Changing Your Pitch: Writing Tone

Your writing voice is as unique as your fingerprint. Without realizing it, you lean towards and repeat certain turns of phrase, and likely even use punctuation in patterns that are familiar and comfortable to your flow.  You may misspell the same words, tend towards a certain length of paragraph, or prefer a certain type of call to action over others as well. All of these little quirks combine to compose your writing tone and define your work, both personal and professional.  The result is a strong, predictable pace and style that is applicable to many different platforms. Unfortunately, you will probably need to change it up somewhere along the line. Here are three tips for finding, using and maintaining a new tone in your writing.

Zoning Permits

Sooner or later, you will get a client that requests or requires a tone that doesn’t feel “right” to you. This is the nature of the freelance writing beast, and learning to bend a little will keep you in the game while your less flexible peers get drummed out. This client may request a more aggressive tone than usual, asking for numerous calls to action in their freelance writing, and some have a borderline obsession with exclamation points.  Conversely, they could want you to walk on eggshells, softening every point with hemming and hawing and a lot of “CYA” style phrasing. A lot of points could be made that either extreme is ineffectual, but the client should always get what he or she wants, regardless of the freelancer’s personal stances on the tone. (Naturally, if a project begins to swing so far out of your comfort zone that it leaves orbit, it may be time to consider how to fire your freelance writing client.)

Taking a Page

Looking for inspiration in the client’s current descriptions, literature and website is the best place to start. These pieces of writing, provided they aren’t in the process of being replaced, have already met the client’s expectations and thus make an excellent template. If they are being overhauled, ask the client to point out a few sites or competitors that they consider above average – this will give you a starting point to search for tone. Even with this “leg up”, there’s a very good chance that the client may ask for tweaks and rewrites, so make yourself available by email or phone and be prepared to go through a few edits.  Remember, any short-term freelance writing client could turn into a long term one, so put the extra effort in if you can afford to.

It’s Okay to Say No

If you’ve followed the Freelancer Writer Guide advice on finding your writing speed, you’re already using it to determine what is and isn’t worth working on. If a project is x number of words and would normally require x dollars to be worth it, don’t forget to factor in the extra time that adjusting your tone will cost you. If an assignment is already teetering on the border of being too low in pay for the time tradeoff, tonal changes could shove it firmly into “not worth it” when you really break it down.  If you do refuse an assignment, do so as early as possible so you don’t tie the client up, and be sure to maintain a professional tone in all of your communications. Word gets around in client circles as quickly as writer communities, and you don’t want that stigma following you from job to job.