In part one of this series on making a nice living as a digital writer, we explored some of the different types of digital writing. In part two, we’ll explore the path to becoming a digital writer, and learn a little about how you can make it happen for you. In part 3. we will discuss potential earnings of digital writers and how you can enhance yours.
Who can be a digital writer?
The best part about digital writing is that anyone with a computer and solid writing skills can do it — and make money!
With the amount of companies who need an online presence, there are hundreds of jobs available in hundreds of different markets. As long as you can write well, you can put just about any previous experience to work for you. Every company needs a writer (even the one you came from).
To stand out from the competition, you will want to define your niche. Look at the areas in which you have experience, both professionally and personally. The best part about niche writing is it doesn’t have to be defined by your education or work experience, but can be chosen based on your interests. If you enjoy gardening, for example, companies will see your flourishing vegetable garden as an example of your knowledge base and passion. This may compel them to hire you over someone with stellar writing skills but no gardening knowledge. Focusing on your niche is one of the keys to turning digital writing into a lucrative career.
If it’s the core digital writing skills you’re worried about, fret no more. The great thing about digital writing is that core skills like SEO and social media marketing are relatively easy to learn. There are dozens of books, eBooks, blogs, and online webinars you can use to build your confidence and knowledge base before you jump into the world of digital writing.
What skills are needed for digital writing?
As described in Because Digital Writing Matters, “Digital writing is more than just a skill; it is a means of interfacing with ideas and with the world, a mode of thinking and expressing in all grades and disciplines.”
Quality writing adapts ideas and messages to the platform on which it will be used, such as a blog, social media, web copy, or video. In this way, writing for online mediums is vastly different than writing for traditional, print mediums.
In addition to basic writing skills, key aspects of digital writing include:
- Leading with the most important information.
- Providing concise, to-the-point messages and facts.
- Writing in digestible chunks to satisfy short attention spans.
- Writing in a well-organized manner so the reader can quickly get the information he/she wants.
It also doesn’t hurt to have basic design or html knowledge to edit photos or help layout web content.
Successful digital writing relies on understanding the platform and what comes with it. Writing a tweet is very different than a blog post or an eBook.
Marketing with Facebook is different than marketing through YouTube. And above all, all digital writing requires a thorough understanding of SEO.
What tools do digital writers use?
Digital writing is technology-focused. Writing for the web doesn’t lend itself toward sitting on a park bench and scribbling in a notebook. There are some basic tools a digital writer must have at her disposal:
- Computer (although with the development of portable tablets and attachable keyboards, writers may not necessarily need traditional laptops anymore).
- Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, or OpenOffice in which to write and edit
- Adobe Acrobat to open, edit and create PDFs
- Web browsers to access web platforms, such as WordPress or Joomla
In addition, access to certain design programs can give you an edge over the competition:
- Adobe Photoshop to edit any photos that accompany content
- Adobe Illustrator to create infographics or information flows
- Adobe InDesign to layout eBooks or newsletters
Certain jobs may require specific software or access to certain resources, such as screenwriting or video editing software. If you see software requirements frequently in job descriptions for your niche market, consider investing in those packages.
Who hires digital writers?
Every successful business will realize the necessity of an effective online presence. Today, digital writers can make their living from virtually any company, from Fortune 500s to home startup businesses.
Do all digital writers freelance?
There is two core categories of digital writers: staff employees and freelancers/contractors.
Both kinds of digital writer are hired to contribute to a company’s online presence in some way. That might mean handling all of their social media marketing, contributing content to a website or writing weekly newsletters. Both staff employees and freelancers may have the same potential to work from home and set their own hours, depending on the job.
The key difference between employees and freelancers is how each interacts with their client or employer.
Staff employees are hired long-term and can usually expect movement and growth within a company, as may have access to company benefits. While a company can rely on an employee’s commitment to their brand, they also have to invest more time and energy to train, legally hire and supply equipment to a long-term employee.
Freelance writers aren’t necessarily tied to a single company or a typical workweek. They often find their own jobs using freelance sites such as Elance, Freelancer, ScriptLance, and most recently Fiverr. They only work on a project for a set amount of time (which can range from one week to several years). Freelancers set their own prices and can start immediately since there is no legal paperwork to process.
Freelancers have more flexibility with their schedule and project choices, but also are not guaranteed a paycheck long-term. The must be highly motivated to find and manage their own jobs. Hiring freelancers can save a company money and time; however employers often never meet their freelancers in person and their freelancer may not have as thorough of an understanding of their brand as an oriented employee.
Now that you understand the digital writing marketplace and what it takes to make a nice living as a digital writer, it’s time to ask yourself: Are you read to take the first steps, and move boldly into this brave new career?