Writing Financial Content with Intent
When I look back at the past year I’ve spent writing on Medium; I see an enormous tapestry of genres and ideas.
A lot of them were quickly abandoned, while others led to ‘Top Writer’ badges that were earned and lost within the space of a month.
Eventually, I found my place as a writer who contributes a mix of financial articles and others that poke holes in companies and entire industries.
I quickly worked out that the emotional, sad, heartfelt posts that work for others don’t work for me; I just can’t get the tone right.
But when I write about finances or corporate intrigue, I feel alive and totally in the zone.
I discovered my sweet spot through experimentation, analysing the data, and writing only what I felt passionate about contributing.
But while I always advocate that contributors write only what they want and not what the numbers dictate, I draw the line at sloppy intentions.
Good intentions need not be sloppy.
People sometimes misinterpret “write what you feel like” as “spew anything you want onto a page and hit publish.”
A great idea is always an exciting start, but it needs to be workshopped, thought out, and carefully put through filters before being shoved in front of the eyes of paying readers.
For emotion-driven writers, perhaps the ‘spewing method’ works fine. But if your plan is to write about money, then this isn’t the path for you.
“Don’t cry for money, it never cries for you.”
— Kevin O’Leary
There are a lot of considerations to make before hitting publish on a financial article, starting with considering the intentions and desires of the typical Medium reader.
The Medium Reader
Medium is a platform for the general literary consumer.
I imagine the Medium subscriber as a person that wants to consume a couple of stories when they wake up, then again before bed.
This person mixes up their intake with a couple of bloggy posts about Susan’s dog, jumbled in with a financial or coding post every now and then.
This isn’t Forbes, so writing a top ten list of laundromat millionaires probably isn’t going to gain traction here (although I’d read it).
This reader isn’t interested in taking a class or feeling judged; this person is here to be informed and delighted; maybe get in a chuckle or two.
So if you’re going to write financial content for this person, it needs to be put through extra filtering layers that take out the jargon and contrivances that are right at home in an ‘intro to financial planning’ class.
All informative stories need to be checked for tone and intent before you even think about smashing that publish button. Here’s how;
Knowing Your Intent
Financial articles tend to have a way of dragging on forever without reaching a point. This is common because of how passionate we all are about the subject matter.
It’s perfectly fine to waffle endlessly in the draft stage, but before publishing, it’s important to reel it back in and make sure everything you’ve written stays true to your intent.
Before writing anything, you should know why it is you’re writing in the first place.
If you start a financial article with only the intent to generally talk about money, the following story is going to be a mix of whatever thoughts were in your head at the time.
If you don’t even know what it is you’re trying to say, then the reader has no chance of understanding you.
Within two paragraphs, this person is going to click out and go find something less confusing.
Start with intent, then write with that intent until you’ve said your piece. After that, come back with a big pair of scissors and cut everything that veered off course.
Try as you might though, you’ll never catch it all.
I’m perfectly aware that several of my articles frequently veer off-course or over-explain the point (right now comes to mind).
Normally, it’d be the editor that cuts out all of our rambling, but an editor isn’t cost effective in a blogging environment.
So instead we have the poor mans editor, which is you 24 hours after writing the article.
Write your article, then come back a day later and read it with fresh eyes and a mean delete key.
Guarding Your Intent
The first part of intent is knowing why it is you’re writing in the first place.
The second part of intent is knowing what the reader is going to take away from what they’ve just read.
Over on my financial publication Money Clip, I’ve turned down a lot of stories that didn’t have the right intent.
They were clearly written with intent, and the articles had clearly been edited well. But the intent that they’d written with was not something I wanted to actively support.
Sometimes this intent was to help readers do something that’s technically legal but morally grey, possibly something tax-related.
But most of the time, the intention had nothing to do with the reader and everything to do with the writer.
These were stories that only talked about how great or wealthy the writer was with no replicable path the reader could take to achieve their own wealth.
Stories with inward-focused or sketchy intent are as bad or worse than stories with no intent.
At least if a reader likes the voice being used in an aimless story, they may check back six months later to see if the author figured out how to write yet.
But a writer that breaks trust with the reader by knowingly being a douche has lost that reader forever.
Even worse, that reader may warn other valuable readers who may otherwise have been fans.
So knowing your intent is critical. But once you know your intent, making sure it’s right is just as important.
The Right Intent
Good intent for a financial article (in my opinion) is writing with the genuine desire to tangibly improve the life of the reader. I don’t mean improvement in an abstract way, I mean in a way that directly leads to a better financial future.
It’s this intent that will push you out of writing your article on ethical disintermediation, and instead, help readers understand the glory of dividend investing.
You’ll know if your intentions are good because they’ll guide you towards content that’s simple without being pandering, doesn’t lead to an online course, and can’t end with jail time if one of the steps are executed incorrectly.
This isn’t a site where people come for financial advice, it’s a place where people come for a good time, and while they’re here, they may want to talk about money.
I like to ask myself how I would explain something complicated to a friend at work.
But mostly, I ask myself why I’d want to explain it in the first place.
If my intentions are good, I write until the article is clear. Once I’ve done that, I get out the scissors and start cutting.
If the reader can read something I’ve written and it results in them making smarter choices, I know I’ve achieved what I came here to do.
How will I know that? I’ll only know because the reader will come back and my viewership will grow.
Have intentions, make sure they’re good; and own a big fat pair of scissors. That’s the secret to writing readable financial content on Medium.