We’re writers. We’re always looking for ways to improve our writing skills. We’ll never be perfect, but there’s huge satisfaction in becoming a better writer.
One of the most popular articles on this blog is 7 Quick Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills Today, which was written three years ago. Although the world of professional writing is constantly changing, the fundamentals don’t change. Those tips work as well today as they did then.
That said, the world of writing has changed in the past couple of years. The battle for attention is much greater.
Improve your writing skills in 2017: make it your best-ever year
Want some quick tips to become a better writer in 2017? Please be aware that words are no longer enough. In 2017, visuals count as much as words. If you’re writing for clients, your writing will get the results they want, if you include multimedia content with your words.
Visuals count if you’re focused on self-publishing too. Not only do you need great covers for your ebooks, book marketing in 2017 requires visual content.
Here are my top ten tips to help you to survive and thrive as a commercial writer in 2017.
1. Read, read, read — make reading and learning a part of your business strategy in 2017
Junk content is prevalent on the Web. A lot of content is a copy of a copy of a copy. For junk content, you get junk writing fees. Writing junk content is not only boring, it’s also a way to kill your writing business.
To get top clients, you need to be a competent, well-read writer. Reading is essential. Read Facebook and social media and the Web to see what’s happening, yes, but also read books.
Reading is the foundation of writing. If you want to improve your writing skills in 2017, create a program of reading, and take notes. Nothing replaces reading.
2. Set goals for every writing project, whether you’ve been hired to write, or whether the project is your own
A couple of weeks back, a writer contacted me about her goals for her writing in 2017. I agreed to take a look. I glanced at her goals, and shot her a quick text: “Financial goals?”
Writing goals are essential, but if you don’t include financial goals, your writing is a hobby. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Writing is an excellent hobby.)
So the writer sent me her financial goals, and I had to call her and tell her that they were completely unrealistic. The writing projects she’d set as goals would never match her financial goals. I knew for a fact that the magazines she listed paid poorly. The major website she aimed to crack didn’t pay at all. Moreover, the genres and topics she’d listed for her self-publishing program would never help her to reach her financial goals.
It took me around 20 minutes to get the evidence to show her that she couldn’t meet her goals. You can get information on what magazines and websites pay on the Web, or via writers’ groups. To discover the potential of genres (fiction) and topics (nonfiction), use KindleSpy.
Imagine if this writer hadn’t contacted me. She would have tapped her fingers to the bone in 2017, without any hope of reaching her financial goals. It took a couple of hours to help her to create a writing program of magazines and websites which paid reasonably, and to help her to choose hot-selling genres and topics for her books.
The moral of the story? Research.
We’ll have more to say about research in a moment.
3. Invest time and energy in social media: it’s a sure route to money in 2017
If you have a blog which gets even a small amount of traffic you can make your blog appealing to companies which want you to review their products, or puff up their products. The more traffic your blog gets, and the more followers you have on the social media networks, the more money you can make.
Since your followers are worth money to you, it’s worth investing time and energy on them. When you inform a company that you have a thousand or more followers on Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter, the amount you can charge not only for content writing, but also for advertising, goes up.
In 2017, the writers who pay attention to their social media accounts will get writing jobs over those writers who think their writing is “enough.” Of course, your social media accounts can also ensure that you get better writing jobs, and sell more ebooks.
4. Be original: stand out from the river of junk content flowing onto the Web and onto the ebook retailers
Do stuff. Read. Both endeavors help you to become original. The more you know and understand, the more connections you’ll make, the more your writing will improve, and the more original insights you’ll develop.
As we’ve said, much of the content on the Web is a copy of a copy of a copy.
If you’re going to write about a topic, become experienced in that area. Getting that experience is essential, and you can’t fake it. For example, in 2017 social media is going to become more valuable than ever, both for your clients, and for yourself. Pay attention, and experiment. Your knowledge will grow.
Make it your aim to become an authority in the things you write about. You won’t do it in a week, or a in month, or even a year or two, but any experience is better than none. Not only do your writing clients want authoritative content, your readers want it as well.
To repeat… The only way to be original is to do things. And read. And think. We’ll have more to say about “doing stuff” in 2017, because it’s important.
