Before I leapt into freelancing, my career was in marketing and writing for diverse audiences. Grab a cup of coffee and join me as I share with you a couple of amazing things I learned along the way!
But before we dig deep into these three useful tips, let’s talk about why you should have a target audience.
Some writers commit the cardinal sin of writing with ‘everyone in mind.’ As much as you are tempted, DON’T DO IT. You can’t please everyone, so why not write for the audience that will love your stuff?
Your audience might be different every time you write a copy/novel/article/post/etc. In a world where many writers choose to generalize, you can set yourself apart and attract clients and readers by bearing the following things in mind:
Research Your Target Audience
Many freelance writers (I’m guilty, too!) often think to include everyone and everything in their copy.
If you don’t know your target audience, talk to your client. Read the ‘About’ page. Ask the editor. Ask, ask, and ask some more. Let’s say you are writing a book about Native American art, don’t fuck up. Research. If you’re pitching to a magazine, read several of their articles to get a feel for not only their writing style but what their audience likes to read.
It may seem like a lot of work to research. But our credibility is on the line. The #doneisbetterthanperfect trendy phrase is a big NO NO when it comes to 1) citing reliable sources for pitching articles, 2) placing correctly worded ads on Facebook and so much more.
Here are questions to get you thinking about your target audience:
- What is the age-range?
- Who normally buys your product and who is this product actually for?
- Who will want to read my book? Why am I writing for [insert your target audience]?
- Income level
- Education level
- Get as many stats as possible!
Remember, don’t take the easy way out when writing for your target audience!
2. Make Sure Your Images are Relevant.
I once had a client, an elementary school, that wanted to create a brochure for parents. The school selected an image of White children reading books. However, the elementary school was a predominantly Black school. Over 60%! After an honest conversation about the target audience, we decided on an original photo of students from that school that was culturally representative.
If you are a writing a food article about chocolate bacon macaroni & cheese (this dish totally exists, by the way), don’t post a picture of a Macbook with headphones.
Use common sense. Find images that are relevant to your target audience. You get the picture, eh?
3. Know your target audience’s reading level.
According to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) “only 12% of U.S. adults scored in the highest literacy proficiency levels, and only 9% scored in the highest numeracy levels.
This means that only a very small percentage of people read above a 10th-grade reading level. **Confession: I have SO much trouble with this, coming from the academic side of the world. ** With this stat information, you can make sure your writing is:
- Conversational, when appropriate.
- Easy to understand.
- Absent of elongated and complicated words and sentences.
This is NOT dumbing down the language. Think about it for a sec – if you think reducing the number of words or simplifying your sentences is ‘dumbing it down’, then you are insulting the 9 out of 10 Americans who struggle with understanding and using basic information.
HOWEVER, if your target audience are readers of a trade journal or an academic manuscript, then your complex terminology is appropriate. All I’m saying is you gotta’ know who you are writing for. If it’s a high-end food journal magazine, then great; use the appropriate lingo. If you’re creating a brochure for kids, use the appropriate lingo as well.
I will end with this: knowing your target audience is, in my opinion, the most important part of your writing. Contact me today if you are struggling with identifying your target audience! I’m here to help!
What other things should we keep in mind when writing for a target audience? I would LOVE to know your thoughts and tips!!
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