While writing content with SEO guidelines in mind is still important – in fact, muy importante, the popularity of “content marketing” has taken how to write good content to a whole different level. Several levels!
Why What’s Considered “Good Content” Has Drastically Changed
There are a few reasons for this, ie:
(i) Google algorithm changes. The search giant is constantly tweaking how it ranks sites. So while in the past a keyword stuffed article submitted to an article directory had a good chance of rising to the top of search engine results, these days, that method just won’t fly.
And that’s because Google closed this “stuff in keywords and submit here and you’ll be on the first page of results” loophole.
(ii) Competition. Piggybacking on the above point, once companies started realizing that they couldn’t easily fool search engines and rise to the top of SERPs (search engine results page), they started investing in better content. This meant no more $5 per 500-word, keyword-stuffed articles. Again, Google stopped rewarding that type of content.
That’s what ushered in the age of content marketing and long-form/skyscraper content. It requires more research, better writing, freelancers who understand web writing (eg, SEO, CTA statements, incorporating mixed media, how to write great headlines), etc.
Now all of a sudden, businesses are having to pay $200, $300 or $500 or more for a post they used to be able to get for $25 or $30 or $50. And, once someone shells out hard-earned cash like this for a post – trust me, they want the reader to “do something” after finishing the post, which brings me to my last point here …
(iii) Content that gets results. Nowadays, clients want content that gets results. Oh, they’ve always wanted this, but instead of just using a keyword-stuffed article to drive them to a blog, they want THAT PIECE of content to move a reader to act when possible.
I remember when I wrote a few pieces for Media Shower in a job search spree I went on to prove to freelancers how much work was out there – and how relatively easy it was to get if you used what I call a “success by the numbers formula.”
Media Shower tracked how the call-to-action (CTA) statement performed on each article you wrote. This way, they could reward their better writers with more writing opportunities. See how important it is, and how much goes into crafting good, actionable content these days?
And that’s good news — because it means you can charge really well for it and make really good money as a freelance writer if you target the right clients.
Freelance Writers: How Many of These Skills Do You Have?
As this is the time of year when many turn their thoughts to New Years resolutions and other “change my life” actions, I thought I’d do a run-down on what it takes to be a really good freelance writer these days – one where you can charge the premium bucks and make a really good living.
Conquer these skills and you put yourself in a position to skyrocket your income next year!
1. The Ability to Listen
- Where will this content appear? Your blog, in your newsletter, on your social media account(s)?
- What are your target market’s demographics/psychographics?
- What’s the purpose of the content? Ie, to drive more traffic to your blog; to get them to sign up for a webinar; to get them to subscribe to your newsletter.
All of these questions will affect how you write, what call to action you use, the headline you craft – and a host of other factors.
2. Know the Right Questions to Ask
Also, the more you talk/interact with a client, more questions will probably come up. You should have a new client onboarding process in place, but don’t be afraid to ask questions over and beyond this.
Many freelance writers – especially newbies – get afraid that they may “bother” the client by asking too many questions. No. You won’t. In fact, it makes you look MORE professional because it demonstrates to the client that you know your stuff and are working to get the best possible result for them.
That’s why it’s especially important to ask a lot of questions up front. You may look less professional if you wait until down the line to ask questions that should have been obvious from the start.
3. Know When to Say No
Every project is not going to be for you. No matter how much it pays, if you get a feeling in your gut – and 99.9% of the time you will – that this is a project you should say no to, then listen to it.
A couple of months ago, I had a potential client contact me about creating content for a new site they were starting. The job would have paid $4,000 for about 8 weeks of work. I don’t know why, but from the very first moment, my gut screamed, “No! Do not take this job.”
In spite of that, I sent back a proposal (the $4,000 they’d proposed initially was laughable considering what they were asking for). I followed up once. Usually I’ll do two, sometimes even three, follow-ups with a prospect because I know clients get busy and especially with something like launching a new site, they’re attending to 1,001 other things.
