If you're researching how to become a content writer, you may have read that AI is taking away writing jobs. That's a bit of an exaggeration. Businesses still generate high demand for top-notch human content writers.
Publishers and content consumers have quickly discerned the superior value a competent human creator provides over copycat robots. What's more, many corporate clients use tools to flag AI writing before accepting a final draft.
In reality, the AI challenge is good for the writing industry. It's forcing freelance content writers to hone their talent and become better writers.
But there's another issue those trying to start as a writer face: breaking through all the hype, low-quality content mills, and substandard writing guides and courses.
So what's the truth? How can a new digital content writer get noticed and become a sought-after professional earning a decent living?
Preparing yourself to become a high-paid freelance content writer takes some effort. But with time and focus, you can find success. Content writers are in demand, and there is a clear path to professional content writing success.
What Is a Content Writer?
A successful content writer is a storyteller who builds a brand's image with informative, engaging material designed for the internet. The most in-demand content writers solve problems while guiding readers through a story that builds trust in the publisher.
Internet content writers are different from reporters, copywriters, or fiction writers, but they use elements borrowed from all. As you'll see on your journey, nearly all digital content is promotional marketing content if you consider three critical influences:
- The brand image and goal of the organization paying you to write
- The audience who will read your masterpiece to solve their problem
- How the story you create will guide the reader to take action
Here's an example of the three influences:
- Compose.ly commissioned this article to attract people interested in becoming content writers.
- You're probably reading it because you want to become a content writer.
- The content writer's job is to provide the guidance you need to gently lead you through learning more about writing for Compose.ly.
Versatility is a necessity for successful content writers. You must creatively adapt style, tone, and voice to different formats, topics, and goals. Also, your content must be well-researched to build trust. Statistics, quotes, and links to authoritative sources give content credibility.
Most importantly, you must tailor content writing to various platforms and audiences. The internet is vast, with many user groups demanding varied content types.
Types of Content Written by Freelance Writers
You could look at content types one of two ways. They're either the types of structure content writers use or the many types of content clients commission. Understanding both views is helpful when figuring out how to start as a writer.
Skillful freelance writers usually employ one of the proven structural types when writing any of the numerous kinds of content pieces.
- The inverted pyramid: Borrowed from journalism, this places the most valuable information first as it answers who, what, when, where, why, and how.
- Popular copywriting structures: Content writers also use the problem, agitate, solution (PAS) or attention, interest, desire, action (AIDA) structures to generate interest while driving towards the point.
Depending on your content writing skills, interests, and the client's needs, you can adapt these structures for business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) projects. You can also specialize in the different content types clients order.
- Blog posts: Provide information, opinions, tips, reviews, or stories on various topics. How-to articles and listicles are common. Many content writers break into content writing through blog posts.
- Web copy: Home pages, landing pages, about pages, and product pages. It's usually written in a clear, concise, and catchy tone. Both copywriters and content writers produce web copy.
- Newsletters: Emails sent to subscribers updating them on the latest news, offers, events, or tips. Emails are usually friendly and personal, including catchy subject lines, headlines, images, and enticing links to get the click.
- Social media posts: Short messages on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. They use a casual, creative, audience-focused tone to make them more appealing and shareable.
- Case studies: Short stories showcasing how a customer benefited from using a product or a service. Case studies use a problem-solution-benefit structure and may require writers to interview a subject matter expert (SME).
- White papers: Lengthy reports containing detailed information that educates about an issue, presents the solution and benefits, and persuades readers to take action. White paper writers can command high fees.
- Ebooks: In-depth information or guidance. Ebooks can be 3000 words or more, showcasing expertise and authority while providing value. Content writers often produce ebooks with a landing page and an email welcome series.
- Press releases: Official statements organizations use to inform the media and public about news related to them in hopes of generating publicity. Writers generally use a factual tone following journalism's inverted pyramid structure.
Types of Freelance Writing Jobs
There are many freelance writing jobs — copywriting, fiction, journalism, and content writing. Within content writing, you'll find specialties like:
- Blog writer: You write well-researched blog posts or articles ranging from 500 to 2500 words long.
