Such is the life of a freelance technology writer: seeking steady work that also challenges your intellect, improves your craft, and hones your voice. It’s not easy, especially in a world bursting with technology websites and new writers—some of whom have no technology experience, and others who are technically proficient but lack style. Branding yourself is what makes the difference when you want to stand out, get work, and get paid.
But, where do you start?
To build authority as a technology writer, you need a voice that is your own. Part of this development is a function of time—write enough, and you’ll start to see where you are strongest and where you need the most work. Some writers have a natural lyricism I can’t hope to match, while others (like myself) rely on the ability to demystify complex concepts using simple analogies and straightforward prose.
The other part of this equation is information. When you’re working as a technology freelancer, up-to-date and accurate information is the foundation of almost every piece you write. This means you must identify several online sources that provide consistently reliable content, no matter your need.
Sure, you can rely on Google searches to turn up newsworthy articles or survey results, but it pays to have a few go-to research sites, news outlets, and expert blogs you can mine on a regular basis. This way, no matter what kind of content you’re producing—news piece, feature article, or blog, for example—you can focus on your voice instead of worrying about where you’ll find reliable data to support your conclusions.
The bottom line? Writers with strong voices grant authority, which is a must for any technology publication.
Effectively branding yourself also relies on your ability to tell a story. In most cases, you’re contracted by a company to write content aimed at a specific audience. This audience may comprise current or potential client customers, and as a result, must serve a dual purpose: story and sale. Gone are the days of blunt, obvious calls to action, and disappearing are impartial news providers with no ties to any major tech vendor. Instead we’re experiencing the rise of brand journalism, where strong writing and content matter just as much (if not more) than the sales pitch.
Therefore, the key for technology writers is to make content easily accessible, entirely readable, and intrinsically valuable—something you’d be willing to share on social media or talk about with friends. Pieces with this kind of easy flow get a writer noticed and help establish his or her brand in the industry.
Of course, no discussion about branding yourself would be complete without touching on content amplification. Anything you write should be something you’re willing to share on social media. But just opening up your Twitter account and firing off links won’t do the trick. Instead, you need to view social sites as forums for discussion among like-minded peers. Start by picking the right group—your real-life friends often aren’t the best audience for articles about cloud computing breakthroughs or big-data analytics—then settle in and listen.
As noted by President of Un-Marketing Scott Stratten in a Financial Post article, social media “isn’t a sales platform. It’s a conversation platform.”
Stratten said he tweeted at least 10,000 times before he tried to pitch or sell anything, and even then, he did so within the confines of the social space.
For technology writers, what we’re “selling” is our stories, but no one wants to listen if we don’t listen first.
As Larry Kim of SEO company WordStream points out, your content also needs to have a built-in “so-what?” factor. Why should readers care about what you’re writing, and why should companies like or retweet what you’ve published?
To develop this skill, you must know the market. What companies are trending? What may be next on their agenda? You must also find new angles on news that has already been covered. Did someone already do a security analysis of a new smartphone advancement? What about usability? What about lock-in risk compared to previous versions or competitors? There is always a new perspective waiting to be found if you’re willing to look.
Reap the Benefits
Technology writers with strong voices, storytelling flair, and social media clout consistently get better jobs. Branding yourself isn’t the work of an afternoon or a weekend. Rather, it pays off when how you write, not what you write about, becomes your selling point. To get started writing for top technology brands, join Skyword’s pool of contributing writers.