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Erin Becker is a writer, editor and writing coach in Iowa’s Creative Corridor and blogs about writing-related topics at betterwritingnow.com. What a cool URL, by the way. We talked with her about her blog and how she manages it.
Question:Why did you decide to start this blog?
Erin:I started blogging while I was still living in Chile, where I worked for two years as a translator, writer, and teacher. I knew I was coming back to the Corridor, where I grew up. I also knew I wanted to get tapped in to the writing world here. The blog was a great bridge-builder. I had some clients before I was even back on U.S. soil!
Question: You are a writing coach but share writing tips on your blog. How does that impact business?
Erin:It’s helped a lot. The advice is a credibility builder, and the blog has also functioned as an evolving online cover letter and portfolio. If people like the tips, they won’t just take them and run; they’ll want to find out what I can do for them, specifically. The writing advice has also been a great way to reach out for potential freelancing projects. Managers are willing to bring you on board when they know you’ve got the writing chops to help the project succeed.
Question: Who is your target audience? Who are you writing for?
Erin: That’s a fascinating question because I think – as many bloggers will tell you – your target audience evolves over time. One of the great things about being a one-woman show is that you’re adaptable to change. Bloggers can be very agile. I started out targeting college-bound high school seniors as they prepared admissions essays. Since then, I’ve broadened to give tips that will work for copywriters, students, novelists, really the whole shebang. This has been great because I’ve expanded my clientele and taken on projects I hadn’t even considered before: copywriting, translating articles on stadium architecture, creating white papers for a marketing agency.
Question: What’s your background that helped you become a writing coach?
Erin: It’s funny; I’d been doing this for years before I realized I could “monetize” my skills. One day I opened up a file on my computer called “Edits for Others” and it had about 50 documents in it. I have a lot of friends who are wonderful writers. Majoring in English and Creative Writing will do that to you, as will living in Iowa City. So I figured: if my friends and colleagues are trusting me with their work, I can probably market this expertise on a wider level.
Question: With blogging and web writing, how has writing changed in recent years, in your opinion?
Question: It’s an interesting time to be a writer. On the one hand, you have so many sites that simply don’t pay for writing, although ostensibly it’s their product – though in practice they’re selling an audience to advertisers, I suppose. You get this sense some folks are just trying to fill up the white space. But that’s not how it works. First, you need to have something to say.
On the other hand, I do think businesses are realizing the value of having of well-written, meaningful copy and stories on their websites. Written communication is the crux of so much of what we do online. So, despite some huge changes in the way the business of writing is done, I do think it’s a great time to be a writer. People who can tell a story in a fresh, relatable way are rising to the top.
Question: How do you decide what to blog about?
Erin: This is something I’m still working on. For a long time it was based on problems and solutions I encountered in my own writing or in my coaching work. Lately, I’ve tried to be more timely. I realized I needed to get out of my little writing shell and relate my posts to the larger world.
Question: How do you decide what the right length for a post is?
Erin: I know there are a lot of savvy people who have come up with formulas for this. But I have a much less scientific way of going about it. When I read blogs, I pay attention to the point where I get bored with a piece. Then, I try not to go over that length in my own work. Aside from that, my general thought is: too short, and you lack substance; too long, and no one will finish it, unless you’re the New Yorker.
Question: Do you write for humans or search engines? Or both?
Erin: Projects can run into trouble when they’re focused on SEO at the expense of everything else. In my opinion, this often means we’re not crafting the prose in a way that will appeal to a reader’s ear. Of course I try to use keywords. I also pay attention to which posts align with the things people search for (“words to use more often” is a big one, for example.) But I believe writing is all about communication. And I’m communicating with humans, not search engines.
Question: Any other thoughts that you’d like to share?
Erin: Christoph, I really appreciate you reaching out to me. I love the work you’re doing here in the Corridor and I’m very optimistic about where we’re headed. There are a lot of good things happening in Eastern Iowa.