It takes a special kind of writer to breathe life into subjects like industrial control valves, hospital sanitation, and food-grade lubricants. For storyteller Traci Browne, those seemingly mundane worlds are her playground. She has a special superpower: transforming topics that another writer might seem boring into a vibrant tale of discovery and innovation. It's easy to take our mechanized, automated world for granted, but Traci keeps it fresh by reminding her readers how astonishing modern manufacturing can be.
Traci herself is a manufacturer of case studies, as a Fiverr Pro seller. She's got an extensive track record with numerous industrial clients, including a glowing testimonial from plumbing and drainage manufacturer Morris Group International. And perhaps most impressive of all, she can get introverted engineers to talk at length about their work. I asked her how customers can contribute to create better briefs for their freelance writers, as well as to share some of her professional writing insights with us.
Nico: First of all, thank you for participating in this interview. For those who don't know you, can you give us a little background about yourself and what you offer on Fiverr?
Traci: I appreciate the opportunity to get the freelancer's perspective out there, so thank you! Without turning this into a memoir, let's just say that my various career turns always involved quite a bit of communication through the written word. Writing was where I found my moment of Zen, be it writing technical documentation or case studies.
About seven years ago, I wrote a business book that was published by Pearson, and that was it – I wanted to do nothing but write for my foreseeable future. I also wanted to get paid. Fortunately for me, content marketing was on the rise. Companies wanted – and still do – writers who can tell an engaging story. That's what I do. I would not call myself a copywriter; I am a storyteller. I offer a narrative case study on Fiverr.
It's not your typical case study that centers on the features of a product or service being offered. A narrative case study focuses on how the client uses your product or service and how it has a positive impact on their business. A narrative case study is written like an article in a trade publication (and many trade publications will publish these case studies), not like marketing copy on a brochure. A narrative case study draws the reader in and keeps them on the page, and the hope is that they are driven to pick up the phone if the study relates to their own needs.
Nico: Every content writing assignment should begin with a brief. What components should an ideal brief include? What would you expect to receive from the client in terms of guidelines?
Traci: A creative brief is essential, and often clients do not think to provide one when they hire a writer. However, it is crucial for a successful project. The basics are project goals (is it a thought leadership piece or something educational for your customer?), target audience (demographic and psychographic information), key points you want to get across, why the reader should believe what you are telling them, tone of voice (do you want a fun, quirky piece or should it be authoritative?), and of course budget, timeline, length, and format.
In addition to those basics, your writer needs to know the importance of the piece. Do not simply say you want an article for a trade publication. Let the writer know if this is a once-a-year opportunity to reach your target market and you want to outshine all the competition. The writer will also want to know how you want the reader to feel. Do you want to inspire the reader, empower them, or maybe put a bit of fear into them? It's also helpful to share your overall view on the industry you work in. It sounds like a lot of information, but trust me, it's all crucial to the project's success.
Nico: Communication is the core behind any successful cooperation. Any quick tip, idea, or suggestion on how to get the best results from a content writer?
Traci: My big suggestion would be to understand that the first draft is just that: It is a first attempt at putting the piece together. The writer is not expecting to nail it right out of the gate and neither should you, especially if it is the first time you are working together. The writer is looking for feedback from you to make sure they are on the right track, and if they are not, to fix it.
The feedback you give on that first draft needs to be clear. I recently had a client tell me they wanted the piece to be more "journalistic," but they could not define what they meant by that. If you cannot express what you want, how is the writer to know? Instead of saying, "It sounds a bit boring," tell the writer exactly where the piece starts to lose your interest and why. Maybe it's too dense with data, and the writer needs to go back and find a new way to get that information across.
Nico: Having worked for brands such as Intel, Morris Group International, and many more, has your approach to content writing changed throughout your experiences?
Traci: I don't think my approach has really changed. I have always focused on working with clients who see the value in quality content and the importance of putting the reader's needs before their own. What I mean is that a good piece of content isn't an overt sales pitch, it focuses on the customer's point of view. What I have learned over time is how to better communicate with my clients and how to avoid misunderstandings. I have also developed techniques to get stories and anecdotes out of even the most introverted interviewees.
And of course, as any writer will tell you, the more you write, the better you get. I have the best job in the world. I get to spend my days talking to some of the smartest people in the world (experts in their field) and get paid to learn about new things. One week I might be writing about the impact of energy harvesting, the following week I'm talking to law enforcement about the use of drones, and the next week I'm writing about the importance of thermostatic mixing valves. It's the best education you can get.
Traci's enthusiasm about her work is easy to see in what she writes. It's fascinating to read about a world where batteries may be able to charge themselves, or feel like we're with her gazing up at a sculpture so complex it appears to be alive. She pairs that enthusiasm and wonder with a sharp focus and even sharper language. And her advice about how clients should develop a strategy and clear expectations with their writers should be required reading.
Clients, not just writers, need to understand both the subject and the audience. When you give a great writer like Traci the right information, the magic flows freely.
Buyers, what kinds of stories could your business share as a case study? Writers, how do you get more guidance from a client who doesn't know what they need in their content? Tell us in the comments below.