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Finding your online voice

By November 5, 2015 No Comments

The internet explosion has opened up so many opportunities for freelance writers who had previously lacked any form of creative outlet. Those of us who remember back to the pre-digital age will recall how hard it was to get published in printed media, particularly in popular areas such as current affairs, celebrity and sport.

The lack of any suitable academic qualifications was another obvious barrier but it’s all changed and for the most part, that’s a good thing. Talented writers can now access an online voice and with so many sites looking for quality content, more freelancers are making good income from their writing.

Look at job classifieds and there are plenty of ways to get started: if you’re happy to take unpaid work in order to help someone else build up their website then it’s relatively easy to get hired. You can even start your own blog via a provider such as WordPress and Typepad. These days, anything can get published but that’s where the problem lies.

I’m trying to be kind here but let’s be honest about this: Not everyone who thinks they can write can actually do it. There are too many average writers out there with sites only too happy to take them on because any content is better than no content.

If you’re some way above average, 90 Digital would be interested in working with you but how do you make yourself heard in such a crowded market?

Do it yourself?

If you haven’t been published before then it is relatively easy to get some work. Unfortunately much of it is unpaid while other hirers may promise to pay you a rate based on views or ad clicks. Only you can make the decision whether to take these jobs in the hope that they will lead to something but as an alternative, you could look at starting your own blog via a platform such as WordPress.

This gives you complete editorial freedom and if the site gets enough attention, there are various ways in which you can monetise it. It’s hard work to get your blog established but if you succeed, all your efforts will reward you personally.

Know your enemy

kinght

Editors are natural pedants and we have strange hobbies.For example, we can’t stop looking for typos no matter how hard we try and occasionally, we take to Twitter with great delight when we find one!

This isn’t big and it isn’t particularly clever, especially as none of us are perfect and eventually our own writing will be held up in the case for the prosecution. After all, it was a certain George Orwell who said, ‘Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against.’

But it helps to know the type of person that you’re dealing with when proofreading your own copy. We’re a real pain in the backside.

Auto correct is not your friend

Let’s say you’ve been commissioned to write an article about the Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori and when your assignment is returned to the editor, it keeps referring to him as Ken. We know and you know that his name is Kei and that your autocorrect may well be culpable but it does suggest that you haven’t actually proofed it.

Again, while this may sound pedantic, there are lots of common traps in the sporting world such as this and you would probably be surprised at how often this happens.

Individual names also hold potential for disaster so check and double check if you’re writing about Garry Monk, Dwyane Wade, Jhonny Peralta or Wojciech Szczesny. If you have to copy and paste then do it – I just did.

Avoid clichés like the plague

This isn’t intended to be a beginners’ guide to writing: At this stage you’ll know to keep clear of clichés such as ‘Having an axe to grind’, ‘pushing your luck’ whenever possible. In the sporting world, less well-known phrases can also creep into any article.

For example, a footballer might have a ‘good engine’ or he might just get to cover ‘every blade of grass’. TV pundits will often coin phrases that can quickly become overused.

Unnecessary repetition is just unnecessary

This is another relatively basic piece of advice but with sport writing, it can be very easy to repeat words in a sentence and that just makes things harder to read.

‘Rooney broke Bobby Charlton’s record as Rooney hammered home the penalty and after the match, Rooney was delighted with his achievement.’

This is tough to get through but the good news is that you have plenty of alternatives. ‘Rooney’ can easily be replaced with ‘the striker’ ‘the 29 year old’, ‘the former Everton man’ etc etc.

Again, this might seem like Kindergarten stuff but it happens a lot.

A word on social media

If you follow sports news on the net then you will have seen plenty of this type of headline,

Fans react to Rooney’s performance on Twitter

Kane takes to social media to thank supporters

Articles such as these serve a purpose as they gather together a group of tweets so the reader doesn’t have to make endless searches through social media. They are popular too but rarely offer any more than a rehash of Twitter updates and a handful of screenshots so potential employers would prefer to see writing samples with a little more substance.

Imagine a world without editors

If you’ve reached this stage then you may be thinking that we expect your articles to be perfect but that isn’t the case.  As an igaming writer for 90 Digital, your role is to provide insightful, well researched copy that engages the readers and that’s all we really ask for.

Obviously you need to check your submissions but if all writers were perfect, editors would be out of work and looking for typos in the local job ads. The point is that the margin between a writer who gets paid £5.00 an article and one who commands higher fees can be very fine. Attention to detail can get you noticed in a competitive marketplace and hopefully these suggestions will prove useful.

About Matt Harris

Head of Content and a Journalist with 25 years experience of covering sport around the world. Provided teletext updates on the very first day of the Premiership for Sky Sports. Has provided content for a number of bookmakers including Betfair, BetVictor, Unibet, Stan James and 888Sport. Articles - http://calvinayre.com/tag/matt-harris/ https://betting.betfair.com/authors/matt-harris/ http://football.betvictor.com/author/90digital/

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