Content Crafters is an interview series where we de-construct the tools, tips, and tactics that top bloggers use to get so much work done. you’ll walk away in mere minutes with actionable takeaways you can try out right away. Let’s dive in!
Kaleigh Moore is a freelance content creator for SaaS and eCommerce companies.
She’s from the Midwest and started freelance writing in 2013. Before freelancing, she was a writer and photographer for a state-wide magazine, worked as the PR Manager for a hunger relief organization, and owned a successful eCommerce business that specialized in vintage jewelry.
In addition to her client work, she’s got bylines all over the place, writing for publications like Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, and Fast Company.
She also co-hosts the Creative Class podcast with Paul Jarvis, runs a weekly writing newsletter called “Yeah Write Club,” and gives excellent writing advice on her blog and email newsletter (kaleighmoore.com).
You have a strong writing voice in your personal content. How does that writing voice influence your writing for clients? Does it shine through and add flavor, or do you change your writing voice depending on the brand and context?
I get to exercise my personal writing voice a lot more in the content I write for my newsletter/blog. It’s very stylized with a conversational tone and a lot of humor/pop culture references worked in.
Overall, it’s a little too informal for most of my clients. I do love it when I get to exercise a bit of personality in my client work, but 90% of the time it’s very much toned down in comparison to how I’d write as myself.
And that’s okay.
Most of the clients I work with still need to come off as professional and trustworthy, which can often mean, “Hey! Take it easy on the slang and memes, girlfriend.”
How did you develop your unique writing voice? Do you consciously work to improve it?
Ha! I didn’t really. It’s the voice in my head. My first draft is stream of consciousness, so it’s pure inner dialogue going onto the screen. It gets edited and polished a bit before it’s published, but for the most part, it’s just a natural thing for me. I do read a lot though, so it’s probably a culmination of all the things I’ve read and liked in the past.
What do you attribute to your ability to write clearly and coherently on topics that people usually struggle with (B2B marketing topics, technology, writing itself, etc.)?
Five years ago, when I started writing on those types of topics, I struggled.
The technical nature of the material and the jargon were intimidating to me, but I learned as I went and eventually built up a base of knowledge that I could work from and build upon with each new assignment.
Sticking to the SaaS/ecommerce niche has been helpful in that it’s allowed me to become a subject matter expert–I’m not learning about all kinds of new things all the time. I just went all in on this one thing, and now I know a LOT about it.
It’s much easier to connect the dots and draw interesting conclusions as I write now because this is the world I’ve lived in for so many years.
How do you come up with ideas for blog ideas for your personal blog and email list?
Almost always they are inspired by questions I get from subscribers. I also do surveys throughout the year to better understand what my audience wants to learn from me. That’s really why I’ve stopped doing a lot of freelance-centric writing and focused more on actionable writing lessons–subscribers overwhelmingly requested that.
How many drafts do you usually write when you publish a piece of content? Do you work with editors all the time or how does your feedback process work?
For client work, it’s usually two drafts per piece.
If I’ve been working with them for a long time and really know the content/audience, it’s often just a one-and-done, because I know exactly what the editor wants and needs.
I almost always work with editors (talented ones!) who know how to take a good piece of writing and make it great. So even if the base material is there, they can make it more punchy and interesting for their unique target audience–which I love!
Who do you look to as source of inspiration for content writing? Why? You can name more than one person or blog, of course.
Joanna Wiebe at Copyhackers. No question. Her writing voice is so…readable! And that’s what I’m always striving for in my own writing. Readable, interesting, funny, relatable. She knows how to check all the boxes.
My favorite writers are the ones who write like they sound in real life. It feels like you’re having an in-person conversation with them.
What would you say has been the biggest point of leverage or biggest impact area for you when it comes to your freelance business? In other words, what activity do you believe has contributed the most to your success as a freelancer?
I write blog content for a very specific group of clients, rather than doing any type of writing for any type of client. Doing that has helped me become known as a go-to person for that “one thing.” It’s the antithesis of the Jack of All Trades, Master of None idea. It wasn’t until I took Paul Jarvis’s Creative Class course (which I now co-teach!) in 2013 that I made this change–but once I did, my freelance career became MUCH more sustainable.
