Why You Shouldn’t Write for Other Writers

Why You Shouldn’t Write for Other Writers

Reader Comments (85)

  1. Hi Hugh,
    This is spectacular advice and points out a mistake many bloggers (including me) have made. We often forget about the people that were really need to shape our writing for, the ones that are looking for information to help them make a purchase.
    You’re right on with this.

  2. I hear you Hugh, but the problem is that writing killer content that really matters is hard. Creating killer product that they will buy is even harder. One can spend their entire life trying to write or create exactly that, and because they are afraid they can’t, they don’t even start.

    I say:

    Write for nobody. Heck, write for YOURSELf. See how it works for those who matter the most. But don’t write for writers, that much is true.

    Don’t create a killer product. Create a product product fast instead. See if someone buys it.

    If you spend your time figuring out what they want to buy, you will get it wrong, and in the worst case, not create the product at all, because you don’t (think you) know what they want. The secret: you don’t have to know, just do it – then you’ll know.

  3. Hey Hugh,

    I like your point of view. It’s all about the customers not the writer. Provide solutions to the audience that you are addressing and they will purchase. Great topic!

    Chat with you later…

  4. “Clever copy might get the copywriter clapped on the back by his colleagues, but it won’t get the product sold. ”

    How true…..you need to dumb it down for the audience buying your product. Getting all smart and word-smithy (I just made that word up btw) can affect your sales pitch.

  5. Some of the worst offenders are blogs by copywriters. They put in writing tip after writing tip after writing tip. Many of which are excellent, and attract a good crowd of fellow writers. But they’re typically not selling anything to other writers, and their clients don’t have any interest in writing tips — they just want to grow their businesses.

  6. I try to tell people that traffic doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to make money. Comments don’t = customers.

    In many respects, the blogosphere is highly cannibalistic, so it’s nice to hear someone say that we shouldn’t be writing for other bloggers.

    The problem is reaching out to these customers and getting them to find your blog.

    I’m curious…how long did it take to start getting orders?

  7. Identify your target audience. That is step 1 for any writing project.

    Very good post, and nice reminder for marketing copywriters.

  8. That’s a cool insight, Hugh

    I never thought about adjusting my writing style to my audience – after all, people read my stuff because they want to learn and get more of my style (at least, that’s what I think !)

    I keep you advice in mind, but right now, I just write the heck I want to write !

  9. Jamie, I think it’s a mistake to think of it as “dumbing down.” That kind of attitude isn’t going to help you create a bond with your customers.

    As David Ogilvy said, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she’s your wife.” Feel free to substitute husband, partner, mother, son, etc.

  10. Hugh,

    Great article!

    …and I’m now attempting to think of something else to say that will amaze everybody… but it’s not coming to me.

  11. Egads, seriously good news that we’re not trying to sell to other bloggers. That’d be like a magician trying to impress a roomful of his magician buddies. Everyone is impressed with a cool new trick, but it doesn’t mean it’ll work on them as they can all see right through it.

  12. Thanks Hugh!

    I showed some copy to a friend the other day and he made some great points I’d not thought of.

    But then he apologised and said I shouldn’t change anything because “Well, it’s just me, I don’t know about copywriting.”

    The advice was perfect precisely because he wasn’t a copywriter, he was the target audience.

    I also read a great piece of advice recently that said “if you’re tempted to show off your copy to a colleague, bin it.”


  13. Nice work, mister Hugh.

    I don’t have a ‘cool’ blog. I go after the rotary clubbers that are ignored by the 2.0 stuff. They are a base of steady, enthusiastic & hardworking folks. I get projects, and I don’t have to compete with anyone that’s better than me.


  14. I’m working very hard in the “I’m gonna smarten you” category.

    Seems to attract fewer people… but half the people I have attracted are both 1. commenters, and 2. customers.

    Now I need to make them rich!

