A six-figure freelancer talks about the sort of things you can expect to write as a content marketing writer (one may surprise you!)
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. Were I asked to do so, I’d probably still say no.
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 of the things you can expect to write.
1. Case studies/profiles
I’ve heard a number of content marketing writers tell me that case studies are their favorite kind of work and that there’s a lot of it to go around. Case studies are typically profile-style pieces that showcase the customer of a business and how they’re benefiting from being a client/customer of 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 does clearly state how they’re using Shopify to make it happen.
For my part, I’ve not yet had the chance to do a case study, but have done a number of profiles for my content marketing clients. And these profiles were reported exactly the way I would have for a magazine or newspaper, right down to finding the interview subject. For instance, I worked with a Nigerian government agency and they 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 specialized. 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 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 their customers may perhaps know that they should save but just don’t know 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 start to see exactly how similar they are. Both are, in effect, 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 less 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. Turned out I’d been a content marketing writer far longer than I thought. (So is this website, by the way.) 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 (which can basically be summed up as: Share Awesome Stories.) 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’re just going to be tasked with writing what they tell you to. It’s pretty easy work if you know the subject you’ll be writing about.
These used to fall under the “corporate writing” umbrella but everything overlaps these days. Especially since white papers have gone from being boring corporate speak to being all the rage and, these days, actually readable. What are white papers, you ask? They’re reports that educate customers/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 finances, 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 do ask for a number of different headline options, social media posts to go along with any articles I’ve written, and keywords, 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 will 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 do the work, you’ll see a massive difference in yours, too.
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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