New year — lots of new homework assignments. If you’ve been following along with our challenge to freelance writers on how to enrich their skill sets in 2019, you’ve (hopefully) learned a lot. Once you’ve brushed up on the ins-and-outs of content marketing, mastered a few courses on search engine optimization, and fooled around with the backend of WordpPress, Squarespace and other content management systems — you’re done, right? Nah, never!
Especially in an industry that continues to grow in demand, investing in the craftsmanship of your hard and soft proficiencies is a vital for the duration of your career. If you consider how much journalism and the realm of content has transformed in the past decade — and even the past five years — staying ahead of the curve is in your best interest.
But what other areas are recommended for freelance wordsmiths to focus on? Plenty, if you ask leading experts in the content-related fields. One of the biggest areas of development has nothing to do with stringing together sentences. Instead, it has everything to do with the more analytical and technical sides of growing a fledgling business. From balancing finances to creating a pitch deck that highlights your robust and effective services, these are a mere handful of what true content business owners should give their attention to.
If you’re ready for more fodder to guide your goals and objectives in the year — and years — to come, here are what the top experts recommend the most beneficial skills to consider in 2019:
1. How to market yourself against the competition
As more companies understand the value of content that’s digestible, engaging and compelling, the demand for writers will only increase. This prompts a generation of professionals to take that leap to contract work, and thus, inviting many more cooks into an already busy kitchen.
If you’ve been a freelancer longer before it was a trendy way of working, founder Blocklr, Scott McGovern predicts a fierce competition within the burgeoning market of well-written literature. In addition to modern startups who think about their brand holistically from day one, older companies will start to follow suit, and want to catch up to those within their industry.
You’ll need to keep up too by diversifying your personal and professional site, having a go-to one-sheeter on what you offer, ready-to-sign contracts, client testimonials, work examples you can share, and so on. McGovern suggesting tackling these task over several months, making it easier to handle and prepare for whatever a brand or editor could toss in your overflowing wheelhouse.
2. How to collaborate with marketing teams
If all writers could live and breathe words, and file away deadlines without having to deal with the client side of communication, they’d be all in. But alas, working with editors is a historical part of journalism. And nowadays, marketing teams, according to the vice president of Budsies & MyPetsies, Frankie Burns. Though basic people skills are a plus, speaking the language of marketers is essential too. Studying up on the terminology, as well as better understanding their perspective and goals, will put you in a better position to pitch yourself, get on their good graces — and win the contract.
3. How to work from anywhere
You already know the facts, but as a refresher: There are more freelancers than ever before in American history. And at the heart of the workforce are millennials, who are rising up the ranks and approaching careers through a slightly Instagram-filtered lens. This group of folks are said to value experiences over specific titles or financial gains, which inspires them to lead with a stronger focus on work/life balance.
Writers who were once required to report into an office for the duration of their contract are now asked to sit pretty at home, working remotely. McGovern says location is less and less important, which is sort of like a double-edged sword. On one hand, this means you can hop a flight and head to Bali. On another, it means maintaining focus and self-discipline. Though this comes easy for some, others may struggle with no guidelines or restrictions.
Without face-to-face contact, you won’t have as many opportunities to woo leaders within a company over months and assignments. The challenge here is to become more confident on calls, more familiar with recent upgrades in voice conferencing (like Zoom, for example) and more understanding of various time zones. While it’s a bit different than past working expectations, once you grow comfortable, you’ll probably prefer the freedom.
4. How to write for advertising.
And while this includes short punchy one-liners that copywriters excel at, it also goes a step further into the world of branded content and campaigns, according to Burns. More and more publications hire writers to create content based on their advertising sales that expertly promotes the client while also providing actionable, service-oriented copy.
Though this will likely come second nature to journalists who are used to cranking out words on the daily, it’s worth practicing with lower-tier clients before you reap the bigger ones. In addition to these sorts of assignments, other parts of advertising include an uptick in companies who want content-branded blogs to go along with their products. A perfume company, by example, could want to illustrate how their fragrances contribute to the wellness space. Though technically not an ad-dollar type of deal, it does follow the same method of weaving in products, along with interesting content that audiences will want to click on from Facebook or Instagram.
5. How to create — quality — content in bulk.
There’s a keyword in there for you: quality. Though demand will soar, maintaining a standard of excellence within your business and your deliverables is paramount. After all, there’s nothing worse than a writer taking on far too many deadlines than he or she can stomach, and then coming up short on the work they turn in.
Though opportunities will be vast, if you don’t give them all the attention they deserve, you could lose big. “Content marketing, first and foremost, means the opportunity to create lots and lots of content. For freelance writers who understand a brand and its audience, and can craft a content marketing strategy accordingly, this year could bring bigger opportunities in the digital sphere than ever before,” McGovern continues. “None of this should come at the expense of content accuracy.”
In addition to your namesake being on the line, McGovern explains the leading tech companies like Google and Facebook are being forced to pay more attention to content quality after receiving negative press for not following compliance regulations that led to the fake news crisis. “This means more sophisticated algorithms for weeding out less than accurate content. Freelance writers should focus on producing quantity, but not at the expense of quality,” he adds.
6. How to write for social and viral campaigns.
Sure, you can bang out an 800-word work of wonder in an hour. You can optimize for any site, any keyword with ease. You’re happy ghostwriting content, as long as the pay is competitive. But what about social media copy? Video scripts? Viral campaigns?
The internet is king these days, and paying attention within the world wide web will take you further, according to McGovern. To stand apart from the rest, brushing up — or developing from scratch — these skills will help put you ahead of the pack. If you want to take it a step further and integrate yourself within complementary roles, you’ll be even more marketable. These include video editing, social media strategies, basic graphic design, among others.