I never heard from the potential client again, and I still don’t know why my gut screamed “no,” but I don’t regret not following up. EVERY TIME, I’ve gone against my gut, I’ve regretted it. Just like with physical danger, your instincts really do work to protect you, so listen to it. I didn’t this time, but the job didn’t pan out, so I’m cool with that.
FYI, here’s a great post that sums up some situations in which you’ll want to say no to certain freelance writing jobs.
4. Know How to Determine Rate
I don’t like telling freelance writers what to charge. My policy has always been, “charge what works for you.” But let me tell you a little story to give you some insight into how to set your freelance writing rates.
I’m almost done getting my internet marketing site up and going. What I’ve been doing is writing “foundation posts” that are going to anchor this income stream. Some of those posts have taken me 2-3 days to write, but they have the potential to earn me thousands of dollars over the years.
Set Your Rate, Then Double It …
I point this out to say, the content you write for clients will make them money – most likely thousands of dollars over time. Think about this when setting your rates. As most freelance writers – especially newbies – tend to undercharge, I challenge you to set them, then double them. The worst that could happen is you have to come down a bit.
But if you’re within industry standards, your writing samples are up to par, you’re targeting those who can afford your servies (eg, companies advertising writing jobs on LinkedIn) and you’re marketing your butt off, you will land some gigs. Proof?
Freelancer Earning $5,00 per Month – Just 4 Months After Starting
Here’s one freelance writer who earned more than $5,000 in her fourth month as a full-time freelance writer. And get this, she charges $200 to $400 per blog post. FYI, she got fired from her job – and rather than look for a new one, she decided to make freelancing work.
Sound familiar? If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that that’s why I’ve been freelancing full-time since 2007. I was downsized out of my job because of the financial crisis that started in 2007; tried in vain to find another one; got frustrated one day; deleted my resume from my hard drive – and haven’t looked back since.
I decided that come hell or high water, freelancing was going to work – and it has; not without some bumps in the road mind you. But almost 10 years later, here I am, making a living COMPLETELY online by writing for clients … and for myself (ebooks, e-classes, affiliate marketing).
FYI, a few months ago, I quadrupled, even quintupled some of my freelance writing rates. Part of the reason is I realize the value of good content – like what I’m putting together for my internet marketing site (and write for this site regularly). The other part is, I only take on projects that pay me enough to make it worth my time to NOT be working on my own stuff.
So know the value that you’re providing to clients … and charge appropriately for it (whatever you deem that to be).
5. Know How to Come Up with a Content Marketing Strategy
It’s the craziest thing, but many clients who are pouring so much money into content marketing don’t even have a content marketing strategy. Proof? Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, noted in the post, The Biggest Content Marketing Trends in 2017:
In almost every keynote speech I give, I ask the audience members whether their organizations have a documented content marketing strategy. Sadly, most do not. Our research tells us that those organizations that do have one, and that review it consistently,are more likely to be successful.
It’s a question I’ve added to my onboarding process because I noticed it too. In fact, many clients don’t even know how to begin to formulate one. FYI, here’s how to do it.
Right off the bat, if you can show clients your value by doing something like this, you’ll become a “content guru” in their eyes — which could mean ongoing work — for years!
6. Know How to Upsell
Many freelance writers do a project, turn it in, and get back to marketing for other work (or working on other projects they have). Uhm… hellooooo!! Existing clients are some of the easiest money you’ll ever make as a freelancer. Why go chasing new clients when you have a veritable piggy bank right in front of you?
One way to do it effortlessly is to have an upsell process in place. This can be as easy as ALWAYS attaching a note to a recently completed project asking if the client knows of anyone else who can use your services, to setting up a “reminder” in your calendar to follow up a week later and ask for feedback on the project, saying something like:
Just checking to make sure the last project turned in was to your satisfaction and to see if you need anything else right now. Oh, and by the way, if you need social media account management, we can handle that for you as we already create the content. I can send you a distribution pamphlet I put together that highlights some awesome ways for getting more mileage out of that series of blog posts we just did for you.
