A six-figure freelancer discusses the three types of content marketing clients you’ll likely be writing for.
One of the most important rules of business, any business, is to know your clients. That’s a rule content marketing writers should take to heart and fall back on repeatedly because the better you understand who your client is, what they want to achieve out of their content marketing strategy, and how they plan to do it, the better you’ll be able to deliver it.
But, especially when it comes to content marketing writing, not all clients are created equal. Not only does each business have its own unique ideas on what they want to achieve out of their content marketing efforts, but the way they choose to outsource it can vary widely as well.
What does that mean for you, the writer?
Basically that you’ll be dealing broadly with three different types of content marketing clients and your techniques for approaching and working with them are going to be different.
Let’s talk about these content marketing clients in detail.
Client Type #1: The Agency
Most freelance writers will get their feet wet in content marketing writing with an agency. This is for several reasons, mostly to do with ease of approaching them, working with them, and receiving assignments on an editor-writer basis without ever having to talk content strategy or end goals for the actual client (the business you’re doing the writing for).
The pros of working through an agency are that they’ve already found the client, they know what they need done, and they’ll typically give you exact instructions on what they need written and how, down to the number of sources. Frequently, they’ll hand you a list of ten ideas and ask you to simply pick the ones you’re interested in tackling. For obvious reasons, this makes your life easier and simpler.
The cons? There’s only one but it can be a big one: They’re going to keep their cut of the pay and it’s usually quite big. In fact, you don’t know what they’re getting paid by the client at all. It’s probably good money. But you’re not going to see it because agencies often have a freelancer rate and that’s what you get, no matter how much or how little they’ve earned from the business. Some agencies pay $1 a word as standard, some pay a lot lower.
If you’re going to work through an agency, you have to make peace with the fact that the report you put together last week will likely make the agency thousands of dollars and the business even more, but you only got paid $1,500. That’s the deal. However, most likely, you spent not more than five hours on that, so your hourly rate worked out to be pretty good. Win-win-win.
How to pitch these content marketing clients:
Craft a good letter of introduction with a focus on your specialties and credits. Don’t forget to highlight journalism credits. Many agencies are run by former writers and journalists and you can ease in if you’ve got some big names in your portfolio. Take a look at the agency’s website to see if you can decipher who works with freelancers and email them your LOI or connect with them on LinkedIn.
Client Type #2: The Corporate/Association
Many corporates and associations prefer to handle their content marketing efforts in-house because they have the bandwidth and the will to handle freelancers and prefer to save the money they would spend on hiring an agency by hiring full-time staff to handle it.
Because the content strategy and generation is all happening within the company, these clients are often directly approachable. That said, remember, we’re talking about corporates here, not local mom-and-pop stores, so you’re not going to be dealing with one person, but a number of different people who have ideas about how the content strategy should go and how to implement it. With clients of this nature, I’ve found that while they do tend to ask for outside input and ideas, they’re also quite likely to do a lot of the idea generation by themselves. Again, this makes life easier for you.
The pros of working with this kind of client is that you earn more, plain and simple. You also get to add them to your portfolio, which you sometimes can’t with an agency (if the agency gets the credit, for instance). They’re also quite easy to connect with on social networks such as LinkedIn, where a simple introduction can lead to ongoing work. Better yet, because most writers target agencies and not corporates (for fear or lack of confidence), you can expect to get responses a lot more quickly.
That said, many big companies are not often experienced in working with freelancers, so it can take a bit of to and fro to get everyone on the same page about things. There’s also a huge focus on bottom line and so everything is viewed through that lens, including you. If your content boosts their bottom line, you’re gold. If not, well, you’re going to have to prove your worth.
Finally, I see writers making this mistake a lot: Don’t expect kudos for that amazing turn of phrase or that stellar opening to a story and be disappointed when you don’t receive it. While it’s probably much appreciated that you can write so cleverly, remember, your writing has to be useful and informative more than anything else.
How to pitch these content marketing clients:
Send a Letter of Introduction but focus on your experience writing for and working with businesses, your understanding of the company and what it does, as well as your experience and knowledge of the niche this company works in.
Client Type #3: The Small Business/Non-Profit
This is probably the most difficult type of client type to work with, but it can also be the most rewarding if you care about targets and take pride in delivering results. The small business client isn’t likely to pay you as much as the corporate client, but you’ll be much more likely to be involved and you’ll do a lot more work. This not only means a lot more opportunities for you to grow, learn, and experiment in real business terms, but it also means that even though you’re not earning as high a per-word rate as with your big corporate clients, you’re doing a lot more of it, which can mean extra cash.
You do have to be careful, though. Since small businesses aren’t always used to dealing with freelance writers, they may express bafflement when you put your foot down after three revisions or try to explain that writing their content isn’t as simple as sitting down and banging out three blog posts in an hour. They may need an explanation as to why you can’t use them as a source for your column for The Washington Post because they may have seen you as an “in” to that publication.
In fact, many small businesses don’t have any experience with content marketing at all. They may bring you on to revamp their blog and it could take a bit of convincing for you to explain to them how many more opportunities there are and how they could increase their profits by utilizing them.
And this brings me to my final point, which is that, because of everything I’ve said above, this relationship has the potential to be very results-oriented, which can be very good if you’re driven by that sort of thing or very frustrating if you’re not. Small businesses don’t have money to waste or a lot of time to experiment around with things. If they don’t see results in a 2-4 month period, they’re either going to doubt whether content marketing is for them or whether you’re the right person to be doing it.
So I’d suggest that you initially gain experience working with the first two types of clients before you approach small businesses. Also: Set concrete, measurable, and unambiguous targets so that you can look at them after three months and know whether you hit them or not.
How to pitch these content marketing clients:
Send a Letter of Introduction that specifically lists out how you can help them, what changes they may be able to see in their business (preferably in terms of revenue), and why you’re the right person for the job. Toot your horn, for sure, but make the focus of your LOI be them, the results you can achieve for them, and why you’re qualified to do so.
In my book The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Content Marketing, we’ll get in-depth with all three client types and I’ll show you sample Letters of Introduction for each.
How to Pitch: Pitching guidelines for 200+ publications
We know that finding markets to pitch your story ideas, understanding what they’re looking for, and making sure they pay an amount you’re comfortable with can be the most time-consuming and frustrating part of the job. So we’ve tried to make it easier for you.
Here’s a list of publications, organized by subject and with a note of their pay rates, each with a link to their guidelines.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Publisher, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more.
She is the publisher of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators.
Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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