Developing and Adapting Your Voice

In this age where everyone can have a platform (which is awesome, by the way!), your voice is your brand, and your most powerful asset.  Over time, you’ll cultivate a method of expression that both resonates with your audience and fills your soul.  This will be THE foundation of your outreach or your business, helping you truly connect with others and realize your purpose.

In this post, we’ll discuss:

  • Some techniques for developing your voice
  • When and how to adapt it to suit others
  • Why it’s important to retain part of your brand in everything, no matter what

Develop Your Voice

I bet you’ve seen people who just wow you with their insight and presence.  I know I have.  But unless divine intervention was involved, they actually had to work at becoming who they are and how they show up in the world.

That’s actually a very good thing — for two reasons.  One, it means that we all can develop our own voice, our own personal greatness — it’s not just for the blessed few.  Two, being human is all about the growth process.  It’s about taking new bits, assimilating them with old bits, and moving forward as a new creation.

As we evolve, so will our content.  It’s inevitable and it’s pretty magical to witness.

So how do you go through this iterative developmental process?  Well, it’s going to look different for everyone, but here is some food for thought:

Get your feet wet and consume some content.

Take note of what’s successful, what isn’t, and why.  Reflect on why something moves you.  Take some of your favorite pieces and redo them in your own words.  Expand on the ideas presented.  Take the thoughts and repackage them in a new medium.

But — know when to cut off the inspiration feed.

I mean, it’s great when something kindles our spark.  But if we constantly bombard our brain with someone else’s messaging, it crowds out our own.  I’m not saying to NEVER seek out external ideas — of course, you should.  But I am advising to give it a rest now and again to see what your mind comes up with when it’s quiet enough to think.

Create as much as you can.

Be disciplined and commit to putting out information — even if you don’t feel inspired.  Naturally, you don’t have to publish the “duds” (unless you want to, which could be interesting).  It’s OK that the majority of what you create ISN’T going to change your world.  But, by practicing your craft consistently, you’ll clear out any blockages and your voice will ring more clearly than you ever thought possible.  Remember — it’s often in the minutia of the day to day that we find our uniqueness, our greatness.

Be patient and gentle with yourself.

You are a work in progress.  We all are.  So cut yourself some slack and know that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.  (Believe me — the notion frustrates me, too, sometimes, but I’ve found truth in it.)  If your voice isn’t coming along and you’re growing weary, don’t be afraid to step back.  While creating consistently can bring about clarity, so can distance.

Go out on a limb.

Sometimes, our voice will emerge in places we never though to look.  That means that we need to try new things and periodically get uncomfortable.  For me, this manifests as going to in person networking events.  I’m an introvert, so this is a challenge for me.  (I also need to hurry up and create videos, but the shyness monster makes me hesitate.)

Share with us: What other tips do you have for finding your voice?  In what way can you go out on a limb to challenge yourself?

Related Reading: Ten Questions That Will Help You Find Your Voice

Adapting Your Voice

If you’re just writing for your own platform, let it sing.  It’s 100% you, 100% of the time.  Of course, your message is tailored to your audience, but the WAY it’s presented is unmistakably your MO.

However, if you’re creating for someone else’s platform, you may need to adapt your voice to fit their style.  In my experience, this adaptation happens on a continuum, depending on who you’re creating for, who is taking credit, and if you’re being paid.

It looks something like this:

  • Guest post (unpaid):  Generally, your voice remains completely intact, but you need to be respectful of the host platform’s parameters.  For example, if you’re known for a certain formatting, you’ll likely need to be flexible and let it go.
  • By-lined piece for pay: Your voice should be clearly evident here, but your client may ask you to follow a complex style guide and re-tool some of the language to suit their audience.  Getting feedback can help make the process easier for subsequent pieces that you create for them.
  • Ghost written piece for pay: Your voice may be heavily modified here.  When you ghost write, the client will take your words and put their name on it, making it a representation of them and their brand.  They’ll want it to read like it came from them and reach their specific audience in a specific way.  Perhaps your natural voice accomplishes this.  But your best bet is to ask the client how much “you” can be included in the piece.

Please note: My experience is based on creating written content, but I imagine the “rules” are similar regardless of the medium.  Folks that create in other ways, please correct me if I’m wrong.

Maintaining Your Brand

When your content is destined to live outside of the world that you own, you’ll likely have to make some compromises to please your clients and collaborative partners.  However, it’s important to retain some of you in everything that you create — no matter what.

If you don’t, you’ll disengage from the creative process, the end product will suffer, and eventually, you may grow to dislike what you do.  But, you don’t need to have everything you create read like your blog to keep connected to the work.  It really could be as simple as highlighting a certain phrase, the cadence of your words, or even the way you use punctuation.

And remember: if someone asks you to create content for them, it means that they like what you do.  They appreciate your talent.  So, feel empowered to push back a little (respectfully, of course) on things that are important to you during the creation process.

If they say no, don’t take it personally.  (I know — it’s easier said than done.  Every editor’s change is like a little papercut to my psyche, but I make myself get over it and try to learn from it.)  It’s one client, one piece of content, and one moment to grow in a lifetime of many.

Final Thoughts

Your voice is what builds your community and attracts your customers.  The song that you sing is your ticket to making connections and seizing opportunities.  And, the amazing thing is — it gets rewritten constantly to reflect your growth.  Embrace the change, be willing to compromise in collaboration, but ensure that your presence is felt in everything that you create.   These tenets are key to long term content creation success.

Tell me: How have you had to adapt your voice to satisfy a client?




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