  15. Don Draper always speaks the truth. I head up the blog for our website, xtraxtra.com, and as a person who focused heavily on writing in school, it definitely took some time to move away from academic/creative writing. When it comes to professional blogging, there’s a delicate balance between sounding personable and persuasive; after all, you’re always trying to communicate your message, but you also want to sound like a person rather than a spam-bot.

  16. Writing for other writers is something that I have to get out of my system on a regular basis… It’s like the junk food of the writing world for me. I’ve come to grips that writing should be sequestered away from the rest of my work: I’ve got a blog that’s pretty much just about the writing that I think only other writers will enjoy, and I certainly don’t promote that sucker.

  17. Good to see you here, Hugh.

    @Beki – excellent magician analogy. Brings the point home nicely.

    (PS. if you want to write for writers, there’s a place for that; click on my name) 😉

  18. Genuine Chris is vastly smart about this stuff. (Of course he is, he learned it all from us.) 😀

    @Bram, I wouldn’t feel too badly about that — maybe 1 post out of 10 can be for other writers to get you some nice organic links. My vote is that you don’t have to go totally cold turkey. It’s when you spend all of your time thinking about how you stand in the blogosphere and no time thinking about actual customers that you have problems. If your intent is to persuade, anyway.

  19. Very good advice and don’t get me wrong, but I think it’s funny that this post is for writers on a blog written for writers. It’s again, the point about knowing your audience. I like it.

  20. Hugh,

    This is a seriously important point. I know that I have recently been guilty of trying to gain the attention of the people in my own niche and they aren’t generally the ones that are buying.

    It’s the same thing as not learning to leave your local community and go out and see the world.

    There are a lot of people out there that NEED to hear your marketing message and will eventually make a purchase, but if we don’t talk in their language and go out and find them where they are hiding, we won’t sell a thing.

    There is quite a bit of incest going on in the bloggosphere, and I think that has exactly to do with your post. We are trying to impress each other and maybe not enough impressing of our customers.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  21. Excellent post AND comments! A brand-new citizen of the blogosphere (less than 3 months), I find myself writing in the style I use for magazines rather than the more casual style I’m aiming for with my food blog. Of course, at this stage I am eager for readers of any sort, whether they are novice cooks or seasoned fellow bloggers.

  22. Hi Sonia,

    “It’s when you spend all of your time thinking about how you stand in the blogosphere and no time thinking about actual customers that you have problems.”

    Exactly. Which is why, as you’re fond of pointing out, a surprisingly high number of blogger rock stars (some who I know personally) are actually dead broke.

    Thanks for the kind comments, Everybody. I hope some of it was helpful 🙂

  23. Brilliant!

    As a recovering attorney, I have been guilty of some form of this many times. With the special twist of ‘writing for other wordy attorney-writers.’ I don’t think the solution is to ‘dumb it down.’ Often my clients or readers are very intelligent and sophisticated people – they do not need to be patronized and would resent it if I tried.

    As described in ‘Made to Stick’ there’s a difference between being simplistic and being elegantly simple. Make a choice to focus on one thing, rather than many, to express ideas with brevity and clarity, to explore the depth of a value or a passion or a position in a brief manner. That’s hard work – but so worth it.

  24. Hugh-

    It is so tempting to fall into the trap of writing for writers, especially when you’re a newbie blogger (like me) hungry for traffic.

    Pinpointing a target (and sticking to it) is a great way to avoid the temptation…

    Thanks for your thoughtful reminder.

  25. Great lesson Hugh!

    One of the most valuable things I ever did was come up with my 3 customer avatars. It became a whole lot easier to write and create video after I painstakingly described my prospects and clients. And none of them looked like my peers, friends or award ‘giver-awayers’ (new word you can look it up 🙂 ).

    Thanks again Hugh.

  26. Very though provoking post. Always keep your audience in mind. If your audience is other bloggers then write for the writers. Most of the time it is not the case. Hugh, keep up the good work.