5. Devote time to original research (it’s the foundation of being original)
Listen up. The big difference between a writer who makes $50 an hour, and a writer who makes $300 an hour is one thing: research. The writer who’s paid more is paid more for a reason — he researches.
The more you know, the more your writing will improve, and the more you can charge. Remember junk content. It’s everywhere. To get out of the junk quagmire, research. You’ll stand out from the competition like a lotus floating on top of a muddy pool.
6. Focus on headlines and SEO (search engine optimization)
Search engine optimization (SEO) is essential, not only for content you write for the Web, but also for your ebooks. If you can’t be found, you won’t be read. Amazon has a search engine, and Google and the other search engines index Amazon. You can’t get away from understanding the basics of SEO.
Here are the basics in a nutshell: title page, keywords, page description, links. You can learn the basics in an hour or two. That immediately puts you ahead of at least 80% of other writers, maybe more. Basic SEO is not complex, and you don’t need anything other than the basics.
If you use WordPress, install and use the Yoast SEO plugin. It’s free, and it leads you through creating the meta data for posts and pages.
7. Integrate: in 2017, everything works together
Once upon a time — 12 or more years ago — you could write, complete a project, get paid, and go on your merry way, whistling happily to yourself.
In 2017, you need to integrate your writing (whether for clients, or yourself) into the social media landscape.
We discussed goals earlier. Goals are vital for every writing project. Before you begin a project, know the results you want, and make a plan for getting those results.
Here’s an example. A client approaches you to write a review of his latest product on your blog. The product’s a great fit for your blog, so you agree that you will:
- Write a review of the product, creating photos of you and your kids using the product;
- Create five photos, and you’ll post those photos to your Instagram account;
- Use one of the photos, and will write an update for your client’s website/ blog;
- Create pins from the photos, and will post those to both your client’s and your Pinterest accounts (the client doesn’t have a Pinterest account, so you’ll also create one for him);
- Post three photos, with original text content, to your client’s Facebook page…
If I could choose two words for writers in 2017, they’d be: INTEGRATE and VISUAL.
Which brings us to…
8. Be visual: in 2017, visuals count — become a better photographer
In 2017, it’s no longer enough to write. You need to source images too. This applies whether you’re writing for yourself, or for clients. Every social media network is heavily image-based. So is Amazon. And the Web.
Here’s a hard fact. Back in the day, a writer could say: “I do the words, a designer does the graphics.”
You can’t get away with that in 2017. YOU do the visuals. Why? One reason: SPEED. Whatever you’re writing, you need the ability to create basic images yourself.
Sourcing images sounds like work, and it is. Luckily, there are plenty of stock image libraries, with great images. Yes, you need to pay for them. In 2017, the days of using free images from the Web are pretty much over. Free images are free for a reason, and you need to protect yourself from licensing issues. Pay attention to the licenses you’re buying from stock photo sites.
Since images are vital, learn how to take your own. Start by using camera in your phone. The photos you take with your phone’s camera may not win awards, but they can nevertheless be effective.
You’ll soon discover that you can charge more when you provide images for content. That may inspire you to buy, and learn how to use, a DSLR.
We’ll have a lot more to say about photos and other images in 2017.
9. Build your mailing list: become valuable to your writing clients, and to your readers
Writers tend to dismiss mailing lists. Please don’t. It doesn’t matter what kind of writing you do, your mailing list needs to be the lifeblood of your business.
If you’ve ever said:
- “I need better clients”, or
- I need to sell more books”…
Mailing lists are the answer. Become a resource, both for your clients, and for your readers. You’ll become a better writer, and you’ll sell more of whatever it is that you write.
10. Build your visibility: locally and/ or globally
In 2017, visibility is a real challenge. You need to get yourself in front of writing clients. Self-publishing? You need to get onto readers’ radar.
In essence, you need to build your platform, and you can’t do that overnight. You can do it gradually, as long as you know what you’re aiming for… that brings us back around to goals. 🙂
2017 can be your best-ever writing year, when you grow, and learn
When you grow as a writer, you’ll become a better writer. You’ll get more satisfaction from your writing, and your confidence will build too.
Please realize that there’s a huge battle for attention in 2017, and aim to stand out. I wish you all success.
Happy writing. 🙂
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