With more and more businesses looking to grow and develop their brands online, the market for creating online content and copy for remote freelance workers has never been brighter.
Today’s consumers have very different expectations of the companies they buy from than they had a mere twenty years ago. Today, consumers are looking to connect, engage and identify with the brands their purchases help to support. Today’s consumer expects more attention to be paid to customer experience.
This shift in consumer habits has caused an increase in demand for online content, social media marketing, and the like. Furthermore, this increase in demand for online content has only fueled the growing tendency for workers to carry out their duties remotely and even spawned a host of new freelancers, digital nomads, and entrepreneurs.
If you’re looking into how to be your own boss and succeed at self-employment, the time has never been better. And if you’re asking yourself how to survive a toxic workplace, you might want to consider doing what hundreds of thousands have done already – simply create their own workplace.
In this short article, we’ll take a look at some of the fundamental characteristics of good online content, and how to make your content more engaging and in line with readers’ expectations. By incorporating the tips and advice covered in this article, you should be able to deliver a better product, grow your client base, and even increase your rates. Then you’ll be armed and ready to check out these 20 niche job boards for your next search.
Online Content Is a Visual Medium: Good Content Is Skimmable
Writing or story-telling has never really been considered a visual medium. So, it is a bit counter-intuitive for a copywriter to approach his or her profession through this lens. But it is an important fact to take into consideration. Online content is a visual medium – even (maybe especially) online written content.
What are the implications of writing for a visual medium?
As a good chef knows, the diner eats first with their eyes. The taste or digestibility of the dish the chef has prepared is meaningless if the visual presentation is botched. The same can be said for creating online content.
It is unrealistic to expect that your ‘reader’ will actually read your content – at least at first glance. Instead, they are more likely to skim the material, to drink it in with their eyes and try to take in as much information as they can in the quickest way possible.
The content writer, thus, has to think as much in terms of creating content that is appealing to the eyes as he or she thinks in terms of content that is appealing to the mind.
Here are a few helpful guidelines to take into consideration:
- Keep the Headlines short (one line is ideal)
- Keep the paragraphs short (5 lines maximum)
- Keep the sections or headings at a consistent length
- Mix in bullet points, images, and graphs
After glancing at your content, the visitor will then want to skim it or go through it at an accelerated pace skipping over the information they feel is not important to them. To make your online content skimmable, in addition to the above-mentioned points, each paragraph should have a self-containing point (one that does not spill over but leads into the next paragraph).
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Good Content Has a Narrative Flow to Its Headings
Since the ‘reader’ of your online content is more likely to skim the content than read it – at least at first – it is important to keep them engaged by making it easy for them to skim, rather than frustrate them and force them to do something they do not want to do, like read.
Readers will skim largely with the help of the headings. If the reader were to look at nothing else other than the headings in your online content, they should, still, be able to walk away with a decent understanding of what the content is about, its tone, and its intended objectives.
The headings should not be interchangeable. Rather, they should serve as a succinct version of your content, and they themselves, to an extent, are able to convey the information you wish to convey without the help of the paragraphs they are heading.
For this reason, rhetorical questions – questions that are not meant to be answered or whose answers will immediately follow their asking – are often a poor choice for online content. More often than not, they prevent the reader from skimming the content. When they come across a question in the heading, they may feel compelled to stop, investigate, and find out the answer.
While getting a reader to stop and investigate the article you are proposing might seem like a great idea – mission accomplished – but in this context, it comes with many drawbacks. Firstly, you are preventing the reader from doing what they would like to do (skim your article). This could lead to frustration or for them to simply go on to another piece of online content that is more catered to their consumer habits.
Secondly, rhetorical questions bring the ‘authority’ of a piece down. Using rhetorical questions is often perceived as amateurish, presumptive, salesy, or all of the above. While not every reader reacts to rhetorical questions in this way, enough of them do that you are ultimately risking alienating many readers in exchange for very little benefit. If
Good Content Includes Staples of Good Story-Telling
Ultimately, when we read, we want information or a story – and there’s no reason we can’t have both.
Even in a piece of online content that is meant to convey information or increase brand awareness, implementing staples of good story-telling can help to make your online content more engaging for your readers.
Some staples of story-telling you may want to consider using include:
- Conflict – your character or narrator wants something, and something is standing in the way of them getting it
- Stakes – What will the consequences be if your character does not get what he or she wants? The answer to this question is what’s known in story-telling as the stakes.
- Transformation – the character, or the world at large, is different at the end of the story than they were at the beginning. the events of the story have changed the character.
In a Nutshell
As more and more businesses are seeking to engage their customers – both current and prospective – the opportunities for remote freelance content creators keep growing. To write copy that is engaging, will satisfy your clients, and help you expand your business, keep in mind that you are writing for a visual medium and incorporate the essential elements of good storytelling.