The Art of Disappearing: Finding Your Voice for a Client
Voice Is Important
You see it in blogger Penelope Trunk as she dispenses sage advice about work and life with a touch of no-holds-barred honesty. You can tell that she cares more about sharing the intimate details of her life as an entrepreneur, a woman, and a mom through unfiltered lenses than she does about checking for every little typo or grammatical error.
Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman sticks out in her own way. Whimsically, she regales her readers with her life on the ranch as a city girl turned country wife, a homeschool mom educating her children, or as a cook dishing out another scrumptious recipe. Whatever the topic, she colors her words with a mixture of fun, mischief, and wit.
Both are successful writers who give their massive followings an inside look at their lives. And both express themselves in ways that are as distinct as the drawl of a Southern belle or the accent of a Boston native. They have found their voices as writers.
As a freelance writer though, there is a difference between finding your voice as a writer and finding your voice for a client. Writing for your clients is not about writing in your voice. Sure, it’s okay when you’re writing for your blog or a publication that will carry your byline, but the moment you start to write on behalf of a client, you become a ghost who needs to learn to find your voice for the client.
Freelancers have to learn the art of disappearing. You are being paid to write for their sake, not for yours. Whatever their message, whatever their goals, it’s your job as a freelancer to convey that message well and to help them meet their goals.
Know Your Client
You have to know your client in order for you to do your job well. That takes time and effort. Research their website and other places that will tell you more about them. Try to find out what others are saying about them. You have to talk to them, in person or on the phone. When you do, ask good questions: basic ones, thoughtful ones, and hard ones. Here are a few angles to come at as you try to learn more about your client.
- Know their industry. What do they do? Who are their competitors? What sets them apart from other businesses? What are they great at? What aren’t they great at? You can’t help your client if you don’t understand what they do and the niche they fill in their particular field.
- Know their story. How long have they been in business? How did they get their start? What are their current struggles? Where have they failed? What are their success stories? Knowing how they started and their journey as a company will help you to craft meaningful content for them.
- Know their goals. Where are they headed as a company? How do they plan to achieve their goals? What have they attempted so far? You have to know where they are going so that you can help get them there.
- Know their personality. What do they value as a company? How do they communicate to their customers? What is their language/style? If you know who they are and how they portray themselves to their customers, then you can take on the persona of your client in your work.
You don’t have to know everything about a client. But you should know enough that you can convincingly write for them. There’s a caveat though. Knowing your client isn’t enough. There are plenty of bad websites, brochures, and other written content that can testify to that. You have to also know your audience. I’ll talk about that more in my next post.