If you missed out on Part 1, check that out here first...
3. Be Funny
Laughter is contagious. How many times have you found yourself snorting at something simply because your friend was nearing tears? The joy of making others laugh is a core human trait, for both recipient and teller.
When you can make people laugh, you are seen as attractive (even if you're a tall, lanky writer with a big nose) and a pleasure to be around. Jokes are passed from person to person, which is why if you can use humor well, you’ll wield one of the sharpest writer’s weapons. While many writers don't think they can be funny, they're selling themselves short. If you can laugh, you can make others laugh.
Writing humor may not be easy, but it isn’t calculus. As long as you know the basic laws of all humor, you can make people laugh, too. The trouble with trying to teach funny is that every person has their own rhythm of humor. You don’t teach a person to be funny (unless you work at a clown college, which is less funny, more Stephen King novel waiting to happen), you empower them to unleash their inner hilarity.
Which brings us to our first tenet of humor — not everyone will think you’re funny.
Give up on that idea. Now. Seriously, it won’t happen. Even if you aim for a bland, inoffensive brand of funny, like Bob Hope or Erma Bombeck, somebody will be offended or hate you and declare it loudly on the Internet. The thing is that humor, by its nature, is always poking fun of something painful to someone.
The good news is those two both died rich, so if bland, inoffensive humor is your strong point, you might be in luck!
Don’t be afraid of the easy, obvious joke, but don’t let it be your crutch, either. Easy jokes will make people laugh, but you’ll get the greatest rewards by aiming outside your comfort zone. Keep it simple. Resist the urge to explain. Drop your bon mots and let the people experience the joy of unwrapping them. People enjoy the incongruous and unexpected. If you can zig when they think you’ll zag, or make them think twice to interpret what they’ve read, you’ll succeed in making them laugh.
At its essence, humor is about the unexpected. You set people up to expect one thing, and then deliver something out of left field.
Your humor will depend on your audience, but chances are good that you don't want to be mean-spirited or tell jokes that offend anyone's race, sex, or religion. The safest path to humor is self-deprecating. Nobody can get mad at you for making fun of your foibles, right? Well, someone still will, but those people will be mad no matter what you write.
Although most people will say they love dry humor, like that classy stuff on PBS, wild-eyed ranting peppered with plenty of curse words and descriptions of bodily secretions can work well, too.
As long as you hit it out of the park every now and again, people won’t remember all the times you fell flat unless they have serious issues, in which case them not laughing is probably the least of your problems.
Adding a bit of humor to your writing is an effective way to get and keep reader attention and stand out from the crowd. All things being equal, who wouldn’t want to go with the guy or gal who makes them laugh?
It will take a bit of practice and probably some humiliation, but the more you let loose and let your funny flag fly, the easier it gets, and the more you’ll make people laugh. And getting your audience to laugh is a terrific way to get them to love you.
4. Make Your Readers Love You
You can't make everyone love you.
This advice is as appropriate in life as it is in writing. The sooner you stop trying, the better off you'll be at making the ones who matter most fall in love with your words.
While you can't capture the hearts of everyone, you will need some dedicated fans before your writing dreams can come true. While you can’t soak your copy in Love Potion #9, there are four things you can do to inspire affection from your readers.
- Be consistent and build trust. Everything you do matters, especially in the long run. Never write under the faulty assumption that every project is an island. Everything you do is somehow related, even if it only strips from your legacy. Do your best, no matter what you write or where it’s published, and you will be thought of as a consistent writer, worthy of trust.
- Take the time to do things right. Never miss a deadline, but if you’re late with a blog post, or delay the launch of your eBook because you were tending to excellence, your attention will be rewarded. Always put quality first. In a culture where we have timers at the drive-thru which guarantee the opportunity to deliver high blood pressure and heart disease in under 60 seconds, that type of care is rare and easily noticed.
- Tell a story that connects. Be memorable, and foster a connection with your audience through honest storytelling. There is only one you and no one tells your story better. Whatever your personal narrative, find a way to make it relate to your readers and they will naturally relate to you. Look life’s regrets in the eye and let your audience see you swallow fear in the face of your online adventure. Brilliant writing is sometimes as simple as being able to leave a genuine lasting impression in the memories of your readers.
- Talk to one reader. When writing blog posts, address a single reader. I'm not saying to call one particular reader out by name and dedicate your post to that person. Instead of addressing plural readers, address them in the singular. For example, instead of writing, “I couldn't wait to share this with you all” write, “I couldn't wait to share this with you.” It's a minor distinction, but it works to bring your readers closer.
Be consistent, take your time, tell a story that connects, address your reader personally, and put out superb product. Your readers will love you and you will reap the reward.
5. Put Yourself in Everything You Do
Because a writing career harbors the promise of unlimited potential, the Internet is bloated with writers in search of opportunity. The pay is solid, the flexibility fantastic, and (let’s face it) the commute is about as good as it gets. How are you supposed to compete against the flood of freelancers on Upwork, Guru, and Constant Content, many of whom are willing to work for rates that would barely pay the rent on a fifth-floor Bangalore walkup?
The problem with a lot of online writers is that too many are singing in the same key. You want more, so you’re going to have to do more to get it.
Whether you’re building your brand or looking for work, the only way to stand out is to distinguish yourself from the crowd. You don’t necessarily need to be a better writer. The Internet is brimming with remarkably talented (and broke) wordsmiths. You must be memorable.
I have a simple tactic I learned from my decade running a flower shop. When you create a bouquet, you must finish it off before handing it across the counter. A completed bouquet needs a beautiful ribbon to tie it together, but if you give it a focal point striking enough to catch the customer’s breath, they’ll come back again and again.
The same hold trues for writing.
Whenever possible, take the time to include at least one line that sets you apart from every other writer out there; one sentence that could only come from you. That sentence, that final “bow on the bouquet,” will draw your readers toward you.
Most writers won’t take the extra time to really make their copy shine. They’re rushed, they take shortcuts, and it shows. You can’t compete with the world, it’s way too big. Besides, why would you ever want to be anyone other than yourself? You can compete with every writer your clients have worked with before you, or the other blogs too tired to inspire, or the mess of novels in your genre.
If you’re willing to take the time to tie a bow around your copy, you’ll stand head and shoulders above the rest.