Learn how to harness the power of soft skills — those non-technical skills that relate to how you work, how you interact with colleagues, how you solve problems, and how you manage your work — to craft better content.

Emotional intelligence is integral to developing active listening skills. But what about the other soft skills? There are the more obvious ones, like creativity and collaboration, that have obvious benefits for content creators.

And then there are others, like adaptability and curiosity, that may require a bit more unpacking to understand their relationship to crafting better content.

We’re going to take a look at five soft skills that you’ll want to cultivate and use to create better content for your brand or clients. But before we do, let’s first get aligned on what we mean by soft skills and also take a look at how they are different from hard skills.

Defining skills… by texture?

Except for pillows, blankets, and certain other textiles, describing something as “soft” doesn’t always have the best connotation. Soft is tactile, not tangible. So how has the notion of possessing soft skills in the workplace become so prominent and in demand?

Trust us on this one — when it comes to skills, you’ll want to understand the power of soft.

According to the job site Indeed, “Soft skills are any skill or quality that can be classified as a personality trait or habit.”

And the job advice website The Balance Careers offers this definition: “Soft skills are non-technical skills that relate to how you work. They include how you interact with colleagues, how you solve problems, and how you manage your work.”

The opposite of soft

For a definition of hard skills, we turn again to Indeed: “Hard skills are technical knowledge or training that you have gained through any life experience, including in your career or education.”

The Balance Careers describes hard skills as being “part of the skill set that is required for a job…[and] include the expertise necessary for an individual to successfully do the job.

Hard skills related to content creation might include:

  • Editing
  • Design
  • Proposal writing
  • Reporting
  • Researching

According to The Balance Careers, skills like these are usually acquired through “formal education and training programs, including college, apprenticeships, short-term training classes, online courses, and certification programs, as well as on-the-job training.”

The list of lists: an aggregate of soft skills

To arrive at the five soft skills that follow, we first created a “list of lists” from several sources, including career and networking sites like the aforementioned Indeed, LinkedIn, The Balance Careers, and CareerBuilder, and we also included lists from Forbes, among others.

There was quite a bit of overlap and redundancy when taken all together, so the resulting list of five was actually easier to arrive at than we initially thought it would be:

  • Adaptability
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Emotional intelligence

Soft skills: application for better content creation

Now that we’ve identified the five soft skills that can help you craft better content, let’s dive in. For each skill, we’ll consider:

  • What it means
  • How it helps
  • Practical application(s)
  • How to cultivate it
  • Related skills

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Adaptability

 “The only thing that is constant is change.” — Heraclitus of Ephesus

What it means

If you’ve spent any time creating content, you know these wise words from Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who was also an early content creator, ring true. Simply put, being adaptable means you can flow with change.

How it helps

If you’ve been in the content game for any period of time, you also know that “change” comes in many, many forms. Whether it be a story taking a near-deadline “this just in!” turn, a last-minute request for a change in creative direction from a client (“Can you make it ‘pop’ more?”), or the kinds of changes that come with voice and tone as you move from brand to brand, client to client, or project to project, the ability to adapt and be flexible will serve you well.

Practical application

Adaptability allows you to turn on a proverbial dime when things take a different direction — and they most definitely will — and mastering this soft skill means you can pivot on a project and deliver pristine deliverables under deadline. Adaptability also has measurable outcomes, such as when you’re able to change content strategies to adapt to trends in topics, article lengths, and word counts, to reap tangible and measurable benefits, like more traffic, more social shares, and backlinks that are relevant to your brand or industry.

How to cultivate it

Chances are you won’t have to look far for opportunities to demonstrate how adaptable and flexible you are. In fact, if you regularly receive feedback from teammates or clients, you demonstrate your adaptability when asked to make (multiple) content changes — some reluctantly — while continuing to churn out good work with a positive attitude.

But if you really want to stretch out, we’d encourage you to volunteer to take on a task that might scare you a bit.

Related skills:

  • Flexibility
  • Patience
  • Stress-tolerant

2. Collaboration

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” — Helen Keller

What it means

Ever been told that you “play well with others?” In all seriousness, that’s what being collaborative is — the ability to work well and co-create with others.

How it helps

A basic skill usually learned in early education settings (and sometimes sooner for those with multiple siblings), being collaborative actually has practical — and desirable — applications in your adult years. You want to be known as a content creator who can work well with a multidisciplinary team— collaborating with a networked team of freelancers — working on client projects together.

Practical application

Aside from brainstorming with a group of creative colleagues to come up with a concept for a client or working with a cross-disciplinary team on things like design challenges, being a person that other colleagues enjoy working with can open doors to new opportunities.

How to cultivate it

If you’re part of a creative team, chances are that you’ve already got some experience in collaborating regularly. If you’re flying solo as a freelancer and tend to stay safely ensconced in the client-creative feedback loop, consider joining (virtual) professional groups, or participating in workshops where you can share your work and get feedback, or better still, work on group challenges together with other creatives to help flex your co-creation muscles.

Related skills:

  • Teamwork
  • Team mentality
  • Team player 

3. Creativity

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou

What it means

According to an Indeed article on Creativity in the Workplace: “Creativity is the act of transforming new, innovative ideas into reality.”

How it helps

Beyond the act of making things, creativity in the workplace functions in some of the same ways that curiosity does, in that it helps foster new and fresh approaches to doing things (like solving problems) and making things (like developing new products).

Practical application

If you’re lucky enough to work on a team comprised of a variety of creatives, you may benefit from learning new approaches to your craft, such as participating in creating a service blueprint with designers and researchers to help identify untapped content opportunities. Not only will you learn a creative approach to problem-solving, but you’ll also have a new skill in your toolbox that you can use on future projects.

How to cultivate it

We’re big fans of design challenges, hackathons (even the slickest tech solutions need content!), and similar crowdsourced opportunities to stimulate creativity.

Related skills:

  • Innovation
  • Open-mindedness
  • Originality

4. Curiosity

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.” — Albert Einstein

What it means

Simply put, as a soft skill, curiosity means you’re always looking for opportunities to learn. Whether you wonder about new approaches to crafting digital content, or you come across a concept you want to know more about and embark on a path of self-guided study, being inquisitive brings a sense of freshness to your content and how you practice your craft and also shows that you’re open to opportunities to share knowledge and insights with other members of your team.

How it helps

Curiosity is a mainstay of the content creator, and perhaps one of the most important soft skills to cultivate. Being curious helps surface questions that will yield the best answers — and, ultimately, yield even better content.

Practical application

Curiosity not only keeps you on your creative toes but can also open doors for new opportunities. Demonstrating that you have a thirst for knowledge can lead to new assignments. And it can also help you adapt to changes in the workplace (virtual or otherwise) as the way we work continues to change.

How to cultivate it

Try something new, find a new way of doing something you’ve always done, and ask questions, listen, and observe.

Related skills:

  • Continuous (or continuously) learning
  • Thirst for knowledge

5. Emotional intelligence (EI)

“In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels.” — Daniel Goleman

What it means

MindTools.com defines emotional intelligence as “…the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you.”

How it helps

According to MindTools, “People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they’re feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people.”

Practical application

In addition to dealing with clients and editors who sometimes test your mettle — and patience — content creators who are both self-aware and in tune with others will find that emotional intelligence helps them create authentic connections, and to avoid clashing with others in pursuit of crafting great content.

How to cultivate it

If there’s a triple crown given to a great source of information, then it’s MindTools for the win with these tips for improving emotional intelligence:

  • Observe how you react to people. Look honestly at how you think and interact with people.
  • Look at your work environment. Do you seek attention for your accomplishments, or do you give others a chance to shine?
  • Do a self-evaluation. Consider taking an emotional intelligence quiz for more insight.
  • Examine how you react to stressful situations. The ability to stay calm and in control in difficult situations is highly valued.
  • Take responsibility for your actions.
  • Examine how your actions will affect others before you take those actions.

Related skills:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Self-awareness
  • Social awareness

Need help with content creation? From ebooks and email newsletters to blog posts and social media ads, ClearVoice can handle all of your content needs with ease. Talk to a content specialist today to get started.