For better or worse, the digital age has made us all writers. Today’s blog entry? Meticulously crafted. Yesterday’s tweet? Timely and provocative. Your latest Instagram post starring your cat? “The purrr-fect way to say Fri-Yay.”
All the aforementioned are examples of digital content writing where you’re using words and pictures to tell a story designed to provoke engagement from an online audience.
But when it comes to getting paid for your digital content and breaking into a new career (or side content gig), it pays to get a full snapshot of the pursuits that await writers online. Places where the prose-worthy can ply their skills, make some money, and add value to the digital space where, historically, content is mighty, and attention spans flighty.
How to make more in digital content writing
But what are these digital content writing jobs specifically, and how can you find them as a job seeker? If your dream is to put words to pixels, copy to content, and see your name in screen-generated light, here’s a digital content writing guide to help your search.
1. Pitch to digital news and content sites.
Print may be suffering a prolonged death at the hands of disappearing ad dollars, but every news outlet that matters has migrated their content online at this point, both to complement their print pubs and, in other cases, to live exclusively.
But as some things change, others stay the same — that is, you can still pitch stories to sites where you don’t necessarily have to be a full-time editor to write for them. Whether you aspire to be a “guest contributor” or “editor-at-large,” there are many freelance-friendly publishing outlets where you can set out to make your mark.
Visit the sites you like and scan the footer to see if there are editorial guidelines posted. Even better, a directory that can guide you straight to an editor. Then, pitch your idea in a quick, powerful, and poignant way so they feel compelled to respond. You’ll want to know the brand, type of content, and editorial standards for what they publish first — as this will dramatically increase your chances of getting a response.
2. Publish, participate, and promote via social media.
Understand that every word you put online — be it an original post, comment, or retweet — is part of the searchable world online. So you’ll be best served to understand the lingo, what appears where, and to get an overall handle on your digital footprint if you want jobs such as “copywriter,” “social media manager,” “SEO writer,” or “community manager” to fall into your wheelhouse.
An engaged social following doesn’t hurt either. After all, these people are your first-responder fan base, so play to them. For social media jobs, hiring managers and talent recruiters expect you to talk the talk, if you want to walk the walk.
If you want to make more money in digital content writing and get more clients, try the following:
- Have a professional photo and bio that states your credits on your public social media accounts.
- Share high-quality articles in your writing niche and add your take (this helps establish you as a thought leader).
- Be mindful of the impression you give — are your tweets, posts, and photos professional, and your comments thoughtful and respectful?
- Build your following by posting high-quality content that attracts like-minded followers — having a network of writers, editors, and leaders in the content marketing industry is attractive to clients
3. Diversify your video skills.
Video content creation is everything and everywhere, and you have many opportunities within it. For instance, you could be an influencer who starts a YouTube channel that essentially becomes a “hit show” online, garnering you millions of subscribers or even a branded content deal. Or you could be an influencer/gamer who streams Fortnite sessions live to your millions of followers to the tune of $6 million a year.
You could also make money by helping brands create engaging videos that get thousands of views, from TikTok challenges and Instagram Reels to branded videos.
Regardless of what you create in the world of content, there are all sorts of ways to get noticed, earn ad dollars for your work, and potentially even get hired by a brand or outlet to shill a product.
4. Think visually: Know how to insert, embed, and inspire.
Great writing has always been about the skillful use of words to paint pictures in people’s minds. But when it comes to digital content writing, you will want to provide those pictures.
Attention spans are fleeting, so you’ll want to know how to think visually and use images, GIFs, memes, infographics, and the aforementioned strategic video approach to break up text and keep your audience’s eyes from glazing over.
Try to have a compelling visual for every 250 words of text to push your storytelling strategy along. It will keep your audience scrolling, and ultimately, they’ll repay with you with a more complete read that transcends just your article lead.
Of course, the appropriate use of visuals depends on the subject matter, audience, and brand guidelines. The use of GIFs and memes won’t be right for every person, brand, or client.
5. Write for emerging technologies, like A.I.
Given the pervasiveness of digital personal assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and Google Home, it’s easy to assume these robots have a mind of their own. Not so much.
These know-it-alls have writing teams behind them, with writers envisioning the proper responses to a legion of voice-search requests such as “Alexa, tell me a joke” and “Siri, what is your favorite song?” Take an A.I. writing class and pitch clients in this niche to get your start.
6. Be a specialist: Find a niche and make it your job.
As a writer, it may pay to be a generalist and have the ability to cover multiple topics for multiple clients in a range of industries. But what about when the needs of a position are so rigid that they (and your potential future client) just need an ace to come in and crush the assignment without the time for any learning curve? Sound like something you’d be good at?
Well, lucky for your future employment prospects in digital content writing, a slew of areas could get you hired if you tack on the word “expert” around your name… and mean it.
Sure, it may be more exciting to shift gears as a generalist, but it could give you an edge to specialize. Areas such as technical writer, food writer, wealth management, and institutional finance writer – even the most vanilla-sounding-niche-in-the-world, writer of white papers – are all niches with the word “specialist” assigned to them.
It’s true that finding jobs such as grant writer may be harder to come by, but we’re willing to bet decent bitcoin that when they do show up, you’ll be better positioned to land that gig if you’re highly knowledgeable in that niche, as a specialist, with samples to show.
7. Make yourself an expert in SEO.
Speaking of specializing when it comes to digital content writing, this one merits a mention not so much because “SEO writer” jobs themselves are burning up job boards – but more because it pays to know good SEO if you’re a writer in any discipline. As long as digital content exists, there will always be a need to understand how to make it bubble up and rank high on Google (and other search engines).
And whereas the role of SEO specialist is a job in and of itself, depending on a company’s size and budget, it only adds value as a writer if you understand how to optimize your content’s rank and position by way of quality control, strategic keywords, and possessing a foundational knowledge of UX.
8. Write for the skyrocketing medium: podcasting.
There’s a ravenous population of listeners downloading podcasts on all sorts of newfangled topics. And brands are investing in podcasts to develop future bonds with their customers and clients in mobile-friendly ways, so consider it a great place to bone up if you want to break in as a writer in an emerging area that translates well to storytelling.
9. Brand yourself. Seriously.
As mentioned previously, the best thing about digital content writing is that it makes us all writers. We can publish instantaneously – be it your personal website, a blog post (like this one), a video, or a provocative Facebook post about a dog that needs adopting. Whether you like it or not, each of these is part of “your brand” as a writer and how prospective employers will think about you. The good news? Nobody had to employ you to put any of the aforementioned snapshots of how you think out into the world.
In this realm, ClearVoice offers resourceful tools that help you do everything from publish your portfolio to land freelance jobs with companies/clients in new areas, niche or otherwise. An online portfolio is a great way to put yourself out there, show off work samples, and position them in a way that represents who your brand is as a writer or artist.
You can even publish pieces on elegant platforms with little-to-no-barrier-to-entry (such as Medium) to show how well you write. Ultimately, this costs nothing but time as you set up your online persona and position yourself for your first, or next, paying gig.
10. Just do it.
Nike once coined the phrase to get you to buy shoes, and now we’re here to say that if you want to break into digital content writing, just do it. No excuses. No procrastination. No tomorrows. Do it today. With passion and no fear of rejection. Writing is rewriting, and this pursuit is not for the thin-skinned.
Having said that, there can be great rewards for those who do it, like steady pay doing what you love, whether full-time or as a side hustle, and honing your writing, editing, analytical, and strategy skills.
Whether you’re just getting started with digital content writing or simply want to increase your workload, you can make more money by diversifying your skills, improving your online presence, and embracing mediums like podcasting and video.