Writing for a living means being a chameleon. You’re expected to magically pick up on the style, tone and voice of each client, and then keep the momentum going project after project.
For some writers, letting go of their signature snark or wordy ways is tough. But, when someone is paying you to write for them, you must learn to adapt. A good client will give you direction and still allow some of your individuality to shine through.
If you’re not sure where to even begin, I’ve got you covered.
You can nail your client’s voice and tone by doing a little homework. More than once I’ve been given the guidelines for a marketing campaign or brand’s style guide and then expected to make magic happen. Well, if you want to get things done right the first time, and avoid multiple rounds of editing, you need to look beyond the information the client gives you at the start of a project.
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1. Look at the company website.
This will let you know how they want to present themselves. Are the staff photos whimsical snapshots of employees riding bikes and sipping lattes (preferably not at the same time)? Or, is the website dotted with professional head-and-shoulder studio portraits? Is the language on the About page laid back and conversational? Or, is the tone business professional and more polished than a college dissertation? Follow suit with your approach to the project.
2. Read the company blog.
If you’re writing for the blog, this is a no-brainer. Your upcoming posts should mesh well with what they’ve already chosen to publish. Are the headlines short and enticing? Do the posts feature quotes from experts and links to statistics? Are the entries written in a first-person narrative style? Plan to emulate what they already publish.
3. Browse the company’s social media.
Again, seeing how the company portrays themselves to their customers, fans and the public will give you insight on how they want you to approach your assignments with them. Look at the company’s Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest accounts. Make a list of 10 words that describe the vibe. Funny. Technical. Empathetic. Informative. Straightforward. Use those words to guide you on your writing assignments.
4. Ask additional questions.
When in doubt, let your client know you need clarification. It’s not against the rules to ask for a link to a blog post or article online that they love so you can get a better feel for the style they want. I’ve even connected with editors by email to dissect my first few paragraphs to make sure I’m moving in the right direction.
A client would rather help you along at the beginning so you understand what they need, rather than hold your hand for months hoping you’ll finally see the light.
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Note: This post was last updated on August 24, 2023.