Content marketing pays well, particularly for specialist writers, with rates starting at $1 a word. Here’s how to get started.
Freelance writers are in greater demand than ever. It’s just that, increasingly, their skills are valued more by businesses than newspapers. Here’s a step-by-step guide to content marketing if you’re new to this gig.
In 2008, Steve Goedeker, who runs an appliance retail company in the US, was trying to save his family’s business and so, as a first step, he took it online. Profits soared, according to the New York Times story in which Goedeker was featured.
But then something more exciting happened. Goedeker decided to replace his Google ad spend with content marketing. According to the New York Times story, he hired two full-time writers and spent between $100,000 and $150,000 a year on content marketing efforts.
Did you sniff the opportunity yet?
The NYT story goes on to talk about Marcus Sheridan, owner of River Pools and Spas, who published a post about how much it cost to install a fiberglass pool on their blog, and—pay attention to this bit—made $2.5 million in sales from just that one article. Another business owner in the same Times story attributes 1 to 3 percent of their business growth ($120,000 to $360,000) directly to content marketing.
Who does all this writing that content marketing requires?
Freelance writers and, more specifically, freelance journalists with years of experience covering these topics.
Businesses expecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for their content marketing investment don’t hire writers off oDesk to do the work. They hire writers with proven writing, storytelling, and publishing skills.
People like you and me.
Why Freelance Journalists Should Consider Content Marketing Writing
I introduced content marketing into my freelancing business in 2014. And when I did my annual sums in December, I found—much to my amazement—that my income had doubled from the year before. This extra income was all from the content marketing work.
Even better? I’d only spent 20% of my time doing it.
The work was the same. I was still writing news, profiles, and trend pieces, so why was content marketing paying more while my journalism income continued to stagnate?
The answer to that question is why content marketing writing has become such an amazing opportunity for freelance journalists.
I found that:
- I was being paid, on average, more than I was paid for my journalism work. (Between $1 and $2 a word.)
- The revisions are almost non-existent. Both clients and agencies are eager to get the work out the door as soon as they can because they can’t afford to create inefficiencies in their business. This means that if you submit a publishable first draft right off the bat, you will never have to endure the endless rounds of revisions that are typical of national (US) publications.
- Payment is immediate. I’m often paid within seven days of submission. (That’s right, submission, not acceptance.)
- The client or agency ends up generating a lot of the ideas, which cuts down on my work time.
All this ensures that not only am I paid more (I average $300 to $400 an hour on my content marketing assignments) but the lack of endless revisions and follow-ups regarding payment means I’m enjoying much more job satisfaction and joy with my writing career than I have in years.
More money, less aggravation, same work. That’s why I think freelance journalists should consider content marketing.
Are You Already A Content Marketing Writer Without Realizing It?
Ever written a guest post for a blog that sells products? An article for a non-profit organization they sent out to their donors? Posted social media updates for a local restaurant chain? Written health stories for the online newsletter of a medical association?
You’re a content marketing writer.
In fact, content marketing writing is so prevalent, it’s likely you’ve done it as a freelancer without even realizing. It often comes packaged as straightforward article writing, after all, so you’d have no reason to suspect otherwise. But if it’s for a business, and that business doesn’t make its money from publishing, it’s content marketing. This blog post is content marketing and if you’ve ever written for The Wordling or any of my previous websites, you’ve done content marketing writing.
What actively learning about content marketing will do is two things:
- It will help you proactively find work you enjoy and make more money doing so, and
- It will help you know when you’re doing it so you don’t unintentionally or unknowingly cross any ethical lines that will hinder your journalism work or credibility.
How Is Content Marketing Different From Other Types Of Writing?
It isn’t, really. Good content marketing isn’t about serving an agenda. It’s about providing information, advice, resources, and trustworthy content to a business’s clients and customers.
It’s likely the writing you’ll do won’t be that different from the work you’ve already done as a journalist or freelance writer. In another article in this series, I lay out a number of things you’ll be asked to write as a content marketing writer.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t sales writing and you won’t be asked to push products or say negative things about the business’s competitors (or good things about them, for that matter). This is important because, as a journalist, this is one aspect you have to be careful of.
If a business asks you to write promotional content, that’s not content marketing, it’s pure and simple marketing. And as a practicing journalist, I, for one, stay away from that.
When Should You Not Do Content Marketing Writing?
All that said, there are pros and cons to everything and this is no different.
We’ve discussed the pros. Now let’s talk about some cons.
- You can’t be an investigative journalist if you’re also writing content for businesses. You can’t take money from large banks to write their content and then publish articles in the New York Times about the banking crisis or offshore accounts facilitated by large banks. So yes, you will shut yourself off to certain kinds of work. You should be aware of this before you move forward.
- Some editors—and they’re increasingly rare—may not want to hire you as a journalist if you’ve done content marketing writing. Consider, however, that both The New York Times and TIME have content marketing arms. This is usually also going to fall in the realm of investigative journalism, but it’s worth being aware of all the same.
- You’ll likely have two areas of specialty if you want to keep your content marketing and your journalism lives separate. In this article, I talk about balancing both journalism and content marketing to avoid any conflict of interest.
So, by this point, you probably know whether content marketing is a good fit for you.
If it is, you’re in for a treat. My book The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Content Marketing is created exclusively for freelancers looking to break into the lucrative field of content marketing. I’ll show you—step by step—how to build a roster of high-paying clients and exponentially increase your income from your freelance writing. Get your copy here.
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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