As fitness professionals and entrepreneurs, you have a lot of shoes to fill and tasks to manage. On a daily basis, you have to be marketers, motivators, fitness experts, accountants, business managers, and more—and that requires an extremely diverse set of skills. Among those needed skills is the ability to write compelling content.
From crafting catchy web and ad copy, to drafting clever social media and blog posts, to penning clear product descriptions and bios—being able to write (and write well) is a skill that will serve every entrepreneur and fitness professional well and can play a key role in attracting new clients and growing your business. But for many fitness professionals, writing is either a last-minute task given little thought or an anxiety-inducing exercise.
I’d like to help. As the Content Marketing Manager here at Trainerize, it’s my job to be the voice of our brand, and while I wear many hats and do many different things, at the end of the day, my main role is to be a writer. For me, writing is a passion and over the course of my career I’ve picked up a few writing tips that have helped me sharpen my skills and gain confidence. I’d love now to pass those tips on to all of you, and, hopefully, they’ll make your next writing task easier —if not a little more fun.
Tip #1: Read as much as you can
I can’t take credit for this tip—it was an English professor who passed it on to me many years ago—but it certainly deserves the number one spot on this list: read as much as you can.
Read books, newspapers, magazines, online articles, whatever you please—just make sure you’re doing as much of it as you can. When you read, the ideas, thoughts, and arguments you consume change from words on a page or pixels on a screen into inspiration. They swirl and churn around in your mind (often without you even realizing it) to create ideas of your very own that can be turned into powerful writing. It’s like feeding your brain. A healthy diet of reading will keep your writing strong.
Tip #2: Write in little snippets, whenever you can
I have a feeling that when most people imagine the task of writing, they think of someone setting up camp in the corner of a coffee shop or a quiet room and typing away the day in a frenzy of inspiration. Sadly, in all my years of writing, I can probably count on two hands the number of times I’ve been able to just write, non-stop, all day.
Maybe those more prolific than me have had better success with that approach, but for most of us, it’s better to write in small snippets, whenever you can—and to avoid writing under pressure or looming deadlines.
Instead of sequestering yourself for a day, try to spend small pieces of your day writing. It doesn’t have to be every day, and you don’t have to write much, but spending a bit of time here or there writing—even just a few lines—is a great way to build both confidence and momentum in your writing. It will also help you hold onto the sparks of inspiration that come to you naturally.
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Tip #3: Know who you’re writing for
Have you ever buckled down to read something that seems interesting, only to find the information goes right over your head, or that it seems to only scratch the surface, or—and this might be the worst—that it seems like the author didn’t answer the questions you were hoping they would?
Often, the culprit is an author who didn’t consider who they were writing for carefully enough. Providing information that is too high-level and complex, too basic and superficial, or just slightly off the mark in terms of detail and scope is an easy way to lose a reader’s attention.
To keep readers enthralled, your writing should address their interests, needs, wants. How do you do that? You start by knowing who you’re writing for: also known as your target audience. Think carefully about not only who you want to read your writing but also who is likely to read it before ever writing a single word. You probably already know who your client base and target audience are, but if you need a little help pinning things down, ask yourself:
- What is their level of knowledge or experience with this topic?
- What are the key questions they’ll have?
- What are their pain points or wants and needs?
- How do these people communicate? (What voice, tone, language, etc. do they use?)
These questions will get you started honing in on who you’ll be writing for and will help guide your work, but you can always dive deeper. The better you get to know your potential readers, the better you can shape your writing to catch their eye and hold their attention.
Tip #4: Outlines are your friend
I started this blog post with an outline. In fact, I start everything I write with an outline. Why? Because having an outline helps me organize my thoughts, structure my writing, and stay focused. Oh, and because there’s nothing worse than staring at a blank page.
There’s no one right way to create an outline, but I like to start by throwing some ideas and concepts down on paper. I think about my audience, my topic, and the main points I want to get across, and I start to create headings for the different sections and paragraphs I’d like to include.
For example, this section of the blog started with just the word “Outlines” floating in the middle of my page, followed by the bullet points:
- Why they’re helpful
- How to build them
It might not seem like much, but it’s a starting point, and that’s all you really need.
Once you have all your main points written down, you can start to play with the order and structure of your piece. Is there information that a reader needs in the beginning to understand the topic? Are you writing about a process that needs to be completed in a certain order? Move your points around like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle until you’ve found what you think is the clearest and easiest possible order for readers to understand and follow.
