Let’s dispel a little myth: being a content marketing writer isn’t all about blog posts.
I like content marketing. I don’t like writing blog posts.
Okay, let me try again: I don’t like writing blog posts for other people. I have a very distinct voice, a distinct style, and pretty strong opinions on everything. Therefore, I don’t like writing in other people’s voices and for other people’s websites.
Because I have this aversion to being paid $50-100 to write a blog post for someone else, I ignored the content marketing industry for a while. I erroneously thought that’s all it was.
As I discovered after clients hired me to write service pieces, trend stories, and profiles, it’s not. In fact, I haven’t written a single blog post in the entire time I’ve been doing content marketing writing. So, if being a content marketing writer isn’t just writing blog posts, what does it involve?
I made a list. (You know how I love my lists.) If you’ve been looking into the idea of being a content marketing writer, here are some types of content you can expect to write.
1. Case studies or profiles
I’ve heard from several content marketing writers that case studies are their favorite kind of work, and there’s a lot to go around. Case studies are profile-style pieces that showcase the customer of a business and how they’re benefiting from being with that company. Look at this case study on Shopify’s website, for instance, on how this couple is making $600,000 a year selling digital products. The story is all about the couple, but it clearly states how they’re using Shopify to make it happen.
I’ve done several profiles for my content marketing clients. These profiles were reported exactly the way I would have done for a magazine or newspaper, right down to finding the interview subject. For instance, a Nigerian government agency asked if I could find positive projects from Nigeria that were making an impact in the country and the world. Why yes, I could. As a journalist, those are some of the stories in which I specialize. As a content marketing writer, I found some ideas, sent them through, and had them assigned. It was pretty much the same work.
2. How-to or service articles
Of the two stories I wrote this week for my content marketing clients, one was a straight up “how to save more money” piece. My client is a large multinational bank. They’d like their customers to put more money in their bank accounts. But they also understand that while their customers know they should save more, they maybe need a bit more guidance on the how. So they hired me to swoop in and tell them. Of course, there’s also the understanding that people who are visiting their website are interested in knowing all about money—saving, investing, getting a loan to start a business, perhaps—and therefore, they’re delivering by providing content (including how-to articles) in all those areas.
3. Trend stories
If you think of a brand’s content strategy as parallel to a publication’s content strategy, you’ll see how similar they are. Both are publications with readers who need to be educated and entertained. This involves a wide variety of content. Some people will respond to how to, some to trend stories, some to profiles, and others to audio and video. As a content marketing writer, you’ll be asked to write all sorts of stories, trend stories included.
4. Blog posts
And yes, blog posts. Certainly not only blog posts, but that will be a part of the mix. Typically, I’ve found that the larger the clients, the fewer chances there are that you’ll be asked to write blog posts. For smaller businesses, there’s a more personal and one-to-one connection with readers/customers. Blog posts are wonderful for that. And if you’re interested, there are a lot of them waiting to be written.
I didn’t realize, until my lovely husband pointed it out, that my weekly newsletter is content marketing, pure and simple. Turns out, I’ve been a content marketing writer far longer than I thought. I’m doing it myself, so I never thought of it that way, but if I were hiring a writer to do the work for me, they’d be implementing my content strategy. And I use this content to educate, entertain, and yes, tell you about my products. Content marketing, in other words.
Beyond a certain point, most small business owners (and all large business owners and shareholders) will need to focus on strategy and direction. They will have someone else take care of the content. The newsletter will fall under that category and you may be asked to write parts of it. Or, if it’s a small company, strategize it from the beginning. Most times, though, unless you’re an experienced content strategist rather than a content marketing writer, you’ll simply be tasked with writing what they tell you to. It’s pretty easy work if you know the subject you’re writing about.
These used to fall under the “corporate writing” umbrella, but everything overlaps now. Especially since white papers have gone from being boring corporate speak to being all the rage and, these days, very readable. What are white papers, you ask? They’re reports that educate customers or clients on innovative technologies, forecasts of trends, or solutions to very specific (in that niche) problems. So, for instance, my husband and I did some work for a financial services company last year that helped British expats take control over their pensions, both in Britain and abroad. On their website, they had a number of whitepapers, each dealing with a particular topic—investment options in India, moving your money from one country to the other, understanding taxation, etc.
White papers sound boring, but they actually aren’t. In fact, they’re very much like reported articles for trade publications—specific, in a certain niche, and written in the technical terms and with the knowledge base that the readers already have (i.e., no dumbing down).
7. Social media posts
If you’re so inclined, you can include this as part of your offering to clients. As a content marketing writer, I typically steer clear of social media work. But most of my content marketing clients ask for headline options, social media posts to go along with any articles I’ve written, and photos, if applicable. So it will definitely do you good to start learning about this stuff if you have any serious interest in content marketing.
That just about covers most of the things you’ll be writing as a content marketing writer. Next time, we’ll talk about the content marketing myths that hurt your writing income.
In the meantime, I’d love for you to check out my book The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Content Marketing. I doubled my income using the techniques that I lay bare in the book, and I’m confident that if you use the tips I give in this book, you’ll see a massive difference in yours, too.
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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