Do you remember the first time you spoke the words?
I’m a writer.
It’s a little like getting that letter of acceptance to Hogwarts.
It’s exciting and intriguing. Maybe a little scary as well.
Of course, your parents think you’ll end up living in a van by the river. You think you might end up living in a van by the river.
And there may be some marketing involved. That’s a little weird to think about.
The actual life of a professional writer isn’t always as fascinating or as sexy as people think. But that’s okay. You don’t have to ruin the magic for everyone else. In fact, I want you to own it.
No matter what kind of writing you do, the practical elements matter. If you actually meet your deadlines, you’re a rare and valued unicorn, and your clients, colleagues, and editors will love you.
But in addition to practical stuff, there’s the sleight of hand.
Yes, the world wants you to be a commodity
When you start out as a professional writer, you might think the landscape looks pretty bleak. Traditional journalism and publishing are struggling, and their writers are paying the price.
And we’ve all seen the cheap freelance websites, where clients can buy words that are churned out for pennies.
The work coming from those sites might be stiff, stilted, awkward, or downright ridiculous, but some clients just want words to fill up their websites. It’s a lousy strategy, but there’s not much we can do about clients who just don’t get it.
Some people are always going to think, “Well, everyone knows how to write.” As professional writers, our job is to identify those time-wasters as quickly as possible and chase them away. They’ll never pay you what you’re worth, and they’ll never respect the work you do.
(The latter can be worse, by the way. There’s nothing quite like the experience of a delusional client or colleague who thinks he can write, helpfully “editing” your work.)
But the world also wants you to be a shaman
Then there are the others. The ones who see us as shamanic, mystical figures.
Writers create emotions, thoughts, impulses, memories, and even actions out of thin air — literally from nothing. That’s magical.
Now we don’t see it that way, because we know how much ass-in-chair time it takes to make that magic — how much time working on our craft, improving our skills, studying technique, structuring and planning our work, and pounding the keys it takes to get the words put together.
Not to mention that scary marketing ourselves part.
There are lots of folks in the world who know that “everyone knows how to write” is just wrong.
And the magic isn’t just for fiction writers. If you’re a freelance copywriter or content strategist, lots of your colleagues with more “normal” job titles think you’re something right out of Harry Potter.
So you have a choice. You can believe the people who don’t think you matter. Or you can believe the people who do.
I’d strongly recommend you pick the second option. It’s much more fun.
As a professional writer, you are the product
Last weekend, I spoke at Jeff Goins’s terrific Tribe Conference — an event for serious writers who are looking to find an audience for their work.
My talk was primarily about how writers in the early stages need to realize that the words are their “product,” but that words aren’t enough. As a professional writer, you need to market yourself.
Most writers I know hate this idea.
Writers typically don’t want our audience to look at us. We want the audience to focus on our words — on the language, and what the language evokes.
But the 21st century has different rules, and audiences expect more from you. No matter what kind of writer you are, audiences want to understand something about who’s creating those words.
Even if you’re a pure marketer or copywriter selling content marketing strategy, even if you’re selling the results of what you write — and as a copywriter or content marketer, that’s just what you should sell — you need to harness a little writer’s magic for your own marketing.
Get more of you into your marketing
Back in the day, when I was just starting out as a freelance copywriter, I got some advice from the very smart and savvy Communicatrix.
She told me that my site had some decent writing, but it was impossible to know whether or not it would be enjoyable to work with me.
Was it a good thing that I used my site to demonstrate my writing ability? Of course it was.
But I also needed to use that site to show that I was a personable and likeable person to do business with. That I had a sense of humor — especially about myself.
That I took my work seriously, but didn’t take myself seriously.
Now sometimes people take this as a license to be a train wreck — that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about creating yourself as a character in your own marketing. Yes, it’s the “real you,” but it’s the elements of your complete real self that are interesting, engaging, and relevant to your audience, and to the marketing story you’re telling.
The hardest marketing strategy for writers
If there’s a near-universal truth about writers, at least the ones I’ve met, it’s that they have a tough time marketing themselves.
It’s embarrassing and it feels weird and it’s so much more fun to write about something or someone else.
But if you want to get paid (and reach more readers), you need to put on the Big Person Underpants and learn how to market your own work.
The best resource we offer for that today is our Authority community of content marketers.
It’s a specialized community for folks who create writing magic — who put words together in order to get a specific, well-thought-out result — either for their own businesses or for clients. (Or both.)
If you’re a freelance copywriter, content marketer, or a business owner who’s taken charge of your own marketing, this is your place.
It’s a place full of people who Get You. (Trust me, your family and friends don’t, at least not when it comes to your writing.)
It’s an educational community, where you can learn about the marketing topics that might be hard for you, and refine the skills that are already strong.
It’s a “professional grade” association of and for professional writers and content marketers.
I’m looking forward to connecting with you there!
If you’ve been thinking about joining, here’s where you can find out more about the Authority community of content marketers.