You’re fairly confident in your skills as a journalist. You have some bylines that you’re mighty proud of. You’ve figured out how to build your side-hustle, or even been brave enough to take the leap to freelancing full-time. But while freelance articles are consistently assigned to you, snagging a long-term content marketing contract feels like an ongoing uphill battle.
Many established wordsmiths consider these several-month terms to be their bread-and-butter and anchor clients, serving as the foundation for their business. Convincing a brand or person to sign on the dotted line and make a commitment to exploring your expertise over time is no easy task — but it can be accomplished.
The key is turning yourself from a one-trick-pony to a one-stop-shop by designing pitches, packages and proposals that streamline everything from pitching to actually executing on content delivery.
Below you’ll find a guide from talented — and successful! — content marketers and writers who have snagged stellar contracts. They share the goods so you can go on and get started already.
Five writers share their advice for scoring long-term content marketing contracts:
Dedicate time to developing your assets.
You can turn any SEO keyword into content gold. You’re a master at turning confusing medical jargon or business speak into language anyone can understand. But when it comes to creating presentations, spreadsheets and other sales collateral for your services, you draw one big ‘ole blank.
Many writers start from this perspective, but to attract and secure top-tier clients, travel, food and technology content marketing writer Leslie Lang says dedicating time to your assets can make or break your business.
She’s had multi-year contracts, ghostwritten books and whitepapers on an on-going basis thanks to her proposals, fact sheets and more:
A successful contract, in my experience, starts with putting together a formal proposal that demonstrates your clear understanding of all aspects of the project, a description of what it will take for you to complete it, a timeline and your pricing. You should include a bio that shows your relevant history and why you are perfect for the work.
Here’s the deal: Lang says because most companies are used to seeing proposals, they are more likely to be impressed with a writer who provides a document they can share, rather than email. It’s also good practice, Lang notes, since it leads you to ask the right questions, think through the project and truly understand what you may be signing yourself up for.
Stay active within the community.
When was the last time you tweeted? Or used this social networking site as a source of leads? If you aren’t tapped into these various digital communities, you’re missing out on major opportunities, according to writer and editor, Tasha Williams. She’s managed several content projects over the years, including a seven-month marketing communications gig for three healthcare companies.
Here, she was responsible for all customer-facing content, from newsletters to web copy and more. She heard — and thus applied — for the opportunity after seeing a call for writers on Twitter. And when she thinks back on most of her work over the past five years, she says she’s found them by searching keywords on Facebook and Twitter:
Subscribe to Facebook groups, e-newsletters and listserves — yes they are still a thing! — that cater to people doing the type of writing work you want.
One important etiquette rule from Williams though: don’t just take, make sure to give. Or as she puts it: “never eat alone.” “I share leads and work sourcing information, especially with black and other marginalized writers because we often lack access in our personal networks to hiring decision-makers,” she adds.
Trust the process and know your worth
After finding fortune on her own as a content writer, Rebecca Fox founded Quatrefoil Content Creation to bring other wordsmiths into the fold. Over the past two years, Fox estimates they’ve snagged somewhere in the realm of 150 and 250 contracts, providing everything from website design and social media coordination to writing and ghostwriting blogs, copy and eBooks.
Though it’s a rosy, buzzing career now, Fox says it was an act of patience and diligence that led her to where she is today.
She started by posting her services through various platforms, and she only heard crickets for a few weeks, other than opportunities that paid far too little for her talent. That’s when she decided to do something a tad outrageous — she upped her rates:
I had the epiphany one day that clients perceive expensive to be good, and cheap to be poor, and raised my rate to triple. I learned how to write a killer proposal, and I had three contracts that week. Those clients referred me to other clients, referred me to other clients and I’ve been able to raise my prices three more times since then.
In a happy place now, she challenges content marketers to truly know their worth — and not be afraid to ask for it. After all, if you don’t charge for the work you’re doing, then you’ll never get anywhere.
Be strategic about freelance opportunities.
Like Williams, writer Michelle Garett finds many of her leads through social media and LinkedIn — but she also has another layer of strategy in her toolbox: personally blogging. Though it doesn’t pay, she says the exposure has snagged her plenty of contracts:
The visibility I get makes it well worth it. It’s led to multiple paying gigs. Because I do no advertising and I enjoy writing, it makes sense for me to take time to contribute guest posts to select publications.
Through these posts on her own site, Medium and other outlets, she’s improved her own SEO ranking, which makes it easier to connect, earn referrals and keep the steam engine rolling.
Scan job postings.
…even if you don’t want a full-time gig. How come? As freelance writer Jolene Latimer shares, it’s a unique opportunity to craft a remote position for yourself. Consider this: a company wants to hire a copywriter with a salary of, say, $50K annually, plus benefits. They can save money by hiring you, and it can become a steady anchor client for your portfolio.
The only caveat from Latimer is that it takes a bunch of work, and may or may not deliver a return. She’s seen some success with it, and recommends it if you have the time:
I used to create an elaborate pitch deck for every job posting the took a deep dive into the company’s current strategy and offered sample blog topics, keyword research and sometimes even a sample post. It’s a lot of work up front, but once you snag a good gig you can get the ball rolling with future referrals so it’s not something you have to prepare to do continuously.