September 10, 2021 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
Content writers communicate information about businesses, products, services, and industries with the public through original written work. Typically, their role is to attract customers to a brand or to convince them to complete a call to action, although some types of content writers work on translating, editing, or summarizing different types of documents. Creative people who have interests in storytelling and persuasive language may be a good fit for these jobs.
Content writers create material for blogs, websites, social media, and other print and digital platforms. They keep content consistent across all client projects and work with other team members to create a cohesive brand message. Other duties of a content writer include:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t specifically list content writers in its job outlook occupations guide. The organization expects technical writer careers to grow by 7% between 2019 and 2029. It also expects author and writer careers to decline by 2% in that same period.
People in the field—such as Yuwanda Black, an Inkwell Editorial publisher—expect content writer positions to keep growing. Black believes that people want more career flexibility, which will lead to more freelance jobs. She also thinks companies may be interested in hiring niche talent without having to pay for full benefits packages.
“Content writer” is an umbrella term for many unique positions in marketing, business, journalism, and other industries. Some of these roles include:
Blog writers create, edit, post, and share content for blogs. The tone of blog posts is generally more relaxed and conversational than other content writing. Bloggers may focus on current events, breaking news, industry updates, or other timely topics. They have a strong understanding of their target audience and how to communicate with them most effectively. They may also invite other bloggers, guests, or subject matter experts to contribute content to their sites. According to Indeed, they make an average of $14.51 per hour for their services.
These creatives come up with names for new businesses and slogans for brands and products. They may also write jingles or create sayings for things like bumper stickers and greeting cards. Business name and slogan writers often work in freelance capacities because of their specialized talents. Different from other content writing, slogan writers may enter contests or competitions to make money by writing catchy slogans for government agencies, businesses, and other organizations.
Creative writers work in long-form copy like books, scripts, or essays. They typically plan, outline, and summarize their content, too. Creative writing may include extensive research and fact-checking. Unlike some types of content writing, creative writers may work with both fiction and nonfiction subjects. According to Salary.com, they make, on average, $25 per hour.
These copywriters help design email marketing strategies, create email content, and share correspondence with subscribers. Their primary goal is to write copy that creates sales or gathers leads through the email channel. Email copywriters also keep their audience and subscribers informed about news and updates. A company that uses an email copywriting service may pay between $100 and $2,000 per email, a portion of which goes to the content writer. The high end of this pay scale may also reflect research, testing, and optimization that the copywriting service completes in order to maximize each email’s success.
These writers draft legal documents, articles about legal issues, and other materials on behalf of lawyers and law firms. Other projects may include summarizing news briefs, recapping case law, writing educational articles, compiling attorney profiles, or sending memos. In this niche, legal writers must follow all the regulations and expectations of the industry. ZipRecruiter states that most legal writers make an average of $42 per hour.
This type of content writer creates press releases or news briefs on behalf of an individual or organization. Press releases are typically one page and have a simplistic style. They’re sent to media contacts for as-is distribution or as research and content for a longer article. Press releases also appear on company websites, get sent through email, or are featured on social media.
Press release writers may cover topics such as events, product launches, philanthropic efforts, and other newsworthy topics. Some work in-house with businesses and have other public relations duties. Freelancers may charge per word or a flat rate per page for their services. Those who charge hourly may make between $30 and $182.
Product description writers create blurbs about items for sale. They describe features, benefits, and other important information about each product for consumers. The goal is to persuade and encourage people to buy certain items. You can find product descriptions anywhere sales take place: websites, e-commerce stores, in-store signs, catalogs, email marketing, and social media. We even employ product description writers at CopyPress to provide this service to our clients. Throughout the United States, product description writers make about $21 per hour.
Though not content writers, proofreaders and editors are important to the creative process. Proofreaders check written pieces for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. Editors do those same tasks, in addition to:
These professionals work in any place that also has writers, such as marketing firms, newspapers, magazines, and publishing houses. Many also work in freelance capacities. Editors make, on average, $23.32 per hour. Proofreaders make just slightly less, with an average of $22.25 per hour.
A research summary is a professional document that describes the process and outcome of a research project for a specific audience. Research summary writers often have an education in the specific field they write about. This helps them understand the relevant research procedures and language, making it easier for them to translate it into readable content for all audiences. They often work in fields like education, science, medicine, engineering, and technology. Pay scales vary depending on the subject and type of research.
Resume writers help clients restructure their current resumes or create brand new ones. They understand the format, language, and elements that get a resume past the applicant tracking system (ATS) that many companies may use to screen the documents. They also understand which resume features are most appealing to hiring managers and recruiters. Resume writers often work one-on-one with clients to discuss their skills, work history, education history, and career goals, and they make an average of $21 per hour.
These copywriters create content intended to persuade people into buying a product or service. Sales copywriters make pieces that they expect to create conversions every time they’re viewed. They understand sales tactics and how to use words to replicate those tactics on the page. They may understand how to write good calls to action and how psychology plays a role in sales.
The price that freelance sales copywriters can charge per hour may depend on their experience and reputation for conversion. New sales copywriters with less than two years of experience may charge $50 to $80 per hour, while more advanced freelancers may charge between $120 and $200 per hour.