- Marketing content writer: You specialize in persuasive content for marketing funnels using the appropriate content type to drive traffic. This can blur the line between content writing and copywriting.
- Ghostwriter: Many professionals are too busy or lack the skills to write. They pay you to write for them, own all the rights, and publish your work in their name. Ghostwriters often write blogs, thought leadership pieces, and ebooks.
- Social media content writer: Effective writing for social media requires an intimate understanding of target audiences to produce sharable content that gets likes.
- Script writer: Videos and podcasts are growing in popularity and need scripts.
The amount content writers make for each job varies. Contractors base pay on per-word, per-project, or retainer rates. Freelancers often negotiate separate contracts for each job or employer.
For example, by-the-word rates range from as low as a penny per word for content mills to as high as two dollars per word for medical journals and specialized scientific papers requiring writers to hold advanced degrees.
How To Develop Strong Writing Skills if You Are New To Content Writing
Content writer skills aren't difficult to pick up. The most helpful advice is to write every day. Practice writing different types of content for different audiences. You'll grow your skill set and your portfolio.
Choose a Niche To Build Authority
Choosing a niche increases your value and helps you find work by focusing on a targeted market of content buyers. As you practice writing various content types for your niche, you'll learn and create material for your portfolio and website.
Niches like travel, pets, and hobbies are saturated and generally low-paying. Medical, finance, SaaS, and tech pay much better. You'll have more work and less competition. Remember, it's unnecessary to have worked in a niche to write in it. However, do your homework and learn everything you can before beginning writing.
Read a Wide Range of Materials
Reading exposes you to other writer's work. You learn about diverse niches and pick up valuable insights on how writers create outstanding intros, conclusions, and everything in between.
Keeping a swipe file of gems you discover while reading gives you a source of inspiration to refer to when writer's block strikes.
Learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO writing is second nature to content writers. It sounds technical and challenging, but it's relatively simple. You write using the same keywords search engine users type in to find information. Good writing briefs usually include keywords.
Here's an example: The primary keyword phrase for this article is "how to become a content writer." It's in the title, subtitles, text, meta description, and alt tag, all of which ensure this article shows up in searches. Here's a list of 10 free SEO courses from experts.
Embrace Continuous Learning To Improve Your Skills
Content writers must keep pace with rapid internet changes. The appearance of Google updates, innovations like ChatGPT, content consumer shifts towards podcasts and video, and the rise of a splintered internet all created opportunities for writers who educated themselves and took advantage of them.
There are a few different ways you can stay abreast of the field's shifting landscape:
- Take writing courses
- Join writing groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other forums
- Attend writer conferences or workshops
The most critical continuous learning activity is to read widely and often.
Accept Constructive Feedback
If you're worth your salt as a writer, you pour your entire being into every project because you love writing. Then an editor or client comes along and tears your darling to pieces.
The natural reactions are usually frustration, anger, or withdrawal. The wise response — the one you must choose if you're serious about becoming a professional content writer — is to feel gratitude that someone took the time to give you the feedback needed to improve.
Good feedback is difficult for new freelance writers to find until they start landing jobs. However, there are plenty of opportunities you can take advantage of while getting your feet wet:
- Search writer's groups under your niche or genre on social media
- Join local writing groups for an in-person feel
- Searching Reddit or other resources
Once you start landing projects, editors will become your most invaluable feedback source. Their professional insights come from years of experience.
How To Get Writing Clients When You Have No Experience
Content buyers want to see samples and know about you. Building your presence to get noticed takes a little effort, but these proven tactics work.
Build a Strong Writing Portfolio
Your portfolio contains content pieces or excerpts and links to your written content. Of course, you won't have any content when you're just starting out, but that's easily overcome.
As stated above, first pick a niche. Read the content already ranking on Google in your niche and determine what keywords pieces rank for. Then start writing articles on similar topics in your spare time. Frase can help analyze and suggest outlines to get you started.