How do you differentiate yourself when it comes to winning the deal with clients?
I think it’s the recommendation/referral basis that they come to me from that helps me win the deal. Most of the time they’ve heard that I deliver high quality work and I’ve already been validated by the person that recommended me.
Have you ever experimented with outbound client acquisition methods? How did they work out? Do you currently use them or is it mostly inbound inquiries?
99% inbound. I’m almost always booked up, so I rarely have to go looking for new work. When I do, I go to Twitter and can connect with someone there just by putting out some feelers.
Do you ever find conflict in what a content manager or editor expects and what you know to be true as an expert? If there is a difference in expectation, how do you normally resolve it?
Rarely, if ever! I can’t think of a time in the past 1-2 years that there’s been a conflict like that. All of the points I make in anything I write are backed up with data and case studies, so it’s hard to dispute.
What annoys you most about online marketing content? What would you do differently?
There are trends, just like anything else. I often end up writing about a lot of the same topics over and over again, which can get old.
I’d love the chance to introduce some more personality or fun and off the wall topics into content, but that just doesn’t always make sense for the objectives my clients are trying to accomplish, so that’s okay.
Gimme 3 tips to improve my own writing? (Or rather, tips in general that any writer can use to improve their craft)
- Read more. Reading is practice for writing. It helps your vocab and shapes your ideas about syntax, as well as how you think about words. The more you read other people’s words, the more comfortable you get with writing your own.
- Get a good editor. Good editors tell you what they do and don’t like, and have helpful suggestions about how to improve what you’ve written. They don’t just fix it and say, “Thanks! Talk to you in a month.” It’s a collaborative process. Be open to their feedback and take action on what they suggest.
- Don’t think your first draft is good enough. Some writers think they can just bang out a perfect piece on the first try (cough…I was one of those…cough) but you can almost always come up with better options or ideas during the editing process in a second, third, or fourth draft. Let it marinate at least overnight and come back to what you’ve written with fresh eyes on the next day.
Additional Notes and Commentary
Hi! It’s your editor again. This section is for those who want to dive deeper on individual points. I’ll expand here on some of the answers above and give you more details on any tools, processes, or resources that were mentioned in the interview.
On Finding Your Voice…
I love Kaleigh’s answer on this point, mostly because it’s how I think about my own writing. When asked about how she developed her voice, she says, “Ha! I didn’t really. It’s the voice in my head. My first draft is stream of consciousness, so it’s pure inner dialogue going onto the screen.”
I’ve read countless drafts from friends – friends I know are smart and interesting – and the writing just felt clunky and weird. People, when facing a blank page or typewriter, tend to put too much thought into the prose as it’s being written. That’s what editing is for. When you are in writing mode, if you want your voice to shine through, just write.
Better yet, as Paul Graham put it, “write like you talk.”
I’ve also found that reading a lot does indeed help with voice. It helps to read really good writing to know what it looks like (and read outside your niche, preferably the classics as well, if you want to be really good).
On Subject Matter Expertise…
Often, in the freelancing writing game, you’re writing on topics that are quite complex. Depending on your niche, it might be really difficult to nail down the details in a way that is compelling, clear, and satisfies the technical audience in mind.
That’s why Kaleigh decided to niche down and work on SaaS and ecommerce clients. She gets consistent practice, and the research she does for the writing all colludes to help her become a subject matter in these areas. When you have that level of focus, the amount of repetitions and time that Kaleigh puts in, you build a base of knowledge that most writers can’t touch.
On Finding Your Niche…
Well, how do you find that niche? Not sure. Usually, you look for the center of the venn diagram between what you’re good at, what you like, and what people will pay for.
Why niche down when there’s a whole world of services to perform and things to write about?
Well, it comes down to the buying process. A marketing manager, when they come to the question of whom to hire, may send a note to some colleagues. “I need a good SaaS marketing writer,” they say.
And when asked, you’re hoping that the people asked all say your name.
When you’re known for a little of everything, it’s really that you’re not known for any one particular thing.
Obviously, you can expand with time. But if you hope to build a sustainable freelance business, it really hopes to take a lucrative and interesting “beachhead” segment to lead the way.