Don’t lose out on work and potential commissions by making these common mistakes.
We’ve been talking about how journalists can use their unique experiences and skill to get lucrative content marketing gigs.
I’ve given you a basic tutorial on what content marketing is and why you should care, as well as a step-by-step roadmap for adding content marketing to your journalism career. We’ve also talked about how to find your niche and the ethical considerations to keep in mind as you’re doing so.
Today I want to turn my focus to some of the common mistakes writers, and experienced journalists especially, make when they’re pitching for content marketing gigs.
Are you making any of them?
Mistake #1: You focus exclusively on publications
As a content marketing writer, you’re most likely to be hired because of your journalism experience, so it makes sense to highlight that, right? Well, yes. And no.
You definitely want to highlight your journalism experience. It will give you an edge over competitors who do not have perfectly honed storytelling skills. But increasingly, it’s also important to content marketing agencies and clients that journalists understand the motivation and the reasons behind why they’re writing the stories they are.
By showcasing your brand and marketing savvy in addition to your editorial clips, you can increase your odds of landing that content marketing gig.
Mistake #2: You don’t demonstrate an understanding of business
A client, be that a multinational bank or a local non-government organization on human trafficking, isn’t investing time and money in hiring a writer to build their content strategy for fun. You will not get hired because you write nicely. If you want that content marketing gig you need to demonstrate that you can engage their customers and clients.
Journalists, especially those who come from hard news backgrounds, might need a bit of a mindset shift. Understand that while what you write doesn’t change necessarily, it is important to show that you understand the business you’re in (content marketing) and the business you’re writing for (your client’s business).
Journalists who can bring both storytelling skill and business understanding to the table are in super high demand and will never find themselves short of (high-paying) work.
Like with journalism, understand who your readers are, why they’re reading this publication, and what they hope to gain out of it. Then, deliver.
Mistake #3: You don’t understand content marketing terminology
If you want to land that content marketing gig, learn the lingo. That’s how you move beyond the low-hanging fruit and into higher-paying, more lucrative, and more regular work.
Something I see frequently among journalists who are transitioning into this space is that they treat content marketing gigs as easy assignments to supplement their income, rather than as a new stream of income that can grow massively. They invest no time and energy in learning the technology, the business lingo, and the ways in which to find new clients. As a result, they lose thousands of dollars a month (yes, a month) in income that could easily come from a few regular clients had they made the effort to be proactive.
Take the time to learn now so you can become a pro quickly and start getting the higher-paying work.
Mistake #4: You don’t showcase your niche
One of the best and most effective techniques for nabbing those initial content marketing gigs is to show demonstrable experience in a certain specialty or niche topic.
You want to be the go-to person for a certain kind of story. Some writers worry that this will limit their potential because they write about “everything.” The trouble is, people don’t want to hire writers who can write about everything. They want to pay for experts.
Especially when it comes to content marketing gigs, clients want writers who can bring depth and insight into a topic. Someone who writes on that topic frequently can understand their business and therefore provide value to their customers and readers. The trend in content marketing is to hire writers who specialize.
In an earlier article, we talked about how to find your content marketing niche quickly and easily. When you send out letters of introduction or introduce yourself to potential clients, highlight it.
Mistake #5: You assume you’ll write blog posts
When you send a letter of introduction or introduce yourself to a potential client, don’t automatically assume they need a content marketing writer for blog posts. Blog posts are, in fact, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to content marketing writing.
The opportunities are endless. In this article, I talk about the seven types of pieces content marketing writers are routinely asked to write. Rest assured, you’ll be doing much the same work as journalism. Think profiles, trend stories, how-to articles, and so much more.
Content marketing is getting sophisticated. When you get in touch with a potential client, the biggest mistake you can make is assuming that all they want you to do is write listicles. Make sure to not only move beyond that, but if needed, show your client why they need to as well.
Mistake #6: You think in terms of assignments
For the most part, your content marketing gigs will come through agencies. Many big-name brands don’t hire one-off freelancers; they contract agencies that then farm out the work to their regular writers. You may be asked to pitch ideas, you’ll received assignments, and get commissioned for stories.
However, if you want to grow your income as a content marketing writer, it’s in your best interest to move beyond just the agencies and find your own clients (I show you exactly how in my book The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Content Marketing.) To do this, you have to stop thinking in terms of assignments, and start thinking in terms of brand strategy instead.
Developing this skill can be the key to making a few hundred dollars extra every month to doubling, even tripling, your income almost immediately.
(And yes, I’ll teach you exactly how to do this as well. Buy the book here.)
Mistake #7: You act like a journalist
While content marketing uses a lot of the skills and talents of journalism, it is a tool for business. This is important to remember.
One of the worst things you can do for yourself (and your client) is to look down on marketing efforts and ideas during a content marketing strategy meeting. That is, after all, the whole point. Journalists see stories as the final product people want to read or buy. In content marketing, the story is a tool. Beautifully written or not, if it doesn’t advance a business strategy, it’s not worth writing.
You could choose to distance yourself from the strategy and only pitch ideas you’re comfortable with. Or you could work in a separate niche from the one you write about as a journalist.
Either way, when you’re writing content for a business, let the journalist in you remind you of the basics:
Who is your audience?
Why are you writing this piece of content?
Why are they reading it and what’s in it for them?
Of course, if you want to learn more, my book The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Content Marketing covers all this and more. Grab a copy today if you’re ready to make more money and have less stress as a freelancer.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Founder and Editor, 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 founder 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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