Writing is an adventure. It’s a never-ending journey; there’s no conceivable start or end, and it continues – whether unwittingly or not – through our lives. We start writing at a tender age of five (or even younger if you attended pre-kindergarten sessions), stringing together alphabets in a bid to make sense of the written word. This continues as we get older – in the form of school assignments, text messages, or even social media posts.
Indeed, everyone is – and can be! – a writer. The tricky part comes when you look to make a career out of it. And with so many digital writers out there, how can you make your works cut through the noise and stand out among the crowd?
Here are some tips for those looking to kickstart their digital writing journey:
Familiarise yourself with the different types of writing styles
In the publishing world, there are so many different types of writing. Long-form writing refers to articles; short-form writing is also known as copywriting, which can encompass slogans, social media captions, and so on.
The skills for the two naturally vary; long-form writing gives you the breathing room to elaborate on what you want to say, allowing you to deliver a researched, well-thought-out piece. Copywriting is naturally a little harder, as you have to pack a punch as concisely as possible. With copywriting, every word counts and yes, less is more!
Figure out what kind of writing you’d like to be doing
Building on the above point, it’s important to sit down, and have a think about what kind of writing you’d like to be doing. Would you like to write descriptive itineraries for travel sites, or would you like to go out in the field and interview individuals for an investigative story? Would you enjoy covering the latest fashion trends for a cutting-edge fashion magazine, or would you prefer to cover short bite-sized news commentaries?
Knowing and identifying your interests might be one additional step towards figuring out what kind of writer you want to be, and give you an indication of how you should proceed.
Create a portfolio
In the writing world, the first thing any potential employers look out for is a portfolio. This allows companies to get a sense of your writing style, and assess if you’d be a good fit. This portfolio is also a chance for you to showcase your personality!
Sites like WordPress and Journoportfolio are good places to start. You can write about anything and everything. However, do note that a portfolio shouldn’t sound like a blog – steer away from making too informal references, or using slang. Professionalism is key!
Once you’re armed with some writing samples, start writing to companies. Take a look on job sites and see if they’re hiring; scoring some freelance gigs will be great for your resume. Plus, these pay – it’s a win-win situation!
The key is to persevere. Try to get yourself published on as many sites as possible; this will help to beef up your portfolio. You might have a certain industry that you want to work for (e.g., fashion), but it’s always good to cast a wide net, and write for as many industries or companies as you can. After all, you might find yourself falling in love with something that you never even considered at the start!
Put yourself in your (potential) readers’ shoes
This is one valuable piece of advice that I swear by. Sometimes, what you want to write may not be what people want to read. It’s the harsh truth! Start by reading widely, following relevant social media pages, and subscribing to online magazines. Get a feel of what type of content people are drawn to, and see what you can offer. Always try to look at your article from a third person’s point of view!
When writing, it’s also good to consider how the article will be presented on different devices. On a laptop or computer monitor, everything is enlarged. On a mobile interface, however, everything is compressed. In the digital world, the majority of content is consumed on-the-go via mobile phones. It’s hence apt to cater your content for optimal mobile viewing. Try breaking up large chunks of text with pictures, as well as include headings and subheadings for better clarity.
Get rid of writer’s ego
This is one thing that plenty of new writers suffer from. Yes, writing is subjective; but as a budding digital writer, one thing you should always remember is that no matter how good you think a piece of writing is, it can always, always, be improved!
Writer’s ego is something that isn’t welcome in this industry. Stay humble, and keep improving!
Be open to new experiences
Finally, good writing not only comes from within, but it also comes from what you experience. Take that trip – when the situation allows it! –, embark on that new adventure, try a new activity. Sometimes, even taking a walk around your local neighbourhood, or trying a new café, helps!
Writer’s block is real, and it always helps to break from routine and expose yourself to something different. You’ll be able to come back refreshed, and armed with new ammunition to tackle a new piece.
The hardest part is taking the first step. So, start researching, start building your portfolio, and start connecting with companies. Writing has brought me so much joy, and I hope that you’ll feel the same!