Unless you live in a cave, or are completely new to the writing scene (and hey, that’s totally okay if you are — welcome!), then you’ve heard of content writing.
Content writing is the creation of blog posts, e-letters, and other helpful written pieces that people use to learn about a topic — and often a product or service.
Content is informative. It’s entertaining. And when done well, it plays an important and powerful role in the sales process. More on that in a minute…
But in some circles, content gets a bad rap. People think it adds clutter to the internet. That’s understandable. Just spend a few minutes surfing the Web and you’re bound to come across poorly written, boring articles that just waste your time. But you’ll also discover gems like the offerings on Copyblogger, the Buffer Blog, and Moz. Well written. Useful. A pleasure to read.
From time to time, you’ll hear veteran copywriters lament the distinction between content and copy. I’ve heard numerous writers say things like, “All content is copy” or, “Content writing is an unnecessary label,” or worse yet, “Content writing isn’t a real thing.”
Let me assure you, content writing is a real thing. It’s distinct from writing sales copy, although the two often work together. And it’s a huge, ever-growing opportunity for anyone interested in earning money and building a career as a writer…
More than Just a Marketing Trend
To give you an idea of the size and scope of content writing as a way to launch your paid writing career, just look at some of these trends:
- A total of 70 percent of B2B (business-to-business) marketers and 73 percent of B2C (business-to-consumer) marketers created more content in 2017 than they did in 2016.
- Companies that post blog entries regularly (11 times a month or more) enjoy up to four times the traffic of companies that don’t post blog entries or do so only once a week.
- B2B companies put more than a quarter of their marketing budgets toward content marketing.
- B2B content marketers cite producing engaging content, creating content consistently, and producing a variety of content as major obstacles they’d like to overcome.
So, looking at those statistics and trends, here’s what you should take away:
- Companies have money to spend on content marketing — meaning you can get paid for their writing projects.
- Content marketing delivers results by increasing traffic, providing more leads, and ultimately helping to make more sales — so you can pinpoint and deliver exactly what your clients want.
- Content marketers need help with content creation — in other words, your knowledge of persuasive writing, especially if you’ve studied the principles of copywriting, will make you an in-demand hero among your clients.
In addition to all those facts and figures above… almost 9 out of 10 companies use content marketing, which means just about every company you come across could have a need for a content writer. That’s a big, big market for your services.
Exactly How Does Content Marketing Work?
That’s a great question. Content has a role to play in every stage of the buying process.
Think about how you buy things…
If you’re making a purchase that isn’t routine, the buying process begins with the realization that you need something. Let’s say you decide to take up gardening. You plant seeds and meticulously care for them, watering and weeding religiously.
But one day you notice your zucchini plant is covered in bugs.
You do a little online research and discover you have squash bugs. You are in the very early stages of the buying process for something new you’ve never needed before.
And you’re using content to identify the problem.
Once you know you have squash bugs, you do some more research to figure out how to get rid of them.
At this point, you’ve identified a problem and are on to finding a solution, again using content to guide you.
Your research uncovers a number of possible solutions to your squash-bug problem. But you want your garden to be organic, so you turn back to the internet for more specific research, looking for natural ways to curb squash-bug infestations.
Here, you’re zeroing in on the best solution for you, and again, you’re turning to content to help you figure it out.
Eventually you narrow your chosen solution down to three possible products. You read testimonials, case studies, and FAQs about each of the products, and then finally pull the trigger on your purchase.
By this point, you’ve probably read through at least a dozen pieces of content. Most of them probably never mentioned making a purchase. They just provided useful information.
And as you got further along in the buying process, you began to see more overt references to a specific product paired with very clear calls to action.
In the end, the buying decision felt like your own. You never felt like you were being sold something. And when it came time to purchase the product, pulling the trigger and parting with your money was easy, because you were already sold before you hit the sales pages.
In a nutshell, that’s the power of content and why it is so very important for companies selling complex products (such as anything more complicated than say, printer paper).
Variety Thrives in the Content World
Keep in mind as well that while you went through the buying process, you may have encountered all sorts of content. Not just articles.
Content can include photos with captions, videos, infographics, podcasts, webinars, e-letters, FAQs, interviews, case studies, special reports, and more.
That’s terrific news!
Why? Well, almost every industry uses content as part of its overall marketing strategy. And there are tons of different project types that fall under the umbrella of content. Which means you can position yourself as a content writer who excels at crafting special reports. Or as a content writer who specializes in projects on alternative health, or as a content writer who produces infographics for software companies… or anything in between.
In other words, you have the flexibility to focus on the type of content writing you enjoy while still earning a very good living.
Speaking of Money…
How much can you make as a content writer? That’s a fair question.
