The Stupidly Huge Importance of Finding Your Voice

Screenshot 2015-09-15 22.59.32This is an excerpt from my new course, Start Content Writing.

You’re a writer, so the ultimate deciding factor on whether somebody decides they want to hire you or not is how you write. Duh. And the thing that makes your writing appealing to someone? It’s not your impeccable grammar or your knack for using commas correctly: those things should be a given in the eyes of your clients. Having immaculate grammar is not going to help you stand out from all the other writers out there, because ALL professional writers have impeccable grammar (or at least, all the ones worth hiring do).

No. The thing that will make your writing stand out above all others’ is your voice. And you need to start honing it. That free-writing I had you do about what you want your business to look like? That was your voice. Uninhibited, unapologetic, this-is-how-I-write-when-I’m-not-thinking-about-it. And that stuff is fricking unicorn dust. (Gross.)

This course isn’t going to teach you how to write in ‘the’ way that’s most appealing, because the truth is that it’s different for everyone. Some businesses would abhor my occasional (ahem) use of swear words, for example. But that’s fine, because I know there are others out there who love it. I mean, just look at you: why did you decide to take my course above all the others out there? It’s because you liked my voice (and the fact that I say ‘fuck’ a lot, amirite?).

The words I used, the fact that I swear, my undiluted, direct approach: something about it resonated with you. And it’s not just the words, either. It’s what I’m actually saying. You saw some of yourself in what I had to say the day you decided to sign up to this course. You could relate to me, felt we had something in common — whether it was our belief that working in a job you hate is fucking dumb, or that life’s too short not to have the freedom to live however you want — and that had a major impact on your decision, too. In short: you feel I understand you. I GET YOU, MAN.

Your voice is essentially just your personality on the page. And that’s why using your voice can make your prospective clients want to hire you: because they like you. Because they can relate to you. And because they want your voice on their website, because they see something of themselves in it.

Suppose you meet someone at a networking event and you hit it off. You enjoy their company, their jokes crack you up, and you like the same TV shows. Then you discover they’re a web developer, and you just so happen to need a web developer right now! You’ve met a couple of others that evening, but you didn’t particularly click with either of them. One of them thinks Z Nation is a better show than The Walking Dead (PAH!), and the other spoke in such a monotonous voice you’re not even sure whether they were telling you about their web development services or what they had for breakfast.

You grab all three of their business cards and check their websites out when you get home. Their prices are all in the same ballpark, and their portfolios all seem fairly similar, although it’s hard to tell, because what the hell do you know about web development? So — how do you decide who to hire?

It’s obvious, isn’t it? You hire the guy you like the most, the one you had the most in common with. The one you wouldn’t mind grabbing a drink with some time.

And that’s how your voice can work for you, too. You need to not worry about offending the client who thinks Z Nation is the best show ever, so you can appeal to the ones who love The Walking Dead. If you try to tread a fine line in between the two, you’ll just find yourself appealing to nobody. And what happens then? People hire you based on your rates. And that’s the one place you don’t want to be.

Your voice is arguably the most important element of all, but it’s also one of the hardest to grapple with, particularly when you’re not used to writing things for yourself, such as a blog, a journal, or even just countless Facebook updates. Try to catch yourself when you find yourself trying to write something plain and safe and boring that won’t put anybody off. If you catch yourself thinking, ‘Oh, but will this put people off?’ you know you’re onto a winner: WRITE IT DOWN. Because that line you’ve thought up? Yes, it may put some people off. But it will resonate with others, and they’re the people you want to work with anyway.

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    6 Comments

    1. PREACH IT, KAREN! WOO!
      In all seriousness though, I loved this post. Truly a fantastic “in your face” approach to finding a person’s writing voice. I feel like this will really help me. :) Thank you!

    2. Hey Karen, thanks for sharing this. It’s so true, all my favourite writers have a clear voice overflowing with personality. In an internet filled with faceless posts and sites, it’s a breath of fresh air. Yet, if I’m not careful, I still find myself writing in this boring academic voice that puts me to sleep. Gah! At the end of the day, your voice is the one unique thing you have to bring to your writing. Thanks for the reminder!

    3. You speak words of wisdom, Karen. By trying to please everybody, we fail inevitably. So before I do something about my writing business, first I need to dig out my writing voice from beneath the layers of “what if they don’t like me/it”? Only then will I be able to genuinely work as a freelance writer and live the life I want.

      1. YES! Exactly. It’s actually a good thing if there are people who don’t like you – because that also means there are people who LOVE you.

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