Is Commercial Writing a Career Option for You?

Would you like to be a commercial writer? We hope these top tips will help you on your way 🙂

If you’ve toyed with the idea of earning a living through your creativity you may well have dismissed the thought as a fanciful pipe dream. Undertaking commercial writing is fraught with difficulties. Most parents, educators and people whose opinions we trust will tell you this, but in my book that’s exactly the reason to pursue your dream or ambition to be a writer.

Ignore the Setbacks

You should keep going and ignore the setbacks. They will happen but perseverance gets you there in the end.

My own journey has been difficult and extraordinarily challenging. If I am honest it still is. It took me 50 years to actually start earning a full-time living from writing. That doesn’t mean this is the blueprint for every budding writer though. I guess what I’m saying is that you should never give up; pack your dreams into a box and stack them in the attic. Keep going.

You might be wondering what took me so long.

The answer is quite simple. I listened to other people’s doubts, I didn’t take my own talent seriously and I compared myself to others. Essentially I thought my work was missing the vital ingredient. What I didn’t take into account was the elusive missing ingredient in the fact that I’m not like the classic writers that went before. Why would I want to write like them anyway? I am not dead, white or a man for a start. My perspective, feelings, experience and education are completely different. The day I realised that my perspective is as valid as anyone else’s was really when the breakthrough happened.

Build Your Confidence

The poet UA Fanthorpe once said that it was only giving up teaching and not being surrounded by ‘great writers’ that helped her find her own voice. Once you have established and feel comfortable with your writing voice you become a more confident writer. And confidence is the key ingredient that will propel you towards success.

But it’s important to distinguish between confidence and delusion. It is vital that a writer studies, researches, listens, asks questions and seeks out opinions, teachers, gurus and motivators. Otherwise you are ploughing forward with no real direction. A writer needs to understand that everyone can offer a different perspective. They are not you. What you are reading now is just a way – it is not THE way.

However, that doesn’t mean you should always ignore what others say about your work. Each one of us should be trying to learn something new every day. That’s what makes the journey as inspirational as it is difficult. Remember, an editor has the final say and therefore you’d better listen.

Believe in Yourself

Self-belief is central to becoming a writer or any other creative type.

If you crumble at the first negative comment or response then you might as well pack up now. It might be painful, it might be disappointing, but when you get over the initial shock that’s when the true learning begins.

I will never forget being in a seminar with esteemed poet and writer Simon Armitage at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Creative Writing MA course. I had handed in a poem for critique by my fellow students. They commented on the poem while I was in the room. They read it as if I was not present. I had to accept all the comments, observations, criticisms etc. without comment. There was no space for me to say, ‘ah well, actually I meant…’; the poem had to stand on its own two feet. This particular piece was about an A4 side of print in length. Towards the end of the session Simon said, ‘you know the essence of the poem is actually in the final four lines’.

When I’d recovered from the shock I isolated the final four lines and it was absolutely true. Everything I had said before it had been a cough; a build up to the main point. Therefore after some savage editing I had found the big idea. I’m not saying that the ego wasn’t dented in the process but what’s more important? Writing something that has impact or labouring under the delusion that your work is great? There are some misunderstood geniuses about but not many.

Editing, as I mentioned before, is a massive deal and cannot be understated.

Many people can write but editing skills transform even mundane prose. I am lucky to work with another writer who has taken on the job of editing the blogs I post here. I write with that in mind and have stopped being so precious about my work. Not every piece of prose or poetry has to live, even though I have given birth to it, as it were. That’s another extremely valuable lesson.

So if you’re thinking about becoming a commercial writer here are some tips to help you succeed.

10 top tips for anyone considering commercial writing as a career

1) Keep writing

Whether you’re having a good or bad day, you must write every day. It’s like exercising. The more you do the more you are able to do and the better you get at it.

2) Set yourself tasks

Self-editing is a skill that takes time to develop. You can practice by writing an article then cutting it by 250 words. Then cut it in half again and then write a tweet summarising the article. This will help you understand how much ‘fluff’ is in the article. Don’t use three words when one will do!

3) Avoid clichés

And avoid them like the plague. A lazy and timeworn cliché is the hallmark of an uninventive writer. They are too easy to call upon and reduce the impact of your message. It’s like watering down a fine wine. Stick to your message and create your own style and prose.

4) Proof read

Always, always review work before you publish. One typo is forgivable, two are unprofessional, three are unacceptable. You should proof your work more than once, in fact. Every 250 words is about right, depending on the length of course. You could even try reading your article backwards to spot mistakes, or increasing the font size to 22 so each word is clear when you are proofing.

5) Read, read, read

Research needs to be carried out continually. Look for trends, fresh ideas, relevant news and people whose work you admire. What can you learn from their approach? Taking the time to read other people’s work is essential for developing your own style.

6) Read different genres

Just because a genre doesn’t appeal to your own doesn’t mean you won’t learn something from it. A truly creative writer is able to vary their style and copy according to the nuances of multiple genres.

7) Consider context

Content writing is a very different animal to writing novels or even non-fiction. Readers searching for content online want quick wins. They haven’t got time to read two paragraphs before you start making a point. Simple language, clarity, bullet points and sub-headers are the kind of double readership techniques people look for in commercial writing.

8) Use a cheat sheet

There’s nothing wrong with modelling your work on a formula that has already proven successful. Find content specifications from different websites and see if what you’re writing fits the house style. Try writing in different styles and keep experimenting. Find your personality.

9) Create a portfolio

When pitching to websites you’ll need to direct the receiver to a record of your work. Preferably an beautiful, well organised one. Consider using tools like Behance, Dunked or Carbonmade to create an attractive and professional-looking portfolio.

10) Create continuity

Often writers will write something, publish it, promote it for a week and then forget about it. It goes away to the archives never to see another day. Instead, you could utilise what you’ve written by picking out a few words, phrases or sentences to use for the creation of you next piece. Not everything is a work of art and new topics are often grounded in existing material. This is a common process when it comes to commercial writing. It’s a bit more rigid than pen-and-paper fictional writing but there’s no reason for it not to be exciting, original and creative.

These are just a few simple ideas. To find out more about creativity, or commercial writing do contact us for more information. We are planning a brand new course for 2017.

Vivienne K Neale Digital provides writing services to companies globally and in the UK. If you need blogs, content for infographics, video scripts, leaflets, brochures or absolutely anything that requires words we can help.

We also accept blog posts from freelancers and other companies who are interested in guest post opportunities. You can submit content through our Contact us page. But please bear in mind the following guidelines:

Blogs should be a minimum of 750 words.

Each article need a Headline and a meta description

They should be written in fairly short paragraphs. Make use of sub headlines, bullet points etc. and other double readership techniques as appropriate.

Grammar and spelling should be perfect – that’s a given.

Font should be Calibri 14 points and double spaced

Topics should be: digital marketing, creativity, freelancing, social media. If you want to submit something else ask us first.

We want a perspective. We are not interested in a re hash of something that has already been written.

Copyright free images should be included with captions.

You can send the finished article or pitch us with a detailed idea.

Posts are not remunerated but we do promote them on our social media networks and offer you a boilerplate upon which to promote yourself.

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