For a while, content writing had a bad reputation because of content mills that would pay around $5 for 500 words. At those rates, you’ll never build a successful writing career.
But as a content writer who is knowledgeable of the ins and outs of content marketing and the strategies that underpin it… you can make a very nice six-figure living by working part-time.
When the service you offer has the power to double conversion rates (according to research done by Hubspot), the companies that understand that will line up to pay you well for what you do.
Once you’re well established, you can expect to earn
- $200 to $500 for blog posts,
- $150 to $800 for long articles,
- $1,500 to $5,000 for special reports,
- $100 to $900 for e-letters,
- $1,200 to $2,000 for case studies,
- $100+ per minute for how-to video scripts, and
- $100 to $750 for infographics.
You can increase those fees by integrating your content marketing with social media. Basically, that means you provide the social media updates designed to bring people to the articles or other content you write.
You can also increase those fees by making sure the content you write is optimized for search, helping more free, targeted traffic find your client.
And you can increase those fees even more by helping your client put together a fully fleshed-out content marketing strategy that deliberately and systematically moves visitors further along the buying process.
Even Easier than It Sounds!
It’s true. Content marketing can be very complex. And when you get into the intricacies of it, that’s when you really have the opportunity to break things open and start earning a crazy amount of money.
But you don’t have to go the complex route.
You can write special reports for your clients at $1,500 to $5,000 a project. Or you can write case studies at $1,200 to $2,000 a project. Or you can write blog posts at $200 to $500 a post or more.
These are all straightforward projects that even new writers can excel at. They pay well. They aren’t demanding in terms of time. And they will help your clients achieve their content marketing goals.
Again, you have a lot of flexibility here to craft the exact kind of writing business you want. One that you will enjoy, that will have you earning the income you desire, and that will allow you to determine your hours.
Here’s What It Takes to Start Writing Great Content
Writing great content uses a lot of the same skills that you need to write great copy:
1. Know Your Audience
Where have you heard this one before? Pretty much at the beginning of any and every writing project, right? The same is true for content marketing. If you want to write content that effectively moves people from exploring a problem and possible solutions to choosing your product to solve their problem, you have to know some things about them.
You need to know what solution they’re looking for and why. You need to know what life is like for them while they’re dealing with the problem they are trying to solve, and how life will change once they have a solution. You need to know the language they speak, the questions they’re asking, how they like to receive their information, and how familiar they are with your company and the product you’re writing about.
2. Understand Your Goals
Every piece of content you write should have a goal. Your goal might be to simply educate your reader. It might be to get the reader to follow some action steps that will improve their life and create a feeling of good will for your company. The goal might be to get the reader to sign up to receive more information about a product or to click a link to read additional content. Or maybe to take part in a poll. Or perhaps share what they’ve read on social media.
Make sure you understand the most important goal for every piece of content you write, and you’ll be well ahead of the game.
3. Tell a Story
Content often uses storytelling to engage the reader and to convey a message. Stories are memorable. They get your reader emotionally invested. They also help your readers picture themselves as owners of your product, if there’s a product you talk about. Once they start doing that, they are well on their way to making a purchase.
4. Focus on One Thing
With content, it’s easy to try to cover a lot of ground from a lot of angles. You have many different structures you can work within and can often make a case for writing a longer post, so space isn’t usually an issue. But content works better when it’s focused on conveying a single powerful message. So, make sure you have one main thing and that anything else you include supports that one main thing.
5. Include a Call to Action
When we think of content marketing, we usually think about online content. (There’s offline content, too, that does a similar job, but for our purposes, we’re talking about using content on the internet.)
When you’re doing marketing online, you don’t want to take your readers to a dead end, so make sure you include a call to action. It can be as simple as directing them to another article to read or video to watch. Or it can be whatever call to action you need to include to accomplish the goal you set earlier.
6. Never Be Boring!
This is the cardinal rule. Whatever you do… Don’t. Bore. Your. Audience. The best way to not be boring is to cultivate a real, human voice. And the next best way to never be boring is to tell great stories. If you can do those two things, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of your content-writing competition.
Content writing is an expansive opportunity with something for everyone who has an interest in writing and getting paid for it. You can write basic content — single pieces that meet a need for your client — or you can dig in and become versed in the intricacies and complexities of content marketing. When you do that, you’ll add value to the services you offer and give yourself a solid foundation for a career in content writing.
If you want to really master all the ins and outs of content marketing, I can’t think of a better person to study than Brian Clark. And fortunately, Brian has shared his content marketing knowledge in Content Mastery: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Highly Paid Content Marketing Strategist. It’s a great resource for any writer who wants to become a content writing and marketing expert.