You should also know that outlines aren’t set in stone. They can change as you write and edit, so if you’re not 100% sure about your outline structure, don’t worry, you can always revisit it later.
BONUS TIP: Most word-processors (like MS Word and Google Docs) come with the ability to use Heading Styles to build an outline. I use this all the time to help create the order and hierarchy of each piece I write because I love being able to see the outline without any content in it, and it helps me make sure the flow and logic of what I’m writing are easy to follow. Consider using these features while you’re writing, too!
Tip #5: Write your introductions last
You might think it sounds nuts, but—despite their name—you should always write your introductions last. Here’s why:
Introductions are meant to provide an overview and teaser for the main content you’ve written. They should note the purpose of your writing, and often allude to the key points in your content. How can you write this if you haven’t already written the main content? You can’t. At least, not effectively.
Draft your piece of writing, flesh out all your ideas and points, then go back and write your introduction. Trust me when I say this will save you lots of time and stress.
Tip #6: Don’t get caught up in the details (at least, not at first)
Dangling modifiers, split infinitives, active and passive voice. Eek! When you start breaking things down, writing can seem like a really intimidating task, and it’s not everyone’s favorite or forte—and that’s ok!
Don’t let yourself get caught up in the details. You can worry about the minutia later. Get your outline built and your ideas down first, then you can go back and fine-tune. There’s no point wasting time wondering if there’s a comma splice if the sentence isn’t meaningful to begin with.
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Tip #7: Use spelling and grammar-checking software
I cannot stress this point enough: everyone should use a spelling and grammar-checking software. EVERYONE. No one is perfect, and even if you’re a spelling and grammar whiz, your fingers can betray you and introduce annoying typos to your work.
Using a software to review your work is an easy and often free way to ensure you’re putting out polished and professional content, and there are plenty of programs to choose from.
As an added bonus, if you’re looking to learn more about the mistakes you might be making as you write, many programs actually offer helpful hints or mini-lessons to accompany their error flags. A free proofread and a learning opportunity? Talk about a win-win!
BONUS TIP: Spelling and grammar checkers are great, but they aren’t always right. Do your best not to blindly accept the suggested changes, and take the time to review each of them first. As much as we might like to leave the details to the robots, they haven’t quite got it down pat yet.
Tip #8: Edit and iterate (the first draft is never the final)
No first draft is ever final: another helpful tip a professor once told my class (probably because he was tired of reading shoddy essays roughly cranked out at 4 am the night before they were turned in). But no matter the motivation, the message holds true, so it’s important that your writing process includes time to edit and iterate.
I often recommend that you only edit something after you’ve finished writing it, and ideally after taking a brief break to clear your mind or switch focus. This lets you come back to the piece with fresh eyes when you’re more like to catch errors or find gaps in your logic.
So don’t just bang out those Tweets or Facebook Ads and hit publish. Write. Pause. Review. You’ll be amazed at how natural these three steps will start to feel after some practice, and as you review your work you’ll make it better and better and better until you can’t wait to share it with the world.
Tip #9: Read your writing out loud
You already know how amazing the brain is. How the right mindset or patterns of thought can motivate an individual to reach untold limits. But did you know that the human brain likes to play tricks on us, especially when we’re reading?
It’s true! When you’re reading, your brain is working hard to identify patterns and rules of language; taking visual input and turning it into ideas you can understand. Your brain is so good at this that, often, if you encounter a small error while reading, your brain won’t alert you to it and instead will fill in gaps of information for you so that you can continue reading, unphased and uninterrupted.
Sounds like a great party trick, right? Not when you’re actually looking for mistakes. The way to get around this is to read your work out loud. Adding the extra step of turning words on a page into spoken sounds requires extra care on the part of your brain and, if you read your work slowly and intentionally, you’ll likely find some errors your eyes and brain would have otherwise missed.
Tip #10: Don’t be afraid of feedback
Finally (and this is a hard one), don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. Receiving feedback from others is a great way to improve your writing. The perspectives of others can point out errors or points of confusion that you, as the writer, might not see, and it can give us ideas or food for thought as we edit and iterate on our work.
Remember: no one is a perfect writer, and even some of the greatest writers in history had editors and reviewers. Don’t let pride or embarrassment hold you back from becoming a better writer. We all have the potential, we just have to try.
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