  27. I’ve said for years that I’m a marketer without a marketing degree – that’s what makes me better. Marketing people write, then they all review each other’s material, and sit around patting each other on the back saying how clever the line was, how great the writing was, and how good this “stuff” is. All the while, they’re forgetting to see if it appeals to the one they are trying to get to read it and act upon it.

    Flowery words, slick copy, and carefully contrived bullet points are worthless if your reader puts it down or clicks away before they get to the “neat stuff” you’ve put in – or worse yet, they get to it and it’s not even about them or fufilling their need.

    Forget the rules, break the rules, toss the rules – do whatever. Get someone (or several someones) from your target audience to read the material (don’t tell them you wrote it if you think they’ll not give you an honest opinion) and get their straightforward and honest feedback. Ask them how they would improve it. I’ll bet it will be better in the end.

    Thanks for a reminder that what we try to do it correct.

  28. I’m still working on subject focus, so eliminating a writing style is greatly helpful to me. Thank you, Hugh.

    Whenever I want to impress someone, I mention that I am a distant cousin of Edgar Allan Poe. There. Done. 😉

    Know thy audience. Incidentally, target hit – I really, really need a clean, workable theme and I am getting ready to click on your Thesis link – thanks for that, too!

    Anita Nelson @ModelSupplies

  29. Learning about and writing to your TARGET audience is so important in marketing. I think the best way to do this is write a detailed description of your perfect customer, then write to him.

    I know that I get caught up in this a lot, and find myself trying to impress other marketers with my products, rather than providing the most value I can to the person who needs the information.

  30. Tracey,

    “It is so tempting to fall into the trap of writing for writers, especially when you’re a newbie blogger (like me) hungry for traffic. ”

    Agreed. Though to be fair, Thomas and I worried about traffic in the beginning (Traffic being an early indicator that you’re doing something right), but once we found our groove it was all about the product…

    Nowadays, if Thomas checks his traffic more than twice a year I’d be surprised…

  31. A good trick for this is to figure out who your customers want to hear from, then ghost write from that perspective. The hardest thing any writer has to do is accept that sometimes they have to let go of their voice to be effective. It’s not about what you want to say. It’s about what you want your customers to hear.

  32. Hi Hugh,

    Again, another uncomplicated, to-the-point article. I guess it’s just a matter of which niche you decide to blog about as well. Sometimes, the stuff you write for the people is also what gets picked by the probloggers. In general, it’s a lot easier speaking from the heart and really engaging with people by telling your own story. Regardless of whether they’re blogger or reader, this always does the trick, no?



  33. Well frickin said.

    Why the hell did it take so long for someone to say that.

    That’s why it’s complete BS when people in the “social media” space criticize sites like Mashable because there’s too much “dumbed down” content. They’re not trying to give advice for the social media experts.

    It’s tough. Usually, the only way to really get a blog going is to join in the “community” of blogs around that niche. Commenting on other blogs, getting involved in other’s communities etc… But then we become so accustomed to pleasing other bloggers, that we forget that’s not who we’re writing for…

    Thanks for the reminder.

  34. Hey Hugh,

    That’s Awesome… adivce man !
    “It’s all about the customers not the writer.” Grreat Point.
    Thanks for sharing your insights !!


  35. Excellent post, Hugh. I have a question is about social proof. If you write for offline audiences or those who aren’t active in social media, people probably won’t comment on your blog very often. To me, it seems that most of the blogs that sell something (whether directly or indirectly) and get a lot of tweets and comments are blogs written for other bloggers or at least those who are active in the social media space.

    So, doesn’t it affect people’s opinion of your blog if they stop by and see that you have no comments/readers? I guess it depends on what you’re selling, but no matter what, social proof plays a role in people’s buying decisions. If people stop by a blog where there are crickets chirping, perhaps they would think twice about becoming your customer, even if your content is good. Is it a matter of writing posts for more than one type of audience?

  36. Hi Hugh,

    Thanks for this timely reminder!

