If you’ve been wandering around job boards in search of part-time gigs, you’ve likely stumbled across a handful of content marketing opportunities. Though the concept itself is rather self-explanatory—using content to market — it’s much more than a buzzword. Especially in the new world where digital media is the most consumed medium, having a solid content-forward strategy can set apart the businesses who succeed from the ones that don’t.
But even if yo u consider yourself a solid writer, content marketing is a varied skill set that requires much flexibility and innovation. From the ability to digest a brand’s goals and mission into compelling paragraphs to developing a strategy plan for a B2B or B2C blog, there are many areas where the right type of wordsmiths can excel. If you’re new to this sector of writing, the good news is there are plenty of resources available to educate and expand your knowledge.
Here, leading experts provide their best advice for getting started — and landing your first client ASAP.
So, freelance writers, what is content marketing?
Executive Director of University Marketing at Clemson University, Christine Green defines content marketing as a way to provide brands or companies with value-creating visual identify and written stories that aim to help them be successful, meet goals, and in return, foster loyalty.
Because competition is fierce in every industry, setting yourself apart from the online noise is part of all marketing efforts. One way to do this is with the talent of writers who get it. “By focusing on value added content, you remove the clutter and provide your audience with content that engages, encourages them to interact with your brand and creates loyal advocates,” Green explains. “Make your content clear, tell a story and show value that influences behavior over time. Whether it’s a blog post, social content or video, remember your audience. Understanding them is the first step.”
Another way that content marketing wins big for companies is in its ability to answer questions to better explain a service, a product, a solution or all of the above. As digital media strategist Kris Ruby explains, content marketing should answer a prospects pain points via a content library that includes everything they need to become informed decision makers. Bottom line: the more info you can provide, the more likely they are to become a customer.
Why is content marketing an important skill for writers?
A few decades ago, a handful of assignments in a print magazine could pay rent (or a mortgage) easily. And ten years ago, being an editor at a publication was a reasonable salary that most could live off of — especially as they rose in the ranks.
In modern media though, the actual dollar signs are awaiting in content marketing since it is the new preferred format, according to Ruby. Whether you’re staying the freelance route or seeking full-time employment, she notes you’re much more likely to find a lucrative income by schooling yourself in the many forms content marketing takes. “From sponsored content to advertorial content marketing, writers can expand what they are doing to include this new type of marketing as something they are offering,” she adds.
Ruby predicts content marketing as a type of writing service that’s on the major uptick, and can be incorporated into the overall strategy for a business. This means those writers who understand the benefits of content marketing in and out can truly justify their worth — at a premium. “Writers must understand what the businesses growth objectives are to create compelling content. They need to intricately understand the perfect target audience they are writing for, and craft content to reach them,” she explains.
Take for example a skin care line who approaches you about developing a blog. Or say there’s a travel company you adore — but you find their website difficult to understand, so you want to offer your professional assistance. All of this falls under the content marketing umbrella and serves as a opportunity for new work.
Scott McGovern, founder of Blocklr, says a proposal that includes blogs, email campaigns, social media, graphic design and video will cover many pain points for a brand, and make you that much more attractive as a hire.
How to get started in content marketing
Ready to add this to your list of skills that’ll grow your business? Here’s how to get going, from the experts.
1. Focus on understanding the audience first.
When you’re taking on a client, everything centered around your content marketing strategy should focus on understanding audiences. And more importantly, meeting them at the intersection of what they need to know and what they want to know, according to Green. Though sure, the end goal is new customers, a content marketer goes about it in a more creative manner.
“If a writer sets out to sell a product, idea or program without understanding the audience, it’s just words. The content they create won’t provide true value,” she explains. “Content marketing is more than copy on a page. It requires writers to hone in on that one thing that sets your brand apart and build off of it. They must speak directly to key audiences and build a story from that one thing that sets you apart.”
2. Take courses, online or offline.
Ruby says all over the web and at many continuing education colleges, there are courses that are free or inexpensive. They often cover everything from SEO to inbound marketing, which is integral to success. Search around and ask for recommendations, or start with great resources like those found on ClearVoice.
3. Hone your marketing skills.
“To offer content marketing, you need to understand things like buyer persona, an inbound sales funnel and social reach. If the writing is good but it isn’t written to a target audience, it will ultimately not achieve the higher level goals of what the content was written for,” Ruby explains.
4. Consider all formats.
As we noted already, it’s not enough to just write cohesive paragraphs, since content marketing covers a slew of formats. McGovern challenges budding content marketers to think beyond social media and blog posts, and think about memes, infographics, movies, listicles, databases and more.
“Keep in mind that the best way to hold people’s attention is through video content,” he continues. “No one wants to read a big block of text, so effective content marketing involves photos, videos, and lots of text structure.”
5. Attend a conference.
If you’re more of an in-person learner, Green suggests attending Content Marketing World or Confab, both of which she says help writers step out of their bubble to see how and why their knowledge, skills and abilities are so needed. “They can also learn the importance of their own social feeds and learn why it’s important to work closely with branding colleagues to develop unique editorial standards,” she explains.
6. Optimize your portfolio.
Today, resumes and social profiles just don’t cut it when it comes to conveying your value as a writer or consultant to a potential client. You need to create an online portfolio that speaks to what you can offer, not just want you have done. Create your free CV Portfolio and read plenty of helpful posts about how to make yours sparkle.