Content is the meat and potatoes of marketing. In fact, the State of Content Marketing 2022 Global report found that nearly three-fourths of marketers spend up to 70% of their annual budgets on content.
And if content is the main dish, then content writers are the chefs working hard in the kitchen.
Nearly all digital content—from blogs and social media posts, to ebooks and videos—requires a writer. As you’ll see below, content writing comes in many forms.
But this work involves more than just throwing words onto a website. It involves a thoughtful strategy, a firm understanding of SEO, and multiple distribution channels.
Learn how to use content marketing to your advantage and build connections with potential prospects one word at a time.
What is content writing?
Content writing is the process of developing digital marketing content. More importantly, it’s writing with a strategic purpose. As a content writer, you’re researching, writing, editing, and publishing pieces that you expect to drive results—whether that means driving more traffic to your site or building customer loyalty.
No matter the goal, you must know who your audience is, what will have the most impact, and how to create content that fits the brand.
So, what content should you be building? Well, pretty much any kind of online written content that can educate your readers, build brand awareness, and strengthen customer connections.
With that said, content writing typically involves long-form content (whereas copywriting involves short-form content). For example, content writing often involves:
- Web pages
- Video scripts
- White papers
- Marketing emails
- Social media posts
- Case studies
- Podcast scripts
- Press releases
- And more
What is the difference between copywriting and content writing?
Content writing and copywriting are incredibly similar on the surface. They both involve the creation of digital copy that drives results. Where they differ is in the type of results they target and how to achieve them.
Content writing focuses more on building connections. You want to educate readers, remind them about your brand, and build loyalty over time. Generally, you do this through longer pieces of content like blogs, guides, and video scripts.
Copywriting, however, targets conversions. A copywriter uses shorter, snappier forms of writing to get people to make a purchase. Common forms of copywriting include ads, taglines, and some marketing emails.
What is an example of content writing?
Let’s say you were hired by a company to help market a new productivity app. Your projects may range from writing SEO content to creating an eBook. More specifically, you could be working on content like:
- A blog on “How to be more productive at home” - Blogs are a common form of SEO content, and with a piece like this, you could aim to get in front of people who are clearly looking for a solution like (or are in need of) your client’s productivity app.
- A tweetstorm - Noticing a lot of at-home professionals looking for support on social media? A tweetstorm that empathizes with their frustrations plus provides tips for staying focused could inspire engagement with your client’s account.
- An email newsletter promoting productivity content - A newsletter can help to re-engage contacts and build brand loyalty by delivering relevant content straight to prospects’ inboxes. Your client may ask you to write a newsletter that shares helpful tips for managing stress, organizing tasks, and improving productivity.
- An eBook on “The Science of Procrastination” - The beauty of an eBook is that it gives your client an opportunity to flex their expertise and authority on a topic. As with any eBook, this topic could include in-depth research, expert quotes, and thought-provoking ideas.
Of course, if you’re hired as a freelance content writer, then your projects and responsibility could vary a lot depending on your client’s immediate needs. Some companies may invest heavily into their blog, while others will focus more on downloadable guides. Your job is to be the voice of your client’s brand, and create authoritative content that organically attracts people to the brand.
Read Also: What Is Inbound Marketing?
How to become a freelance content writer: 4 essential tips
As long as you can hold a pen, you’re a threat.
Okay, so maybe we can’t all be naturally gifted writers like Hamilton, but you can pursue a content writing career if you are willing to brush up on your writing skills, learn best practices, and keep track of your results.
If you are interested in starting a freelance writing career, here are some steps you’ll want to take.
1. Brush up on the basics
Content writing is both creative and technical. On one hand, you have to write the kind of content that engages your audience and keeps them interested. On the other hand, you need to create content that is able to rank on search engines and/or matches the expectations of whatever channel you’re writing for.
For this reason, take the time to strengthen the following skills:
Writing for marketing purposes
It’s important to note that content writing is not the same as sales writing. When it comes to content writing, you’re focused on producing content that—first and foremost—is meant to educate or inform.
If you’re used to writing short-form, sales-oriented copy, study the blogs of other successful brands. Pay attention to the formatting, structure, and level of detail within their blogs and try to mimic these details within your own work.
Moreover, study how writing changes depending on the medium (e.g., vidoes, podcasts, etc.). Enroll in online writing courses for more formal training and to put what you observe into practice.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Content marketing usually goes hand in hand with SEO. After all, when a brand publishes a new blog or site page, SEO is what allows the page to rank and receive the visibility it deserves.
To enhance your skills (plus versatility) as a freelance writer, get familiar with SEO terms, tools, and best practices. Learn how to research high-intent keywords, optimize on-page SEO factors, and find the balance between writing for your human readers versus search engines.
It also helps to know how off-page factors and technical factors (such as page loading times and mobile friendliness) impacts rankings so that you can work with your clients to get the best results.
The marketing funnel
To understand how content supports your client’s marketing goals, it’s wise to understand the core stages of the marketing funnel:
Some marketing teams may define these stages differently than others, but each stage essentially shows how familiar a lead is with your brand and what action they’re likely to take from your content.
For instance, you might create blogs that build awareness around the problem your brand is trying to solve—thereby supporting the top-of-the-funnel awareness stage. By contrast, you might write a case study that demonstrates the benefits of a specific product, which targets readers that are farther down the funnel.
Understanding how your content fits into this overall strategy will help you to write more effectively.
2. Build your portfolio
Before hiring you, clients will want to know what you can do and how well you will fit with the team. Gather files or links to the work that you’re most proud of. If you haven’t had a content writing job yet, create sample pieces that are similar to the content that your client is looking to produce.
It may take time to build your freelance portfolio that attracts the work you truly want, but consider how some gigs could get you one step closer to your goals.
3. Find your niche
Becoming a specialist often means that you can charge more for your work and/or take on more specific projects.
You could define your niche in two different ways: (A) you can become an expert in a certain type of content, such as writing white papers or long-form blogs, or (B) you can specialize in a specific industry, such as SaaS, legal, or consumer goods.
Focus on applying for work in your desired niche to build up your portfolio. You can also see which specialty you enjoy more or have the most experience in, using this organic direction to determine the right niche.
4. Track your success
Make it a habit to analyze your results and see where you are succeeding or where you can improve. You could also use your findings to demonstrate your value to potential clients.
At minimum, measure your content’s SEO performance using tools like Semrush or Ahrefs. These platforms will give you visibility into which keywords your content ranks for, and how those rankings fluctuate over time.
If you have access to your client’s Google Analytics or Google Search Console accounts, use those to further measure on-page performance and audience stats. Observe the actions visitors take once landing on your content. Do they stay on the page and engage with your content for a while? Do they click on relevant links or fill out any forms?
You can then use this information to inform how you create (or tweak) content so that it meets your client’s marketing goals.
Content writing is both an art and a science. The best content writers know how to create high-quality, compelling content that doesn’t sacrifice readability for rankings. Of course, it takes time, practice, and a lot of trial and error to get this right.
But a freelance career in content writing can be lucrative and fun. Do your due diligence. Research how content marketing works. Then, put your pen to paper and start writing.