My guest is Michelle Travis with Samuraiko Productions. Michelle is a technical writer by trade, but has experience in the content writing world as well. She's friendly and extremely knowledgeable. For those author's out there looking for book trailers, Michelle creates those too.
As far as content writing here's what she has to say:
Being a Content Writer can be a tricky business, as the 'content' you're expected to produce from one job to another can vary widely. Barring specialized fields, there's no real certifications involved, no specialized training or college courses you can take to become a Content Writer (although classes in journalism, English, technical/business writing, or anything else that hones your actual writing skills are always useful). You'll find yourself writing anything from marketing copy to game dialogue to the latest blog from your local hospital on its blood drive that month. Sometimes you have to produce the content yourself; other times, you're given a bunch of documents (marketing copy, a case study, a series of images, and a topic) and told, "Put this together in one cohesive piece." One boss will want your distinctive voice and writing style, while another will want the entire writing team to sound like the same person.
So how do you get started as a Content Writer? Here are some of the most important things you'll need:
** KNOWLEDGE - If you don't have it, find it and get it. (And if you don't know, ask someone who does.) And this doesn't just mean about your subject matter, either. If you're producing content for a company with multiple audiences, know whom you're writing for and what you are and aren't allowed to say. (Writing a procedure for a developer is very different than writing it for Joe Average who can barely use a computer.) If security clearances or legal compliance is involved, make sure to confer with 'those in the know' about what can and cannot be included.
** FLEXIBILITY - Depending on your employer's needs, you may need to produce anything from a 1-2 paragraph article to a 26-page white paper. Granted, if your real talents lie in a particular type of writing, they may restrict your duties to that, but adaptability improves your hiring chances.
** HTML/XML - With so much writing taking place on the Web, knowing how to write your own code has its advantages. Few things are more irritating than writing a terrific piece that ends up horribly formatted because the coding went wonky. The W3SChools Online Web Tutorials site (http://www.w3schools.com/) is a terrific resource for this - the more you know, the more easily you can write for web format, and how to make the web designer's life easier.
** STYLE GUIDES - Note the plural there. In twenty years of writing, I've used the Modern Language Association (MLA) Style Manual, the American Psychological Association (APA) guide, the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style, and the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications. Some employers don't care which format you use as long as it's readable; others hold everyone to the same guidelines. Many guides have a quick-reference online version available for use; however, if you intend to specialize in a field, invest in the actual book and keep it handy.
Most importantly of all, your writing portfolio and resume should always reflect the best of you and your work. Whether you're a Jill-of-all-trades or a specialist, show it. And polish it within an inch of its life - there is nothing so embarrassing as being a writer who finds typos or bad formatting in her portfolio. EVERYTHING must be right. And as always, like the directions say for how to get to Carnegie Hall... practice, practice, practice!Zowza! Content writing seems to be very similar to technical, from the detailed knowledge a writer must have about the subject to the variety of formats and requests. Obviously it pays to be have experience in multiple fields, not just one, when writing content.
Thank you Michelle for sharing the information. I'm now going to go have a look at my resume and just about every other piece of content I've wrote for typos, and other errors. The whole 'polish it within an inch of its life' is making me wonder how often I've made a mistake. :)
If you're interested in tapping into Michelle's knowledge bank for a project stop by her website. Also you can find Michelle roaming the Twitterverse. Just look for @samuraiko