may just have the wrong audience.
The “Ideal Audience/Customer/Client/Avatar/Popsicle-Stick” that you created when you started writing for others may not be the right fit for you.
Your brand may have changed, you may have been off to start with, you may need to segment your offerings, or you may even have an ingenious idea that will start up your next million-dollar project.
If you write something that falls flat with people you thought were your people, go find other people!
You know the exact stories that your business and brand needs to tell an audience that values them.
Now go out and tell them!
Elisa Doucette is a writer and editor who works with professional writers, entrepreneurs, and brands that want to make their own words even better. She is the Founder of Craft Your Content, and oversees Client Strategy and Writing Coaching. Her own writing has been featured in places like Forbes, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Yahoo! Small Business, and The Huffington Post, among others. She also hosts the Writers' Rough Drafts podcast here on CYC. When she isn't writing, editing, or reading words, she can usually be found at a local pub quiz, deep in a sun salutation, or binging TV shows for concept ideas and laughs.