How To Be Yourself While Writing For Others

I once wrote a piece for a friend’s blog because she was going on vacation. Then her vacation was rescheduled and I thought: Great! I’ll totally use this piece on my site. But I didn’t.  Because it was written for HER SITE.  It was me, but a me to people who didn’t know me as well.  And two months later, when she asked about guest blogging for her new-old vacation time, I just sent her the piece still sitting in my drafts.

Besides guest blogging for fun, I have been hired as Late Enough, and I have been hired as a writer.  But I believe that, regardless of why I’m invited to write a post, I am supposed to stay true to myself while strongly respecting that different topics, websites and concepts deserve specific language, research and detail.

The best way I can describe this balance is by thinking of websites and topics as acquaintances, friends or family. I’ll still be me in each case, but I only giggle when I fart in front of my family.

Acquaintance Sites:

Acquaintances are people who we see once in awhile and maybe we’d like to see more or maybe we’re relieved to see them go.  We want to introduce ourselves and let them get to know who we are without mooning them.  Am I still be awkward?  Yes.  But I also recognize don’t have as much time or leeway to make a good first impression.

The readers don’t know all the times that I have been kind or used correct grammar so this probably not the time to try out that cancer joke that ends in a preposition.  I might even wear heels and earrings.  I will definitely watch my language, do my research on the site and audience and settle on topics that would interest myself AND them.  Or try out a new topic that I would never have the opportunity to broach otherwise.

Friend Sites:

Friends are people who are similar to us or who have a similar readership to us.  We can let our hair down and have more fun.  We are supposed to bring our voices and our usual topics, but we still need to give some background and ask the important question like Is cursing okay? and Are most of your friends rabid Republicans who will eat me for voting for Obama?

The readers are somewhat prepped for our entrance because we have similarities to the site owner or have topics in common. I have more opportunity to blog on topics and in styles that are closer to my personal ones, but I still want to put my best foot (or sentence) forward with enough uniqueness to stand out and make my friend glad she invited me into her space.

Family Sites:

Family is almost always on our own blogs, or topics that we are SO SENSITIVE ABOUT that we should only approach them in a place where we have control over edits, comments and an ability to reply.  I have actually turned down opportunities to repost Late Enough pieces that fall in this category because I don’t want the story to be out there for everyone’s consumption.  I want to protect it and have it stay with people who care.

Family sites also allow me some room so if (when) I go off into a strange direction or rant because my readers know me well enough to understand and forgive me if need be.  Here I can try new ideas out, and as long as I’m paying attention and keep my new ideas to one day a week, my readership will come back even if it flops. They may even be kind enough to tell me that it’s a flop.

But even with our families, there may be some topics that are just not interesting to them or our new ideas are much too OUT THERE.  My husband only wants to hear so much about my blogging woes in part because it gets boring and in part because it makes no sense.  I have found other sites, usually acquaintances, to post those ideas, theories and quips.

A big exception to these analogies is copywriting or ghost writing, which I’ve only done once.  I copied another person’s style because she did not have the time to work on a project, and I was asked to help.  And that is the only time that I have put my voice completely aside.

In the end, whether hired, guest blogging or blogging on my own site, it’s always my job to set the tone of the piece without losing my voice in the process. While I rarely write a piece where I don’t crack some joke, I believe that people are hiring me to be me AND to be sensitive to their audience or topic.  As a writer, it’s a pleasure to be able to do both.

9 Comments

  1. Jessica

    This is a great post and love the categories you made. I used to struggle with this a lot when guest posting and after going too far outside what I considered my usual voice once, I now make sure whatever I write, wherever it is, it is something I want my readers and their readers to read.

    Reply
    • Alex@LateEnough

      Thanks! Ive done both: strayed too far away & stayed to close to my quirks. Either way, it’s uncomfortable.

      Reply
  2. Alison@Mama Wants This

    Wise words, Alex. I’ve guest posted about 5 times at pretty different places, although the audience is similar, and I’ve naturally adjusted my ‘voice’ to suit and respect their space. I am always mindful that I’m a ‘guest’. 🙂 Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
    • Alex@LateEnough

      Thanks and you’re right on! They ARE wise words. haha just kidding. You’re right on about guest post. We are guests and need to be respectful of other people’s spaces & willingness to take a chance on us. xoxo

      Reply
  3. Leighann

    Great post and it really encourages me to get my voice out there and expand.

    Reply
  4. Leigh Ann

    Love this and love Alex. Late Enough is in my “read every day” category because she has such a distinct voice.

    Reply
  5. Kate

    oh I love Alex. And I follow similar rules when I guest post. I try to be me always…but an appropriate guest me.

    sometimes.

    unless I am posting for someone like Alex.

    which is why she has never asked me to guest post.

    oh wait. I DID do a post on markers that smell like a crotch.

    and this would be why I wasn’t asked back.

    Ok, I get it.

    Reply
  6. Hopes@Staying Afloat!

    These are great tips! I haven’t done a guest post yet..hopefully someday. But I will definitely keep these in mind.

    Reply

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  2. Freelance Writing | Getting Started as a Freelance Writer - [...] key item to remember: Most freelance articles are expected to be written in third person, not first. Be sure to…

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