I’ve earned sustainable income writing online for nearly a decade. I maintain several meta-writing (writing about how to write) blogs. A discussion arose in a professional group on trends in voice (writing style). It got me pondering anew, what it takes to be successful online.
* Develop your own voice. Trends come and go–that’s why they’re called trends. And while it’s good to stay au courant. it’s imperative to maintain your core online persona. Strive for personal and conversational. If you would say it, you write it. Don’t try to sound like someone else. You’ll only sound silly. Like Socrates said, “Know Thyself” and be comfortable with who that is (that’s my add-in).
* Be genuine. My style tends towards bombastic. It’s not put on. I’m a thespian and given to lavish gestures and passionate emotions. But my earlier writing didn’t always sound authentic. I realize I was unconsciously imitating, not embracing my own style. So I cut out the fake and distilled it down to the real me (still loud and boisterous!).
* Write TO an audience, not AT them. Treat readers like casual friends–not too intimate, neither too aloof. Never superior. Remember the five E’s–educate, engage, encourage, empower, entertain. Avoid the five P’s–proselytize, pompous, pontificate, patronize, prat.
* A word on words. Experiment with big juicy words and terse, pithy ones. Employ friendly colloquialisms. Mind trendy phrases which overused, sound schmaltzy. Don’t write slang to “relate” to readers. It’s insulting. Shy away from text-speak (LOL, etc.) Avoid crudeness and cursing–tacky and sometimes offensive. Adults, NEVER try to write like a teen. Adolescents can smell a poseur a mile away.
* Don’t flip-flop. Work within your talent pool. Don’t try to keep up with every passing wind. There’s a demand for advertising copy. But I’m a terrible salesperson. I just can’t wax enthusiastic over a product just because I’m paid to. I prefer to write organic, impromptu reviews on products I’ve tried and liked.
* Bend. Adapt to meet editorial requirements. You may want to only write in your comfort zone. I have friends who’ll only write to their agenda. Fine, but that doesn’t mean others necessarily want to read nor websites buy. Some have gone so far as to cry persecution when articles are rejected for payment. Editors know what sells and what doesn’t. So if you’re hoping to make money, provide content buyers and readers what they want. If not, start a blog.
* Be teachable. So an editor criticized your work. Don’t get your back up. We all make mistakes. You don’t know everything and neither do I. Neither does your editor, but she’s the one who decides if your work is published or not. So humble yourself, accept correction and amend mistakes. I’ve learned so much this way.
* Maintain professional standards. Retool as needed, but don’t bend so far that you break. Don’t redact principles to sell an article. I write commentary and news articles. I won’t write to appease an agenda or drum up scandal.
Bottom line, have fun with it. Readers are drawn to fun, happy writers like cats to sunshine!