How To Develop Your Writing Voice And Turn Readers Into Fans
People do business with people they know, like, and trust. How, as a busy solopreneur trying to do it all — run a business, maintain a website, handle the marketing and selling, creating or sourcing products to sell, providing services, and everything in between — do you get your site visitors to know, like, and trust you?
What can you do, say, or offer that’s different and compelling? Do you have better information than all the other sites in your industry or niche? Better products? Better services?
The honest answer is, almost always, “no.”
I should know — I’m in a pretty crowded field, that of offering information and advice about WordPress, and providing WordPress-related services. I certainly don’t know more about WordPress than all the other sites out there.
So what makes the difference? The answer is simple, really. . .
I found a niche that works for me, and I understand my audience. Then I offer something that’s different from what all the other WordPress sites offer — me!
If it were an equation, it would look something like:
well chosen niche + understanding my audience + (2 x me) = success
I’m not going to talk to you today about choosing your niche — but here’s a great article about it. I’m also not going to talk about understanding your audience. Instead, I’m going to talk about how to be uniquely yourself for that audience.
Find Your Voice
According to Wikipedia,
“The writer’s voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of their common usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works).”
While that’s true, it doesn’t give you any real sense of what sets, say, Charles Dickens apart from Ernest Hemingway. Both were prolific and popular novelists, with styles as different as night and day. Dickens was wordy and wrote in dense, hard-to-analyze sentences, while Hemingway took brevity to new levels. Dickens created intricate plots, weaving six, eight, or ten distinct story lines and groups of characters into a seamless whole. Hemingway wrote more in a straight line.
Outside of the high-school English classroom (“oh, no, do we really have to read this?”), they appeal today to very different audiences.
To set yourself apart from all the other websites in your niche, it’s vital to be authentic and honest, and to quickly find your writer’s voice. You want readers to feel they know you, so your personality needs to shine through every word you write.
#1. Write to One Person
Do you speak to everyone in your life the same way? Do you talk to your boss the same way you chat with your coworker at the next desk? Talk to your mother-in-law the same way you schmooze with the person on the treadmill next to you at the gym? Speak with your spouse the same way you communicate with your kids’ teachers?
Of course you don’t! All of us learn at an early age to adjust our speech according to the person we’re speaking with.
Your website and your social media, are no different. You speak to your audience, not to mine.
Ideally, as part of your niche-finding process, you created a persona for your ideal customer.
You should know this person intimately — not just gender and age, but the kind of house s/he lives in, other family members, pets, job, hobbies, state of health… you get the idea.
That’s who you write to. Every time. Have a picture of that person in front of you as you’re writing.
You focus your writing on one person for two reasons:
- It’s easier to be authentic when you’re comfortable with the person you’re writing to
- You’ll attract others who are different from that person, but who recognize authenticity when they see it.
#2. Include Some Outside Interests
Where do your and your buyer’s interests intersect? If you both coach Little League, or dote on your Pomeranians, that gives you something to talk about occasionally, that’s not related to business.
You won’t write an article or a blog post about your Pom (unless that’s your niche), but an occasional mention makes you more relatable and shows your reader that you’re a complete person.
You can use this technique to reference current events, as well as favorite music, books, movies, or TV shows, both in your writing on your site and in social media.
Use a phrase like, “mostly dead,” or “help me, Obi Wan,” and readers who recognize those references (The Princess Bride and Star Wars) will smile inside and feel as though they’re part of a select in-group. They’ll like you better for it.
If it’s appropriate, you can mention your family occasionally, within the context of your business. You become very relatable when you write an article titled, “3 things my toddler taught me about perseverence,” for example.
#3. Write the Way You Talk
Remember, you’re talking to a specific person, so write the way you would talk with that individual. That might include some salty language, or it might be very buttoned up. It could have a chatty and conversational tone, or it might be all business.
If your niche is all about a particular vacation destination, your tone will be more fun and light hearted than if your topic is mindfulness training or rocket science.
My audience for my WordPress site is non-technical. I need to convey technical information in a way that’s totally unintimidating. I knew my audience intimately — the persona I wrote to was my husband, if he wanted to build a WordPress site (please don’t tell him that!).
So I explain things in writing the way I would explain them to him. Organized, logical, step-by-step, using simple language and no jargon, with a touch of light-heartedness thrown in to keep it from getting scary.
If you’re not sure you’ve hit the right tone, read out loud. You’ll hear when something’s off.
If you’re really struggling with the whole “write the way you talk” thing, try dictating instead of typing. There are lots of ways to convert voice to text — even Google Docs now lets you dictate while it does the typing. Click Tools, then select Voice Typing to get started. Or use speech-to-text to dictate notes to Evernote. Or a program like Dragon Naturally Speaking.
Remember, this is you talking with your audience.
It’s an Ongoing Attraction Process
As you immerse yourself in your niche and your topic, you’ll continue to hone your ability to talk to your audience. You’ll see the comments on blog posts, social media posts and interactions, and learn more about the language your audience uses and the way words resonate with them.
You’ll also notice something else.
Even though your persona might be a 37-year-old woman who lives in the suburbs with her husband, three kids and a Pomeranian, you’ll find some of your fans are single men who live in the downtown core, or rural grandmothers, or others who are nothing like that persona.
Maybe that Princess Bride reference on Pinterest got the attention of someone who discovered he was interested in your topic. Or perhaps the article about what you learned from your toddler caught the grandma’s eye because she’d been watching the kids that day. Of course, your topic won’t resonate with every Princess Bride fan, but presenting yourself as a well rounded person with interests will attract readers who might not have found you otherwise.
Add Some Sparkle
Let your personality shine.
That doesn’t mean you have to be flamboyant or bubbly, if that’s not your nature. ProBlogger Darren Rowse is kind of a shy guy, and that’s obvious to anyone who’s read his stuff. But he’s also kind, and thoughtful, and those qualities come through in his writing.
Naomi Dunford of IttyBiz used to have a statement on her About page that just cracked me up. It went something like this (she’s rewritten the page, so I can’t just grab the exact language). “In her spare time, Naomi likes to… spare time. Aren’t you adorable.”
Those two short sentences tell you a huge amount about her, and in a fun and interesting way. She’s showing her personality. And showing us, at the same time, that you don’t need to include lengthy explanations to get some messages across.
This is where the “2 x me” in the above equation enters the picture. New writers tend to smother their personalities under thick blankets of “businesslike.” In other words, serious, dry… boring.
Instead, go in the other direction. Allow your interests and your little quirks and idiosyncracies to show up in your writing.
When you do, you’ll have a writing voice that’s easy to relate to, and your readers will turn into fans.
Fans who will be eager to do business with you.
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