A six-figure freelancer shows you how to land clients quickly.
This shouldn’t come as news to you but finding content marketing work as a freelance writer is an entirely different process than landing journalism assignments.
Even though the skills you’re eventually going to fall back on to do the work are the same, the role you’re playing as a content marketing writer is entirely different to the role you play as a journalist. This is important to think about. Because it is what will drive your marketing.
When you want to find work as a journalist, you need to focus on your experience and the story you’re pitching. What do you need to focus on when you’re pitching for content marketing work? Read on.
1. Focus on them, not you
Like with most forms of marketing, you need to focus on the client’s needs and not yours. This is a bit different from the kind of marketing (querying/pitching) we do as journalists, where the focus is neither the client, nor you, but the readers and the story. When you’re marketing for content marketing work, you need to demonstrate very clearly that you understand the needs of the business you want to write for.
2. Send letters of introduction
Pitching to content marketing agencies or even directly to clients does not involve sending story ideas. That will land you in the trash folder and get your emails ignored. While you sent story ideas as a freelance journalist, that is the last thing you want to do as a content marketing writer, unless you’re specifically asked to. Think of it more like trade magazines, where you build a relationship first based on your understanding of the publication and their readers, and move to assignments later.
3. Be specific about your expertise
We’ve talked about having a niche several times in this series. Make sure that when you’re approaching a new client for content marketing work, you mention it. If you understand their business and their content marketing needs, this should be fairly simple. If you don’t, I’d go ahead and do some digging before sending that LOI.
4. Educate them
This is where most journalists fail. It’s not necessarily because they don’t think to do this. It’s because we’re programmed as freelance journalists to work within an editor-writer assignment-based relationship.
Content marketing, put simply, does not work like that. Content marketing is brand management, it’s customer service, it’s relationship building. Your writing will serve that purpose. Your corporate clients have probably already hired brand experts and now they want you to create the content that those experts have outlined. For smaller clients, you’re probably going to end up being all of those things. For small business clients, it is really helpful if you know how to shape content strategy and can do the educating. In fact, when it comes to smaller clients, it’s the only reason you’ll get content marketing work.
5. Don’t pigeonhole yourself
Remember this rule of thumb: When you’re emailing individual clients, you want to focus on one, at most two, specializations. But when you contact agencies for content marketing work, give them at least 3-4 areas that can count as your niches. This lets them fit you in with a number of different clients and keep you in mind for a number of different assignments in various niches.
6. Get on the phone
I’ve been a freelancer for over a decade and a businessperson for even more than that (I started my first business before I started freelancing full-time) and there’s one thing I’ve noticed frequently: freelancing is done over email, but business is done over the phone (yes, even today). When pitching journalism assignments your editors will all tell you never to call them (and I frequently don’t). If you want content marketing work businesspeople prefer meetings and phone conversations because it’s quicker and more efficient. It’s also a great way to build relationships and good business, freelance or otherwise, is all about the relationships.
7. Follow up
Do you follow up? If not, you better start learning how. Rpeatedly, freelancers—both journalists and content marketing writers—are telling me how they’ve gotten assignments on the first, second, or third follow up. People are busy, emails get lost, and things get missed. Don’t make that the reason you don’t get content marketing work. Follow up. Always.
8. Mention brands as well as publications
Sure, of course you’re going to mention that you’ve written for The New York Times or The Atlantic.com. But don’t forget to make a mention of the business blog you ghostwrote for six months or the articles you’ve been writing for the local nonprofit’s website. Publication credits are important, but increasingly, content marketing clients want to see brand experience as well. You probably already have some without even knowing. So make sure you look through your portfolio to identify—and then mention—previous content marketing work.
Finding work as a content marketing writer is one of the big things we’ll be focusing on in The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Content Marketing. If you’re looking to expand your horizons, increase your income, and remove the more stressful parts of your freelance business (chasing payments, for instance), content marketing may be a good fit.
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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