If you want to improve your article writing skills, the Central Intelligence Agency probably isn’t your first place to look.
Yes. I’m talking about that CIA. The organization that feeds the President and senior officials information to keep us safe. I was an intelligence analyst for the CIA for 8 years, and spent most of my time writing for top policy makers.
Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes at the CIA?
It’s not exactly like living in a Jason Bourne movie. But there is a lot of information that requires article writing skills to keep people informed. Along the way, I uncovered article writing secrets at the CIA that helped me go from analyst to full-time freelancer.
It wasn’t easy. In this high pressure environment, I quickly learned to kill my purple prose, prioritize readability, and create impeccable work under pressure.
Want to improve your article writing skills, land better clients, and earn more?
Here are a few tips from inside the CIA to help you be a better freelance writer:
If you find it tough to get psyched up to write, this post is for you. I recently received a letter from a new writer hoping I could help her find more writing motivation:
I’m Sherin from Indonesia, it’s such a pleasure to find you as someone I can look up to. I’ve been saying to myself that, I really want to be a writer. And I’m very passionate about being a freelance writer, especially in content writing and maybe in proofreading. I know I need to plan how am I going to do that, but I feel lack of confidence and I don’t really know where to start.
I think this will be a good opportunity to make my own income too. I’m still a student supported by my parents. But I just love the image of standing independently. Anyway, I am so sorry to bother you. I know that I need to have some good skill to become a freelance writer, and to become skilled, I need to learn and practice. And I don’t know how to do that.
Can you give me some tips or maybe some motivation?
Letters like this make me want to cry. Because I’m dedicated to helping freelance writers earn more!
I want to have tips and useful info for you. (And ESL writer or not, writers write in every language and there are clients all over the world, so any grammar errors you spot above are not important here.)
What’s the trouble then? When you ask me to give you some motivation, I’ve got nothing.
If I had a copywriting tips guide to follow when I landed my first job, it would have saved me a lot of suffering.
Mum, dad… please look away now.
I’m afraid that my expensive university education and a degree in English didn’t prepare me to write words that sell.
When I finished school in 2001, I was lucky enough to land a copywriting job at a huge media company. And to be perfectly honest, I thought that I’d find the job pretty straightforward.
But it wasn’t. Making the transition from writing academic papers to crafting commercial copy was really hard.
The truth: I used to be quite a horrible copywriter. And I don’t mind admitting it now.
I had to learn to write differently. I studied pro writers, copywriting tips, and the best ad copy. I tested and evaluated copywriting strategies to see what worked and what didn’t. I learned how to write words that sell.
And I’m keen on helping others make a living writing. These three copywriting tips will help you create better content:
Do you feel like everything has already been said? That it’s impossible to be original, in an age where everyone has instant access to everything?
Well, I disagree.
Fresh, original writers and bloggers emerge every day. Each of us is an utterly unique human being.
Yet originality remains a struggle for many writers. Here’s a typical comment I recently got on one of my blog posts:
“I run a blog and I’ve been trying to be original in my content. The more I try, the more I get less original.
“What’s your advice on this?” –Ifeanyi
When you feel like you have nothing fresh to contribute, it’s time to take a step back and shake up your creative process.
I put together this list of 18 originality-enhancing ideas because in Hebrew, the word for life, chai, has the numerical value of 18. Pump some new life into your writing with these!
For a while, I had a large client that hired many writers. My contact was an editor who managed the freelance staff. He was an abrupt man who spared no feelings.
At the time, I had only worked directly with clients. I could meet their goals, but my writing lacked force. I over-wrote, dismissed structure, and indulged my narcissism with unnecessary wit. I wasn’t bad, but I had that collegiate write-everything-you-can-think-of mentality.
My first experience working with a professional editor was heart-wrenching. It was a trial by fire: get better to get paid. But those lessons stuck with me and made me a better writer.
Want to improve your writing?
Avoid making the same mistakes as I did, and check out the seven hardest lessons this editor taught me:
Tagged with: editing
, editor relationships
, guest post
, improve your writing
, scope creep
, writing advice
, writing mistakes
, writing tips
Want editors to trust you?
Well, you could flash your portfolio of published blue-chip writing their way.
Don’t have that? Show them great writing, from one concise, interesting sentence to the next.
I’ve been doing that for a decade, since a producer from Macmillan Publishers asked me for help debugging their e-books. They soon asked me to write their website copy. They were the first of many editors who trusted me — all because I learned the craft of writing well. That edge has paid off for me and others — and it’ll pay off for you.
Wondering how to craft sentences that make editors sit up and say “yes”? These four tips will make it happen: