Creative Spotlight: How to Think Like a Content Marketer When You’re Really a Freelance Writer

If you’re a freelance writer, you want to know The Secret. You’re in good company. To be sure, there are over 4 million freelance writers in the United States alone, and we’d all like to make more money. However, where our professional title weaves us together, our income divides.

You may have seen the numbers. Some freelancers bank something close to the $100,000 mark on an annual basis where others struggle to put food on the table. Whether this leaves you in awe of the larger dollar amount or with pity for the lower depends largely on your strategy. See, if you’ve figured out The Secret, you’re probably sitting well. If not, chances are you’re hoping for a change.

First, The Secret: To earn more money, you need to give clients more of what they want. That is, you need to shower them with content that brings more traffic, more leads, more links, and ultimately more sales. In order to do that, you need to approach your freelance business more like a content marketer would and less like “just a writer.”

What is Content Marketing?

In a nutshell, content marketing is when a business decides to use its content (articles, blogs, messaging) to build a relationship with its consumer. It isn’t about intentionally selling products or services — that’s just plain marketing. Rather, it’s about providing resources and trustworthy content to a company’s clients and customers.

Truth be told, most of your writing is probably along the lines of content marketing already; learning the intricacies of packaging it as such is the critical step. Here’s how.

Develop a Strategy

Before walking any further down the path of a freelance writer, you should establish a strategy. Where do you hope your writing will be in a month? A year? Do you intend to make this a part-time gig to earn pocket change, or is this going to be your career? Is your goal to become well-known as a writer with your name attached to your work, or are you satisfied with ghostwriting? Your strategy will help you answer these questions and then find a way to achieve each of your particular goals.

Without a strategy, your efforts are akin to an infant trying to shovel food into her mouth: disorganized, messy, and not particularly filling. A mere 32 percent of content marketers have a documented content strategy, yet having one helps in countless ways.

An effective strategy helps you set and achieve goals, organize research, track progress, and make sure that the content you write reaches the greatest audience.

Figure Out What the Client Wants — And Help Them Obtain It

Your first consideration should always be to the client. They are the ones paying you so your goal should be to make them happy.

To figure this out, ask questions and listen intently. What are your client’s pain points? What are they hoping to do with this content? What sort of budget are they working within? While you may think they want a longer article, for instance, they may not have room for it in their publication. Where you think a well-researched blog is paramount, they may want something far less formal. You don’t know unless they tell you, so it’s wise to avoid assumptions and instead just ask.

Image via Flickr by mkhmarketing

Effectively Utilize Social Media

Being a great writer doesn’t automatically generate traffic, links, leads, or sales. There’s about a 100 percent likelihood that this is what your client wants, however. So how do you make that happen? As any marketer can attest to, the first avenue of promotion is through social media. This includes:

  • Uploading content to YouTube
  • Promoting it on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
  • Posting it to two websites: Jay Today and Convince & Convert
  • Using the Quuu tool to promote your content

Here’s another way to make sure that your client’s content is viewed:

  1. Visit Buzzsumo.
  2. Search for other content on your topic and discover the most shared articles on most social media outlets.
  3. Upload the articles into a database file, such as .csv.
  4. Utilize Mailshake to compile email addresses of people interested in your topic.
  5. Set up tracking, follow-up emails, and personalization of emails to potential clients.

Image via Flickr  by NOGRAN s.r.o.

Commit to Memory These Three Letters: SEO

As a freelance writer, you have probably heard the term “SEO” tossed around more than a few times. Yet what it means may prove elusive. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of making sure that a website receives recognition by viewers and search engines (aka Google and the like). Your clients want their websites to appear as close to the top of rankings as possible.

Your job is to help make that happen.

As a writer, your content is far more useful if you learn how to optimize each article for SEO purposes. This is achieved through the right placement of keywords, key phrases, image tags, and title tags. If you’re able to explain to a client how your work is SEO-optimized, your work will be much more valuable.

Learn How to Create Backlinks

Backlinks are incoming links from one website to another. Pages with more backlinks tend to rank higher on all search engines, including Google and Bing.

When one site links to another, it forms “link juice.” This link juice contributes to better rankings and domain authority for the article being linked to. When working for a client, it’s valuable to create content that generates link juice. The most effective way to do this is to create awesome content. Additionally, start commenting on do-follow forums and do-follow blogs. Doing so increases traffic and visibility for your clients.

Build the Right Relationships

Notice the word “build” in this tip. It requires you to actively pursue a professional relationship with influential people to elevate your game.

Find people who are key in the industry you’re writing for and talk to them. With a solid relationship, you benefit from promotion on lengthy email lists and social media followings. This can help build backlinks and create traffic.

As in any relationship, it’s important to decide what you can offer the other person. It may be that you introduce one influential person to another, that you’ll exchange ideas, or that you’ll promote the other person’s work on your own page. Whatever the case, it’s helpful to name — and give — what you can to the relationship.

Marketing Savvy Means Higher Income

Remember, these tips can help you transform from being “just a writer” to being a professional business person with copious amounts of writing work in your queue. Concentrate on giving clients more of what they want, promoting your ability to do so, and then nurturing the relationships you develop along the way.

About the author

Sylvia LeRahl

A professional writer, teacher, consultant and indie game designer for eight years, Sylvia has demonstrated experience writing hundreds of blogs, presentations, magazine articles, press releases and product descriptions. She writes for a variety of satisfied customers who rely on her SEO savvy and writing talent to increase readership and market materials.

Sylvia is a regular blog contributor, research professional and social media connoisseur who supports herself through freelance writing and running a small business. She holds an advanced degree in educational leadership and an undergraduate degree in English. In addition to being a writer, she recently served as a secondary teacher and the Director of Education & Special Needs at a large Head Start preschool program.

Sylvia's web and print publication credits include Parents Magazine, Ask.com, eBay, Staples, The Autism Site and The Knot. Additionally, she has authored over 2,000 blog posts, magazine articles, web pages, press releases and product descriptions for various online writing platforms.

Sylvia excels at writing articles that are thoroughly researched and entertaining. She makes technical material accessible to the average reader and seeks to find the human interest angle in most of her writing. She enjoys writing in a variety of niches, including law, education, parenting, games, health and travel.