And the pamphlet could/should be a downloadable ebook you give away for free showing clients how to make one piece of content work harder for them.
Why Upselling is So Easy … and Profitable
Since it’s done after the customer hasdecided to go ahead with a major purchase, the hard part of the sales conversation has already been done. You’ve already established rapport, identified needs, summarized, presented benefits, asked for the order and handled objections. Up-selling is just presenting the information in a “by-the-way” assumptive manner.
Your client already knows and trusts you. Use that to your advantage.
7. Know What Google Is Up To (Learn SEO)
I’ve been hammering home how important it is to know how towrite SEO content if you’re a freelance writer for years. And I don’t care what kind of writing you do, if you’re writing content for the web, you need to know the foundational basics of SEO. You just do.
SEO Writing Ecourse: Final “Low Price” Sale
FYI, I’ve lowered the price of the course to $297 again until January 2nd. It’s because a couple of people emailed me asking if I was going to discount it again for the holiday season. I hadn’t planned on it, but the price will be going up next year, so I figured why not.
This is the last time it will be offered at this low of a price because I put so much work into the back-end, ie, my feedback reports – which can run to 10, 15 or 20 pages, not to mention fielding questions as you’re going through te course and after it’s been completed (which is all a part of it).
The Best Time to Plant a Tree Was 20 Years Ago. The Second Best Time is Now.
Ever heard that saying? All it basically means is that the best time to start anything is now. If you want something different, you’ve go to do something different — plain and simple.
Give it to yourself for a Christmas present. Give it tosomeone you love for a Christmas present. If you want things to be different by next year this time, then you’ve got to do something different – and there’s no better time to start than now. FYI, you can get started for free.
8. Know How to Write Content That Tells a Story
Thee days, customers don’t want to be sold to. They want to be “related to.” THEN, you can sell to them; and it had still better be a soft sell. So you need to know how to write relatable copy – copy that tells a story.
As you can see from this blog, I intersperse my posts with a lot of personal info like a recent one when I shared how friggin’ scary it is playing catch up on saving for retirement as a freelancer. Lots of you can relate to this. I know. I got your emails.
When I share, my thinking is, “If I’m going through it or have experienced it, then you probably have or will too.”
But I still need to make a living. I’m still selling – but because “my story” is relatable, and you grow to know and like me through them, you trust me. And when you have trust – that’s the gold; the foundation of a long-term relationship with clients. This is what brands pay for when they hire you to write copy.
Copyblogger is one of the best blogs on the net that has mastered the craft of telling a good story in my opinion. Study it (I do); weave those tactics into your writing – you’ll reap the rewards by crafting content that converts; you know, the kind that clients pay big dollars for? 🙂
9. Develop a Deeper Understanding of Social Media
So you spend hours or even a couple of days writing this great post. It’s got everything going for it. You’ve told a great story and you’re pleased as punch with yourself. Then, you post it – or your client posts it – and zilch, nada, nothing happens.
That’s because the net is flooded with more content than most of us could read even if we had the lifespan of God himself. Ya gotta distribute the content. And again, here’s something that many (most) of your clients will be clueless about, which is a great way for you to upsell them on social media account management.
It’s some of the easiest money I make as a freelance writer. Just how lucrative is social media account management? Following is what one freelance writer revealed to me:
One client pays $600/mo and it takes me approx. one hour to set his postings up on Buffer for the entire week. Another pays $1200 a month and I spend roughly an hour and a half per day on scheduling his posts.
It’s less labor-intensive than writing, and with social media automation tools like SocialOomph and Hootsuite, it can be a breeze to do the tasks that many clients either don’t have time for, or don’tknow how to do (and don’t want to take the time to learn).
FYI, get the book that shows you how to add this service to your freelance writing roster.
