It’s no secret that the internet has transformed the media world. Traditional media channels like print newspapers and magazines have been forced to consolidate or fold as subscriptions and readership continue to dwindle. This presents a challenge to most freelancers trying to eke out a living through traditional outlets.
But it isn’t all bad news. Even as traditional media channels have dried up new online platforms from corporate-owned media to independent news blogs have filled the void. The explosion of ecommerce and the digital marketplace has further opened up a world of new opportunities for freelancers through content marketing. Companies that publish their own blogs and marketing materials online are starving for content.
But what is content marketing and how can freelancers break into it? These are the questions our panel at the February meeting of Freelance Austin were asked to answer.
Our panel of experts featured Kristen Hicks, a freelance content marketing writer, Andrea Genevieve Townson, an experienced digital marketer, and Tracey Wallace, editor-in-chief at BigCommerce. The panel was moderated by Jenny Hoff, a certified personal finance educator, life strategist and former managing editor with Bankrate.
What is content marketing?
Companies and ecommerce sites are looking for ways to drive traffic to their sites through content marketing. So, what exactly is content marketing? Content marketing involves creating and sharing online material and can be anything from classic marketing vehicles such as emails, newsletters and white papers to blogs, podcasts, video or even social media posts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
So, what do you need to know to get into content marketing?
The answer to this question really depends on what part of content marketing you want to do. You don’t necessarily need specialized training to be a successful freelance content marketer, although there may be some instances where experience and training are helpful. The best place to start is by evaluating your own skills and knowledge base. Are you a writer interested in health and wellness? Are you an expert in producing engaging online video for the tech industry? Are you a whiz at SEO and social media? You don’t need to be an expert in everything, so start with what you know.
How do I pitch and find new business?
So, you’ve made the decision to be a freelance content marketer. Now you need clients. First, you want to make sure you have a professional profile. Create a website that highlights your skills and background. Provide samples of your work and ask for references from previous clients or employers who can validate your work.
Identify and research businesses where you think you can add value. Do a Google search to find companies in your field of interest. Find out who manages their marketing content by looking at their corporate website and searching LinkedIn. Then send them a pitch letter. Follow them on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and engage with them there to start to build a relationship. You may not get a response the first time, so be sure to send several follow-ups.
Agencies are another potential client source. Many of them have clients with changing needs and often they look to freelancers to help fill the gaps. Make a shortlist of agencies in town and send a soft intro. Even if they don’t have any work for you right away, they will have your information on hand for any future opportunities.
What if I’m brand new to freelancing and don’t have any work or references?
Landing that first client can be a challenge when you’re new to freelancing. The best place to start is by building your own brand through blogs, photos, videos and podcasts on your own website and social media outlets like LinkedIn, Medium, Facebook and Instagram. Ask former colleagues or employers to act as references or find a nonprofit that you can help.
Look for sites that publish content on topics that you’re interested in and pitch them. This is a good way build your brand or break into an industry. And while the last thing you want to do as a freelancer is give away your talent for free, sometimes taking a couple of pro bono jobs to establish a portfolio can pay dividends down the line.
How much should I charge and what industries pay the best?
Technology, health and wellness, finance, cybersecurity and B2B tend to pay the best freelance rates. Ultimately, what pays the most is what you can do most efficiently. When setting your prices, consider the full scope of the project. Is it a 600-word blog or a long-form article? How much research is involved? Take into account the number of sources you need to speak to and how long it will take for you to write the piece.
Have an internal rate sheet of what makes sense for you. If you are writing a blog or article, you want to think about charging per word or project. For social media projects, charging by the hour or project might make more sense. Some clients will want to set a monthly retainer. Just be sure to be specific about the amount of work the retainer covers.
What resources are available?
There are lots of resources for content marketers available from newsletters, blogs and job boards to online certification courses. Here are just a few that were mentioned:
Brian Dean: https://backlinko.com
Content Marketing Institute: https://contentmarketinginstitute.com
Digital Marketer: https://www.digitalmarketer.com
Freelance Writers Den: https://freelancewritersden.com
Kaleigh Moore: https://www.kaleighmoore.com
Maddy Osman: https://www.the-blogsmith.com
In addition, search for freelance content marketer groups on Facebook and LinkedIn to join. Networking groups like Women Communicators of Austin and Freelance Austin have online forums where companies post freelance opportunities.
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