    I have always found it “easier” to write my own blog content when I am not really thinking about it and not worrying about whether other bloggers are going to read/enjoy/link to it.

    When I have approached blog content in this manner, ignoring even keywords or basic SEO then it becomes that much easier to write a solid, helpful post my readers are going to benefit from.


  37. Kathleen,

    Blog comments are a form of social proof, sure. But they’re not the only kind.

    Also, in my experience, most blog commenters are people with opinions, not people who are actually doing the buying.

    I believe in the power of social media. But I also believe it’s a medium that attracts a lot of people with too much time on their hands. Without being rude, you got to be careful not to let the latter hijack your agenda.

    It’s a balance…

  38. “I believe in the power of social media. But I also believe it’s a medium that attracts a lot of people with too much time on their hands. Without being rude, you got to be careful not to let the latter hijack your agenda.”

    Glad someone finally said it.

  39. Beautiful point and elaboration.

    I’m a fan of pick your tribe, connect at the values, speak the lingo, and focus on flowing value for your tribe.

  40. I completely diasgree with this post.

    If you have a blog, others bloggers are the marketing, promotion, and distribution for your own blog. You absolutely should write stuff that gets their attention.

    At my job at a television network, I have to write pitches for ideas that keep in mind our audience and my bosses. If it doesn’t entertain one and make the other shine I won’t get anywhere.

    In the same way if you are writing for your buyers, and ignore the tastemakers (the bloggers in your niche) you’ll be fighting for sales from a low traffic pool.

  41. Hugh & Antti: I once asked a fellow blogger what advice she’d give for creating a successful blog. She posted my question on her blog and a whole bunch of blogger-readers (her main audience) responded with a slew of conflicting advice.

    The two major conflicting advice were

    1. Write for yourself
    2. Write for your audience

    I was completely confused and still am after this post. I see valid reasonings to support both sides of this argument, but bottom line: which is better? which will get you real results (especially if you’re not measuring results by traffic spikes or linkbuilding efforts with other bloggers)?

  42. Well, Hugh you got a point there.

    But there aren’t only writers visiting CopyBlogger. There’s a whole bunch of online marketers here. While the main issue of this blog is about blogging and writing.

    So many people lack decent writing skills and/or lose their interest in a subject – therefore they accept guestposts. That fact generates more people writing for others.

    It’s a continues cycle that can’t be stopped since it started. But we all profit from it, don’t we? The blog owner, the writer and the readers. So what’s wrong with it?

  43. Great reminder…..it can be hard to avoid getting caught up in ‘what will others think?’. When people first started asking, “what are your uniques?”, I found myself constantly on edge about traffic…..but I realized it is important to write for me.


  44. It’s funny how I forget this simple fact. I get caught up in writing for the wrong people. My people are in pain. They hate their jobs. They want relief. I must write from this perspective.

    Hugh, your superpower is breaking through the crap to show us the truth. Thank you.

  45. I love Mad Men and especially Don Draper who I can only imagine being the person to drop that hammer of a line on one of his copywriters! Writing to engage, cultivate credibility and subtly persuade demands that you reign in the “LOOK AT ME” voice in your head so that your reader can experience the IDEA you’re presenting. Where this gets screwed up, even when writing to writers, is when we try to write writing instead of just writing a concise beginning, middle and end to our self-serving TO THE CLIENT based idea. A framework I learned from Eben Pagan that’s helped me stay on point is focusing on: “Why-Why should you care about this?” “What-What’s the info, concepts, the definitions?” “How-How do you do it?” “What If-What happens if you don’t do this?” That structure along with doing inner work on releasing the need for approval has been immensely helpful. I found the Sedona Method and the Release Technique REALLY helped me with this. Great post Hugh, I’m looking forward to what’s next.

