Sure, signing a one-month project is extra income — and a new challenge. A three-month gig is even better since you can plan ahead with your finances and know you have steady, dependable work. But a year-long contract? Every freelancer knows that’s like hitting the jackpot: not only have you landed an anchor client, but you have the opportunity to become fully integrated into the brand.
Why is this essential for long-term success as a content strategist? The more you become part of the company, the more likely they are to keep you around. Considering most remote workers, well, work from a place other than an office, building these connections and fostering relationships takes time and commitment, even through a digital lens.
If you want to make yourself indispensable — and make your contracts longer and longer — take note from these marketing professionals who hire writers. They know what stands out — and what misses the mark, better than anyone else.
Here’s how freelance writers can get steady work year-round:
Though it seems like a no-brainer for anyone who has been tasked with bringing a voice to a consumer blog or character to an otherwise dull professional services company — creativity is at the centerpiece of writing.
For Marnie Nathanson, the founder and chief creative officer of The Social Status Co., wordsmiths who have a distinct knack for content development, aren’t afraid to let messaging be bold and interesting and challenge brands to think differently are the ones she keeps around. How come? She finds that writers who exercise their creative bones and find ingenious ways to brighten copy come across as dedicated.
After all, there’s a big difference between someone who churns out something, sends an invoice and doesn’t encourage an explanation or discussion and someone who does. Part of investing in a client is explaining your ‘why’ — and not being shy of your innate creativity. As Nathanson puts it, when you’re the writer that causes everyone to ‘pause’ and go ‘Hmm. Wow’ — you’re on the right track.
Have an unhealthy obsession with spelling and grammar.
As a writer, misspellings likely annoy you. Grammar, too. You may feel strange explaining this in the interviewing process, but it’s something that Michael Alexis values.
As the CMO of Museum Hack and The Great Guac Off, it’s helpful to know someone will have eagle eyes on all copy, thus making his job less stressful. As he explains, everyone needs a little time to adjust to a new voice, and it often takes trial-and-error to get it completely right.
However, if a client has to read over your work time and time again? Well, it’s not worth the effort and they likely won’t hire you again. “I am happy to work with writers to help their writing voice and style match our expectations, and the amount of time I want to spend editing spelling and grammar is zero,” he continues. “Get it right and you will stand out.”
Know the brand inside and out.
There are many legs to every business: sales, finances, operations, human resources, creative marketing — and the list goes on. And though the CEO will likely be at the helm of leadership, any writer that is hired to turn around copy should understand the brand deeply.
How can you rattle through website copy, develop an impressive search-engine-optimization-focused blog or ghostwrite for an executive if you don’t understand what the company is all about? Or their goals? Or their struggles? Nathanson says it’s evident when a writer has done their research and listens and pays attention to what the client needs.
This starts right from the get-go when you’re trying to snag the contract — and throughout your tenure. “If you’re pitching yourself, and sending samples, be sure to send things that actually relate to the company in some way. If the voice of your content doesn’t match the company you are applying to, it is most likely not a fit,” she warns.
Offer solutions, not criticisms.
While you may take a look at their existing content and be in shock it’s live on their website — you shouldn’t approach a new client with negativity. Consider how you would feel on the receiving end of a message that tells you how terrible your work is — or how many improvements you need to make to be successful.
Alexis says there’s a big difference between offering solutions — and merely giving one criticism after another. “We’ve had applicants that pitched themselves by saying, ‘your emails suck, pay me to write them for you.’ The follow-up emails were equally as obnoxious. There is zero chance I will ever hire this person because they are mean,” he adds.
This boils down to an important — but overlooked — fact: People want to work with people they like. So if you can show a company the ways you can improve their voice and strategy, without being overtly rude, you’re more likely to be valued by the brand.
Bringing lessons learned in the past to the present.
Considering content marketing still feels a little like the wild-wild-west for some brands, it’s confusing to understand the true return-on-investment. You bring in a talented writer to start a blog because you want one, but what does success look like? And maybe you want to give your website a major uplift that centers on SEO and voice-forward language… but how do you know if you’re on the right track?
Nathanson says the smartest content marketers are able to provide examples — in real-time — from previous gigs to guide their strategy in the present.
Maybe you helped a fitness blog build a library of common terms, and now a healthcare company wants you to do the same with their products. Explain the various hurdles you faced before, and then come up with a game plan on how to avoid them again. Nathanson says it speaks volumes for the expertise of a potential writer when they can reference previous projects — and more importantly, how their skills have become even better in the process.