When you want to make a living writing you’ve simply got to write for your reader.
I use the singular because I find it easier to have one reader in mind even though I hope multitudes will read my writing. As I’m writing this, for example, I’ve really got just one forum member in mind. I know if I catch that person’s attention most of the other members will also be interested.
Writing for one ideal reader also avoids the danger of trying to write for everyone.
Jonathan Fields explains this danger clearly in his The Moment You Speak To The World, You Speak to No One.
Choosing your ideal reader
Of course, as a freelancer it’s highly likely you will have more than one ideal reader. But you address them one at a time.
“Wait,” you stop me. “How do I know who my ideal reader is in any example?”
There are two ways to decide who your ideal reader is for any particular piece of writing. It’s either someone you know and can have in mind as I’m doing now, or you make them up. In either case you make sure that what you’re writing is aimed right at them.
The more you know about your ideal reader the better. Make sure you have their gender in mind, their approximate age, their station in life, the kind of work they do, their income and their dreams. If you’re new at this you may want to jot that information down and have it in front of you while you write. With some practice you’ll be able to hold them in your head as it were.
Slicing the freelance writing pie into thirds, let’s take a look at each potential or ideal reader.
When you’re marketing yourself
When you’re marketing yourself your ideal reader is exactly the client you want. One way to learn more about them is to interview the client you have that you consider ideal. Ask them how they found you, why they liked you, why they hired you, what they liked best about your writing, etc. This will give you, in most cases, surprising insights that you can use when you’re promoting yourself and your writing.
When you’re writing for a client
When you’re writing for a client you really have two ideal readers, the client and the client’s ideal reader. One of the quickest ways to determine your client’s ideal reader is to get clear on the precise results your client wants from the writing you’ll be doing.
Does, for example, your client want the reader to buy something, join an email list, sign a petition or take some other action? You also should ask your client about the demographics, they are trying to reach, age, gender, lifestyle, etc.
As you’re having this discussion, and sometimes it takes more than one, with your client you’ll also be developing a feel for the kind of writing that will both satisfy then and get the desired result.
By the way, when you’re writing for a magazine or other publisher they are your client and you’ll be writing for the editor as well as the target audience. Imagine the ideal reader in the target audience to make your writing work.
When you’re writing for yourself
Between blogs and self-publishing more and more of us are putting writing out there in hopes someone will read it. That someone is your ideal reader. Take time to really thing through who your book or your blog is for.
What do you want them to do? Maybe you’re teaching a skill. Perhaps you’ve had a life experience and learned something you hope will make others’ life easier. Maybe you simply want to share. In each instance and many more there is an ideal reader for your writing. Get to know them and write for them. You’re writing will benefit greatly from this practice.
Who are you writing for?
Write well and often,