  46. I saw a clip last night of David Ogilvy delivering a speech, reminding everyone that ads must sell and there’s danger in creativity in advertising. This reminds me that whatever marketing-related activity we do, producing sales or revenue is still the greatest measure of our effectiveness as copywriters.

  47. I’ve personally never watched Mad Men but it does sound interesting. Though, I would have to disagree with your article for one reason. Writing articles for others can get you started and get your name out there. All by using the trust of the person publishing your article. That way it builds trust with people quicker.

  48. @Dave, just to clarify, we write lots (and lots and lots and lots) of content for online marketers & entrepreneurs, particularly for those who are also writers. Those are also the best customers for our courses, and for products that have a tie to the Copyblogger brand, like Scribe or Thesis.

  49. Hugh,

    Fantastic point and a dilemma most blogger/net-repreneurs face these days when trying to “attract” an audience. Obviously the goal is to get customers, but to get customers you need to be seen, capture their attention. That obviously brings on its own set of challenges and there are many avenues one takes. I think that most people believe that if they can get the attention of the Brian Clark’s, Gary Vaynerchuk’s, Chris Brogan’s and the like then they will, by association get the social proof that can catapult ones presence online.

    I am actually writing an article on my blog about a study I have been doing about commenting on articles. I think too many people are spending their time auditioning in front of the who’s who and too little time engaging with the very community they so desperately need to gain the success they are looking for.

    Just imagine if everyone was writing for their target customer or audience, and spent their time building and supporting the people in that community, perhaps they would have a better shot at the strength they so seek in the community.

    This reminds me of the recent film “The Ugly Truth”. The main character, instead of auditioning for television producers, he started his own show on public access and built his own audience, he created his own space of his audience. Only then did a network notice him.

    I think it’s important to remember that while it would be fantastic for you to spike your traffic scoring a guest post on a big blog, your longevity will come from you building your own community. Best to not loose sight of that. After all, that would be like quitting your job just because you bought a lottery ticket.

  50. Great post Hugh,
    I come here to learn and be inspired and you’ve certainly delivered the goods today!

    Thanks heaps mate.

    Good on ya.

    Peter Montgomery

  51. G’Day Hugh,
    I was going to use that famous David Ogilvy quote but Brian’s already used it. So for once I’ll be brief.
    Always remember the advice of the great Robert Gunning; “Write to express, not to impress.”

    ‘nuf sed,


  52. I’ve thought about that very thing you describe so many
    times… particularly when on blogs like Problogger and

    For instance when I was doing 30 days to a better blog about a year ago, I asked myself many times who I am supposed to be writing this better blog for? Is it to impress
    other bloggers or to interest my target audience which I
    see as beginners who might be trying to understand how
    to make some money on the internet on a very basic level.

    I have settled on writing well about basic concepts… with
    occasional flights of fancy!


  53. Hmmm. While I agree with your point Hugh (it’s a no-brainer, really), I think I kinda disagree with @Sonia…

    Sonia, you say writer-bloggers are some of the worst offenders, but I think there’s a real difference between what Hugh’s describing and what we writer-bloggers often do. I DON’T write my blog posts for clients. Not for the most part, anyway. I write them for other writers. But that doesn’t mean they don’t help me earn $…

    You see, other writers are far more likely to link to my posts than clients are. And to discuss them in social media circles. So blogging for other writers is a far better SEO/social media tactic, than blogging for clients. It helps me rank high for terms like “copywriter”, “copywriting”, “SEO copywriter”, etc. And those are exactly the terms prospective clients are searching for.


  54. Hi Hugh, great article.

    In an above comment you said, “I believe in the power of social media. But I also believe it’s a medium that attracts a lot of people with too much time on their hands. Without being rude, you got to be careful not to let the latter hijack your agenda.”

    I can’t agree with you more. I love Twitter and I’m on it often, but it’s a lot of marketers marketing to other marketers. Writing for the ideal customer in your niche will do you much better in the long run than just creating retweetable stuff.