10. Learn How to Write Great, “Get Them to Click” Headlines
Because there’s so much content on the web that it can be hard to stand out,and what’s the thing that starts the whole content marketing process; the thing that gets potential prospects to start interacting? It’s clicking on a headline.
I don’t care how good your content is, if the headline doesn’t compel a potential reader to click, it’s all for naught. One marketing manager put it more directly, stating:
No matter what goals you have for your content marketing, you need to be able to write headlines that get clicked. … Jessica Black, Marketing Manager at Contently, notes: “If your headline isn’t good, your article is irrelevant.” (emphasis mine) And if your article is irrelevant, then you’re not getting any traffic.
That sums it up in a nutshell and why, in my opinion, one of the most critical skills a freelance writer – who wants to make good money – must develop is writing headlines that get clicked and bring in “qualified traffic.”
Anybody can write a headline that gets clicked. But you want to write a headline that gets clicked by the right people – prospects who are interested and are more likely to buy. This post does a great job of explaining how to do this.
Why You Should Write Different Headlines for the Same Post
FYI, I once read a post that said you should write at least 5 different headlines for each post. It’s something I do instinctively because I’m constantly asking myself, “What headline would Ibe more likely to click on?”
For this post, I went through three before settling on the one that finally made the cut. And If I chop this post up and publish it someplace else, I’ll most likely rename it something else.
Advertising giant David Olgivy is infamous for saying, “When you’ve written your headline, you’ve spent eighty cents of your dollar.” Always keep that in mind when writing headlines.
11. Know Which Types of Content Drives Traffic
Highly paid freelance writers know that every client is different. What worked for Client A’s copy may or may not work for Client B’s. As Neil Patel, one of the brains behind such outfits as QuickSprout, KISSmetrics and CrazyEgg says, “different content types suit different brands in different ways.”
In this post, Neil lists 15 different types of content. Once you know particulars like your audience’s demographics, psychographics, content marketing strategy and end goal, then you can decide what type of content to create to meet that goal.
Whew, exhaustive list, right?! But — as I go it infomercial mode — there’s more …
The final thing I want to discuss is fear. Based on the number of emails I get, it’s the number one thing that holds many wannabe freelance writers back from achieving their dreams. Push past it. Kick it to the curb. Tell it to fuck off! You ain’t got no time for that.
On my Twitter account for the last few months, I’ve been posting a “Self-Confidence Quote of the Day.” I started doing this because it’s such a problem for aspiring freelancers that I’ve heard so frequently over the years. When I search for quotes to post, one of the most common is:
And that’s EXACTLY why you need to kick its ass to the curb when it grips you, ok? How about that for a New Years resolution. 🙂
I hope you’re enjoying the holidays. Now that my Christmas lights are up, I’m in full-blown holiday mode. Every night, I turn them on and eye them for hours as I work, watch TV or give in to sleep. Usually, I wake up in the middle of the night to turn them off because I fall asleep with them on.
I have this thing for holiday lights. Looking at them just makes me happy for no reason at all. As I said in a recent Facebook post on my personal page, Christmas … #ItsAlwaystheLittleThingsforMe. 🙂
Have a great weekend. Here’s what’s coming next week.
Monday: Get Paid to Write: 32 “Lifestyle” Outlets that Pay Freelance Writers
Wednesday: Get High-Paying Freelance Writing Jobs: How to Write Content That Moves Readers to Act. FYI, this is the stuff that makes or breaks online writing careers. Whether you’re writing for yourself, or for clients, you’re not gonna wanna miss this guest post by multi award-winning entreprenuer Pete Williams.
P.S.: Don’t Forget — the SEO Copywriting Class Is Discounted Again to the Lowest Price It Will Ever Be
Get trained, and come January when busy season gets in full swing again, you’ll be ready to go.
P.P.S.: The Deadline to Get the Lowest Price on the Upcoming “Create and Sell Your Own Email Course” Is Today