Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How to Write for the Web Series - Figuring Out What Your Client Wants

Every once in a while someone new asks me how to write for the web. I often share advice and decided that maybe it was time to write a series for this blog that helped those just delving into the world of writing for the web. Because this blog has been about my own journey as a freelance writer, posts typically illustrate where I am in my writing career at the moment I write the post. I thought a series that went back to basics might help me fulfill the needs of some of the people that land on my site querying for beginning writer's help.

Today, I want to help those who want to write for a new client but don't know quite how to approach an assignment that they receive. It's fantastic when you're a beginner and start getting writing work. But it can be a bit frazzling to get an assignment and not know how to proceed. Not all web content buyers communicate precisely what they want so it's up to you as a professional writer to be a consultant of sorts and to help guide them and uncover their needs.

Different website owners have different desires for their content. Before you start a project, you need to figure out what your client wants. Never just assume. How do you find out? If there aren't any/enough specifications given to you in a project brief, ask. It'll save you time and frustration.

Better to ask than to do a rewrite, I say!

Ask Questions:

-Who's your target audience?

-Where will the article go?

-What's your desired call to action for people reading this article.

Target Audience

Knowing who the client's target audience is can help you write to a specific demographic. If your client says s/he wants the article to appeal to people wanting to lose weight, that gives you a good starting point.

You can imagine who you're writing to and write in a way that they can relate to. Articles and sales copy, in particular, should be written to appeal to the audience otherwise they're useless. If you can write for your client's prospects, they have more chances of success. Their success will lead to future orders and word of mouth referrals. If they haven't yet determined their target audience, you can help them figure that out so that they have a greater chance of success.

Writing Location

Knowing where the article will go can put things into context and make the task ahead crystal clear. If your client tells you where the article will reside, you can familiarise yourself with that site so that the article you write fits well. Part of ghostwriting includes being able to take on a particular writing voice for a client and using their website as a research tool can help you to do that well.

If your client is using your articles for article marketing, this helps you write with the site's editorial guidelines in mind. If your client wants you to write for their existing blog, knowing that fact can help you follow the format and style they use on their blog and if they want you to write for a fresh new blog, knowing this can help you determine other questions to ask.

Call to Action

-Some web content writing jobs are articles written for the purposes of being search engine spider food.

-Some are written to describe products and / or services a client wants to sell.

-Some point to a client's website and others sit on a client's site.

Articles are often written and posted in order to pre-sell someone on something or to spark comments and conversations. Ask your client what they desire as the outcome for people that read the articles and you'll have a greater understanding of what to write and how to help them reach their desired objective.

In my writing business, I actually use a client questionnaire fairly often. I've made up a nice-looking document with my business card on it that I personalise to a client or prospect. Some customers come to me with their wish list in hand, which makes things easy, but when a new client touches base and doesn't quickly articulate their needs --- my questionnaire helps.

Some of the topics are already covered here in today's post but if you're interested, check it out at my business blog: Questions a Freelance Writer Should Ask A Prospective Client. I wrote that post to tell my clients why I want information from them. By telling them how it would help me to a better job for them, most are more than happy to provide information.

The more you know about your client, the better you can take care of their needs and produce content for them that will do the trick, get you repeat business and referrals, and help you do your job quickly (time is money!) and easily.

I plan to tackle several "how to write for the web" basics in the coming weeks. If there's a specific area you'd like me to cover, feel free to comment and let me know how I can help you.


Anklebuster said...

Hi Dana!

Your advice can help webmasters when they refer their clients to writers.

I'll incorporate a questionnaire into my best practices.

By the way, it's nice to see you over on Getting Paid To Write Online.



Dana Prince said...

Thanks , Mitch :)