Originally published to my account on HubPages in 2014.
Call us web writers, web publishers (if you have your own site or blog), content writers or which ever phrase you choose – we all need to know some basic stuff about writing and publishing for the web. We should all have standard elements which make us authorities as someone who writes online. I looked at what businesses are looking for in hiring content writers and thought I’d share what I found.
What Ideas do you Have?
Before anyone hires a content writer they should find out what ideas the writer has for their topic. Not just that you have ideas, but where the ideas are going and are they on track for what the site/ blog wants? Do you have a sense of what the site is about, the style they like and the direction they want to grow in? Do you know who they are and can you fit in with them? Do you have enough of the right ideas?
Do you use a Style Guide?
Have you ever had a style guide? Do you know what a style guide is?
A style guide for writers is a collection of how-to notes, like a writing guideline about how to use the right words for the right things. It is used by newspapers as a reference.
Style guides were written for individual newspapers as a guide to keeping consistent and accurate standards with all their reporters when it comes to things like grammar, punctuation, titles, abbreviations, measurements, technical terms, forms of address, spelling, and so many other big and small things which come up in writing.
At some point, the Associated Press became the accepted style guide for all the newspapers, press, in the US. In Canada we have our own style guide which (last time I checked) originated with the Globe and Mail newspaper.
Working with Clients?
You may not have experience working with clients you have found yourself. This could be the first time you have had a serious interview about a paid job as a content writer online. So, think of work you actually have done and use the experience and knowledge you have. Don’t try to make something up or pretend you have all kinds of client experience under your belt.
Do think logically and practically. Think about what a client would want and how you could work with them to get them what they want from the site you are writing for (or building).
I think this is debatable as a good thing. I do understand the point – a professional writer who takes their work seriously would be long to professional organizations. But, if you don’t have the budget for annual memberships are they worth it?
I have joined online groups of writers. Communities and networks are great too. I seldom have the time or the energy to put into them however. I’m not an extrovert.
Chances are professional organizations for writers will be less expensive and more interesting for you socially if you find them locally. Find out about writing groups, associations and networks in your location and see what they can do for the price of a membership. If you go to an interview where they ask about professional organizations you can say you belong to your local organization (or the national or international organization if you want to spend the money on them). You can be a lurking member after all. Someone who pays for the membership, carries the card around in your wallet and doesn’t do a thing with it.
- Professional Writers Association of Canada
- The Society of Authors (UK)
- Australian Society of Authors
- American Society of Journalists and Authors
Don’t forget to look for writer’s associations in you niche or genre too.
How well do you know Computers and Software?
How well do you know your own computer? Do you know how to use more than one OS (operating system like Windows or Linux or the Mac)? Do you know how to use the features of a word processor? Do you know more than just WordPress as content management software? Can you work on the HTML side of WordPress, type in the HTML code for a link, an image?
- Do you know keyboard shortcuts?
- Do you know how to reboot?
- Do you routinely keep back up copies of your work?
- Can you work with WordPress or Blogger?
- Do you know basic HTML and CSS?
Content Writer Versus Copy Writer?
There is a difference between content and copy. I wonder how many web writers know this? The words content and copy have become mixed and usually it is all labelled content, like text based filler. It isn’t so.
Copy is traditionally sales copy. Written for advertising and marketing, to sell something.
Content is not sales based but meant to inform, entertain or explain.
Content is for readers and copy is for shoppers.
Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling?
Do you know the basics?
- Do you know alot is not a word?
- Do you know the difference between there. their and they’re?
- Do you know when to use its and when to use it’s?
- Do you know how to use effect and affect?
- Do you know which letters should be capitalized in a title/ header?
- How is your spelling – spellcheck doesn’t count.
Spellcheck can’t actually read. Every post should be proofread, manually.It isn’t enough to skim what you have written. A good way to really test it out is to read it out loud. Don’t feel silly or skip this because you “know” you checked it twice already. When you have a really important writing project to work on the best way to be sure you wrote it well is to read it out loud the next day. There is always a snag somewhere when you don’t just read it in silence to yourself. Try it and see for yourself. I know you will be surprised.
- Do you know how to proofread, what are your best methods?
- Do you check your work for typos, wordiness and style?
- What is your best proofreading method or trick?
Search Engine Optimization?
Do you really know your stuff? Working for someone else means doing more than you might for your own conent, it also means doing it their way. How adaptable are you? If your way really is better can you explain and prove it to them? Do you really know what you are talking about?
- Do you know how to find great keywords?
- Do you know how to use meta tags and blog post tags too?
- How many social media accounts do you have and keep active?
- Do you know how to add a summary to your post?
- Do you know how to write a great headline for keywords and readers?
SEO is really not my favourite thing. But, it is a part of the online content writer’s world now. It has even begun sinking into print writer’s job descriptions.
What Blogs Do you Read?
You can mention the well known standards like ProBlogger, CopyBlogger and ReadWriteWeb. But, surprise your interviewer and name some sites they may not have heard of but would love to read. Stick to content relevant to writing and publishing online but find an amazing but not so well known blog to introduce them to and show them you know what you are doing out there.
What are you Reading?
I think this is a smart thing to ask. What have you read lately? Fiction or non-fiction? What kind of writer doesn’t have their nose buried in a book at least a few times a week?
It’s a good thing to read about writing, about publishing and topics related to the publishing industry. Read books, ebooks, magazines and blogs too.
Be well rounded when it comes to fiction. If someone talks about a book from classic literature won’t you feel a bit silly if you don’t at least know the general story?