This is a collaborative post.
Matching content and style is a tricky skill, even for the most seasoned freelance writers. Are you a guest blogger who writes for several different sites and blogs? Chances are you work as a freelancer too, and you enjoy the challenge of being paid by the word. Every day brings new writing projects, and the variation can often make a writer’s life more enjoyable.
It’s a great feeling at times to know that you are your own boss. But the thing about being a freelancer is, although you’re self-employed, everyone you create pieces of work for is your boss too. When you’re hired for multiple short jobs, it’s can sometimes feel like you’re riding on a conveyor belt, packed full of people to please, each with their own standards.
Creating copy for such wide-ranging styles of blogs or websites can be difficult. It’s not just about the word count or the deadlines. Gauging the tone to employ in your writing is a fine art. Guest blogging on an established site with a broad readership means you have to fit the expectations of the followers, and writing corporate copy requires an awareness of the intricacies of the brand.
The bottom line here is that knowing who you are working for is just as important as the actual content you are creating. Here are some tips on matching content and style, to help you stay on the right track with your clients.
Time management is also a key component of any freelancer’s toolkit. You may only have a small window of time before your submission deadline, but getting straight onto the site your work is destined for is essential. Do your research, and the work will seem a lot easier once you get into the swing of it. Visit the client’s website, and absorb their ethos, their writing quirks, and their content themes.
Try and soak in as much as quickly as you can. Does the site adopt a formal style? Or do they write with flair? They might use humour or have a preference for the use of passive or active voices.
Read as many articles and web pages, in as many different formats as possible. This is a technique that’s crucial in order to adapt your own writing skills to the varied tones required by your clients. Basically, you need to read as much as you can. You’ll need to hit the ground running every time you start a new project, so get into the habit of getting straight in and working fast.
Matching the style
Some websites that regularly host articles by freelance writers create style guides so that anyone writing for them can adopt the desired style. If you are given access to this information, you need to read it and use it. In your career, you’ll probably come across lots of these documents, and it’s easy to assume that they are all the same. Be careful of this.
Assumptions can land you in trouble, so be sure to take the time to read through each client’s specific needs. Some websites are very particular about certain things, and rightly so. They may prefer a specific type of formatting or even ask for different grammatical styles than the ones you’re used to.
In the long run, you need to make sure you get this tonal styling right first. The ability to match, meet and surpass your client’s requirements is what will set you apart from other freelance writers. Having to be told about a preference because you’ve got a stack of revisions to make might be embarrassing, but more importantly, it’s more time spent on a project. Working as a freelancer, you’re likely paid by the word, so taking more time over those words is costing you.
Often large brands will use corporate documents templates to ensure consistency across all of their employees. If you’re working on a large project for a large organization, it might be worth finding out if there are any such templates you can use as a starting point. Brand guidelines are a really helpful set of documents to have access to, as they’ll help you match your work with the specifics of a brand’s identity.
If you’re not sure, ask. The brand or company would much rather you get it right than go off and create a load of copy they can’t use. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on styling if you feel that it’d be beneficial.
Whatever the project, always remember to do your research and always remember that you’re representing somebody else’s brand with your words. Getting it wrong will cause you a lot of problems. Their business is reliant on your words being delivered on time, and to spec. If you can’t meet their needs, then you’re going to end up harming your own chances of getting repeated work with a company.
Matching content and style is a tricky skill, but if you can master it for your clients then you’ll be able to increase your skill and reputation as a freelance writer. And that can only be a good thing in such a saturated industry.