Alternatively, if you have friends or family with their own businesses, offer to write some content for them. It could be blog posts, web pages, or even product descriptions. This kind of symbiotic relationship will give you some experience and real websites to point to in your portfolio.
After you've built up a few well-polished articles, assemble them together. You can do this through LinkedIn or content websites like Contently. You can also create your own website using one of many available site builders.
Keep in mind, however, that prospective clients can see if your work is all flash and no substance. A fancy website is no substitute for well-written work.
Create an Online Presence
You don't need to be everywhere online, but you should have an easily searchable presence on the platforms employers expect to find writers on. Your own website is the most professional place to anchor your online promotional activities, but a LinkedIn profile is also a must in this day and age.
Build a LinkedIn Profile
As stated above, LinkedIn is the best social media site to showcase your skills. They provide sound advice on building a solid profile.
Include a Professional Headshot and Strong Bio
Writers shouldn't have to get jobs based on appearance, but a professional headshot does help you market yourself.
Your author bio is also a critical part of your online presence. Write one containing the keywords for the niche and content type you've chosen. Keyword examples are "SaaS freelance content writer," "Thinkpiece ghostwriter," and "B2B content marketing writer," though there are many other options.
Using several highly focused keyword phrases puts you at the forefront for businesses searching for your expertise. Think about impressing people in your chosen niche rather than detailing your education and life story.
Create a Personal Website to Display Your Work
Your website is your ultimate marketing tool. You own it and can publish anything you want, including a content writer blog that can bring you search engine traffic looking for a writer.
Increase Your Online Presence for E-E-A-T Signals
Search engines look for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) when choosing which web pages to rank highest. Including E-E-A-T in marketing content about you helps get you noticed.
Take Advantage of Networking Opportunities
Networking is one of the best sources of freelance writing work. Having an established online presence gives you a base to network from.
The My Network feature on LinkedIn can be a rewarding place to put in effort. You can send 100 connection requests weekly without being penalized. Including personalized messages gets higher acceptance rates from the fellow writers, editors, content managers, and strategists you target.
Letters of introduction (LOI) sent on LinkedIn or email are an excellent way to network and get projects. The Freelance Content Writer Marketing book is an outstanding resource for getting the most from LOIs. Although it's aimed at published content writers, it describes the LOI process well and will get you started on landing work.
Client referrals are ultimately the best networking method, with 66% of new work coming from them. Every time you deliver a project, ask for a referral or a testimonial. Providing an easy-to-use template gets more responses from busy clients.
Get Started in Freelancing Platforms To Gain Experience
Freelance platforms can be a great place to gain experience.
- Fiverr is easy to list your services on. Have a client you know buy your service to get started. Making a short video and maintaining a 5-star rating are the keys to Fiverr success.
- Upwork used to be a race to the bottom on prices, but more recently freelancers have been able to charge decent fees for quality projects.
- Compose.ly, of course, works as an excellent platform for gaining experience and building a portfolio. New writers have the marketing done for them, and Compose.ly provides a professional brief and editing team for every project.
Pitch To Publications and Guest Posting
Writing an outstanding pitch can land high-paying gigs that make wonderful portfolio pieces. Publishing guest posts gives you clips to use in your portfolio while getting your name out there as a good writer.
Join Our Network Of Freelance Writers and Create High-Quality Content
Compose.ly's freelance writer network is a good source of steady work at competitive rates. With Compose.ly, you gain access to all these benefits on top of improving as a writer:
- All the marketing and business aspects of freelancing are handled for you, letting you focus on the writing.
- Your choice of projects in many niches that require different content types so you can develop valuable experience.
- A solid writing brief containing a title, keywords, and an outline for each project to guide your writing.
- Helpful editors to give you invaluable feedback.
- A supportive staff to answer any questions you may have.
- Prompt pay twice a month, so you don't need to invoice clients and chase late payers.
Compose.ly is an exclusive group of talented freelancers who consistently produce high-quality content. Only 1% of the writers who apply are accepted. If your writing is up to it, Compose.ly is an incredible place to get paid for gaining freelance writing experience. Become a Compose.ly writer now.