  55. Thanks, Hugh for a great article.

    This post instantly puts the writer in the marketers mindset. It’s funny and I’ve been accused of doing this in the past. How much time are we going to waste impressing people who won’t buy our products?

  56. @Sonia – it’s your advice I’ve had in my head with each blog post I do on my site. “The trap most freelance writers fall into is they write for other writers. Write for the clients you want to attract — answer their questions…”

  57. I didn’t understand the post title the first time I read it. After reading the post I feel so much more enlightened.

    I may be doing the same mistake unconsciously. Thank you for reminding us with this blog post, Hugh.

  58. Hi Hugh,

    Thanks for reminding us about the most important thing that works – killer content. and also that we should not get bogged down in stuff that doesnt matter much….

  59. This is soooo true. I think a lot of us fall into this trap at one time or the other when we start blogging. I guess that’s one of the reasons why one should have a well defined reason for blogging and who you’re targeting. It goes a long way too.

  60. This is great post and something I have been thinking about A LOT. Echo chamber is a great term that is being tossed around lately.

    You know, someone shared recently a set of questions to ask about your audience before you prepare a prezo. Basic stuff: What are they like? Why are they there? What keeps them up at night? Who can you solve their problem? etc.

    Same thing needs to apply to blogging, but it’s easy to lose site of…

    As marketer’s we spend way too much time talking to ourselves. For example — here I am.


  61. You’re right, all along I do not agree to write for others. This is very detrimental to us, to make their popularity rise and even not a few writers were not known to the reader.

  62. @Glenn, absolutely, you always want to get a good amount of links from quality sources. And “writing for your fellow bloggers” makes that work. But what happens when your client shows up? If he finds you on Google but doesn’t find any content that meets his needs, then what happens?

    Also, I’m a bit confused, as when I Google “SEO copywriter” and “copywriter,” I don’t see you on page 1 — but maybe you’re referring to a different site than the one you linked to here.

    Of course, it goes without saying that if your business is working the way you want it now, don’t fix what ain’t broken. 🙂 But I know quite a number of copywriters who have wonderful sites but not enough business, and when I look at their sites, I don’t see anything that’s pulling in clients and giving them the content they need.

  63. Sonia, I think the trouble here is that a lot of bloggers don’t actually want to have a business. The want to “write for other writers” and get somehow paid for it.

    Nice work if you can get it…

  64. Hey Sonia. Agree completely; definitely need content that works for clients. But it doesn’t have to be your blog. In fact, I find it’s better if it’s NOT your blog. Clients don’t want to read that much. They want to learn — QUICKLY — if you can write how they want, who you’ve worked for, and how much you cost. There are very easy ways to help them with this, that involve little content, and no blog content targeting them.

    Yes, you’re right about my US ranking. I’m Australian based, with an Australian host, and most likely a lot of Australian links. And unfortunately Google is getting too smart. According to Rank Checker, I’m now only no.109 in the US (not sure where Rank Checker’s localised to). Last time I checked (probably months ago), I was no.17 !!! My target market is Australia though (you Americans are trouble, I tells ya!), so number 1 & 2 for “seo copywriter” here, and no.1 for “copywriter” are just fine by me.

    I don’t look (too deeply) at many other copywriting websites, I have to admit. So don’t really have an opinion on your last point. I’ve seen you around, though, and I know you’re smarter than the average bear, so I’m happy to take your word on it! 🙂

  65. I feel that you need not to choose every time that topic, which is available in the internet. Choose that, which interests and inspire you to write more… And “Anything New Topic Blog over Internet Rocks!” .

  66. Hi guys,

    I always felt that if you write for other writers that this would make you a better writer. Because who else can teach you how to improve your writing skills better then a another writer.

    Kind regards,


  67. This is an absolutely brilliant post. I’ve freelanced in advertising and marketing for years so know from experience you speak the truth in that arena. But I was just talking to a friend of mine about this in the context of fiction, as well. It totally relates. ~Meredith

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