Editor’s note: When I started doing contract editing for a digital media agency in 2010 nobody was calling it content marketing work, nor did anyone realize then how big that kind of work would become for freelancers. How times have changed. With the Content Marketing World conference happening this week in Cleveland, it’s a great time to re-run this guest post by content marketing writing pro Jennifer Gregory on how writers can break into the business. Want more? Sig up for one of two conferences the American Society of Journalists and Authors is hosting this fall, New Avenues in Journalism Oct. 10-11 in San Francisco, and Content Connections Nov. 13-14 in Chicago. Just how big has content marketing gotten? So big actor Kevin Spacey is the closing keynote speaker at this week’s Content Marketing World show – now that’s content marketing. — Michelle V. Rafter.
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My goal as a writer used to be having my byline in one of the glossy magazines in the Target checkout counter.
It hasn’t happened and may not ever happen, but that is just fine with me. Two years ago, I discovered content marketing, and today, more than 70 percent of my income comes from content marketing writing gigs. Helping a company increase their revenue is actually more fun than seeing my byline in a national magazine.
When I tell other writers I work as a content marketing writer, I almost always get asked two questions. The first is typically, “What exactly is content marketing writing?” I explain that it is creating deliverables that provide value for potential customers with the goal of creating trust for the company, or brand. When you work as a content marketing writer, you quickly get comfortable using words like deliverables to describe the information products you work on.
I also explain that while the “content” in content marketing is often articles, blogs and white papers, it can also be social media campaigns, video, smartphone apps and even events. When possible, I share examples that writers may be familiar with, such as Costco Connection, American Express OPENForum and Intuit Small Business Blog.
The other question I almost always hear is “How do I make money doing content marketing writing?” The answer is complex enough that I started a blog, the Content Marketing Writer, to answer it. However, by applying the skills you have honed as freelance writer and understanding the subtle differences with content marketing writing, most all freelance writers can be successful at content marketing writing.
Steps to Finding Content Marketing Work
Here is the cliff notes version of how to find content marketing work:
1. Learn what it is.
Since a content marketing writer’s role often includes educating clients what it is and why they need it, it is important to research content marketing strategy. Good places to start are the Content Marketing Institute, Copyblogger and Mashable. To read the latest articles on the topic from around the web, follow the Twitter hashtags #content and #contentmarketing. LinkedIn groups such as Content Marketing Group and Content Writers at Work also are good places for staying up to date on trends and networking with others in the field.
2. Determine your niche.
To gain a solid understanding of the industry you are writing for and problems that potential clients face, it is especially important to concentrate on a content marketing niche. Look through your clips and determine brands in need of content marketing that you have experience with. For example, I write about practice management for lawyers and do lawyer profiles, so I am currently targeting lawyers who need content marketing.
3. Create a list of potential clients.
Make a list of brands or professionals in your niche who need content marketing services. Use LinkedIn, company websites and the list of Custom Content Council members to create a list of potential clients. In addition to pitching to brands directly, consider connecting through a content agency such as Contently, Skyword or Ebyline. Such companies act as middlemen between writers and brands. You can usually make a higher rate by working directly for a brand. In some cases that involves becoming an approved vendor, and at very large companies that process can be difficult, if not impossible, for independent contractors.
4. Pitch potential clients.
Look at the content that potential clients run on their website, blog or social networks and send a pitch sharing specific ideas how you could improve it. Based on the advice that content marketing editors and brand managers shared at the American Society of Journalists and Authors’ 2013 writers’ conference last month, when you send a letter of introduction, include specific story or blog post ideas. For example, if you are pitching a payroll software company that is looking to increase customers among hair salons, include ideas for blog posts on how to efficiently manage a salon or salon employees. For brands that do not offer white papers or case studies, brainstorm topics that would help them build trust.
There’s no secret formula to being a successful. It takes research, some good ideas and persistence, but you can increase your income and client base by adding content marketing to your services.
Jennifer Gregory has been writing professionally for over 20 years. She worked as a technical writer, reporter and now a content marketing writer. Her work has been published in Entreprenuer.com, MSN Money, FOX Business, American Express OPENForum and QSR Magazine. She also blogs regularly on The Content Marketing Writer blog.