Technical writers create documents that tell people how to build, use, and operate products and machines. They write instruction manuals, how-to documents, journal articles, research copy, and other related materials. Technical writers may also work on complex topics like engineering, medicine, or technology. They often work to share highly specialized information with an audience that has less background knowledge of the procedures or jargon used by professionals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for this role is $35.89 per hour.
Transcriptionists listen to voice recordings and conversations and turn them into written documents. They may transcribe events like:
Some transcriptionists specialize in certain fields, such as law or medicine. They generally work from audio recordings, but some, like court reporters, transcribe in person. Live transcriptionists may use shorthand or another type of abbreviated writing when listing to in-person events. They then polish those documents to include full sentences. Transcriptionists make $16.43 per hour on average.
Translators change written material from one language into another. They focus on maintaining the meaning and structure of the original work as they develop the translation. These professionals can read, write, and usually speak at least two languages. Effective translators understand cultural references and slang in both languages, which means they can alter this language or provide footnotes for readers to ensure no meaning is lost.
Translators may work with all kinds of documents, such as books, newspaper articles, professional records, journal articles, web content, and advertisements. Translators often work for organizations like governments, international corporations, publishing houses, educational institutions, and historical societies. The average salary for a translator is $25.16 per hour.
These professionals create written materials for websites. Their employer or client provides specific information regarding the pieces they write. Common website content includes:
Website content writers make approximately $17.14 per hour.
Use these steps to learn how to become a content writer:
There are key expectations associated with content writing positions, such as deadlines, pay scales, and client requests. Your pay may depend on where and how you work, your experience, your work quality, and your ability to follow instructions. While you can charge whatever you think your services are worth if you’re working as a freelancer, you’re more likely to get a high hourly rate if you have the experience to back it up.
Deadlines are important for most writing, especially things that go through the publication process, like newspaper, magazine, and journal articles. Deadlines may be tight, meaning you may get an assignment in the morning and need to complete it before the end of the day. Also, as a content writer, you’re not the creative director on the project: the client is. That means following their rules, style guide, and feedback at all times.
Many content writers have college degrees in English, writing, marketing, sales, business, communications, or other related fields. Those who write specifically for certain industries like science or math may have degrees or minors in those areas. This can help with research and understanding technical language. More specialized writers may even have master’s or doctorate degrees.
If you’re not interested in a full education or if you have a degree in an unrelated area, there are other options to get training. Consider certification courses from community colleges or other organizations. Often, you can earn these credentials in a few semesters or a few months. You can also take content writing classes online for a small fee to earn related certifications.
Experience can increase your chances of getting a job. There are multiple ways you can build your writing resume and portfolio. If you’re a student, you may consider completing an internship. You can intern in industries like publications, marketing, and nonprofits.
Other ways of gaining experience may include volunteering with organizations or starting your own blog. These options can help you practice your skills. If you write on your own, you may also have the option to submit your pieces to publications like magazines, newspapers, literary journals, or websites.
Mentors can help answer your questions, give feedback about your work, and provide career advice. These people have experience in the field and professional knowledge to share with you. When looking for a mentor, consider asking someone you already know, such as a professor or supervisor. You may also explore online mentorship programs to find professionals from across the country.
If you’re looking for guidance but not a mentor, consider joining a writing organization. The Professional Writers Alliance (PWA), for example, offers guidance for writers such as:
Once you’ve learned the skills and made the connections to become a content writer, the next step is finding a job. There are different ways you can do this, depending on what path works for you. However, there are some common steps that many people follow:
Content writers can work with multiple clients at marketing agencies, do in-house work for advertising departments at companies, or work freelance. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the requirements and expectations differ for each one. For example, content writers at agencies may have the benefit of working for multiple clients at one time and writing about a variety of subjects. Freelancer writers may have flexibility in their schedules and the ability to pick projects that interest them. It’s helpful to research the different types of content writing to see which best fits your goals and lifestyle.
No matter which type of position you’re trying to get, it’s beneficial to have a portfolio. This collection of your work shows people what you’re qualified to do. You can create a digital portfolio with links to all your content or print out samples of your work and make a hard-copy book. Some people include just their best pieces in their portfolio, while others include all their work to showcase a range.
If you intend to work on a contract or for a business, you may also need a resume and cover letter to send with your job application. You can tailor these to each specific role, sharing your most interesting and impressive attributes that could help in each job.
If you choose to do freelance work, learn how to market yourself. As a freelancer, you are the business. Your skills and experience are what you want clients to see and recognize as beneficial to their company or protect. When working in this type of position, you can choose to create your own self-run freelancing service, or you can choose to work for a marketplace like Fiverr or Upwork.
There are benefits to each freelancing option. For example, when you work for yourself, you get to keep 100% of your profits, while some marketplaces take a commission of your sales. But using marketplaces can make it easier or faster to find clients. Consider which factors matter most to you when choosing a freelance method. Then you can develop ways to market yourself, such as through cold emailing, social media, email newsletters, or pay-per-click ads.
You can look for both agency jobs and freelance clients through many of the same channels. Try searching online job boards or using your network to get referrals and recommendations. Look for roles and projects where you can use your unique skills and content knowledge to provide value to the company, client, and audience.
Content writing can help you learn a lot of information about many subjects. No matter which specialization you select, you have the opportunity to choose between traditional and self-employment. With each new job, you may build skills and create connections that can help you advance your career or find your next content writing job.
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