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Why content marketing is your best bet as a freelance writer

Freelance writing is a great career choice. You get to choose your own office space, as well as your working hours, which usually means you’re extremely flexible, get plenty of sleep and have an awesome work / life balance.

Unless you’re a complete organizational mess, like yours truly, but I’ll leave that story for some other time.

Besides choosing your own space and time, you also get to choose, at least to some extent, your own topics. That might sound amazing to a veteran writer. A newbie freelancer, or one that’s thinking about starting a career in freelance writing, considers this a nightmare.

Often I get asked how do I choose what to write about. People even sometimes tell me they have lots of problems starting the piece. As if all the horrors of the world fit in that blank Office Word page.

If you’re one of those people not knowing what to write about, I can tell you right here – writing content for a company’s marketing efforts is probably your best bet.

We can break writing into a couple of fairly broad categories: news writing (that may be basic news covering the who, what, when, where and why, or opinions, features, reviews, pretty much anything that a news portal could publish), book writing (short stories, essays, novels, etc.), and blogging, be it for companies and startups, or just for the sake of blogging.

Here’s why you should choose content marketing:

The media is struggling

Credit: Flickr / Nurgeldy
Credit: Flickr / Nurgeldy

First of all, breaking into a media publication to get exposure is pretty hard. Take it from someone who’s been a journalist for Al Jazeera for a number of years. First, you have to be a proven expert in whatever field you choose. That means, a bunch of years of experience, possibly a university diploma, and a couple of published books/articles on any given topic. Background in journalism is also welcomed.

Second of all, editors are highly demanding, and for a reason. Those are the people that read tons of content every day, know their audience to the core and know exactly what kind of content you need to write in order to hit all the right notes. You, as a writer, can find that out for yourself to some extent (by analyzing other content on a particular site), but still, an editor will be highly, extremely highly demanding of you. As a beginner, you might find it discouraging, intimidating even.

Reactional work = stress

Also, your content will in many cases be reactional – you’ll write based on a recent event, meaning the range of topics, and the frequency of the articles, might be somewhat limited.

Credit: Financial Times
Credit: Financial Times

On top of all that (and this is particularly true if you’re not a veteran), don’t expect huge budgets from the media. They are facing an ad-blocking mayhem, with revenues dropping hard, and many are in the process of reinventing journalism. Printed editions are dying, and with so much free content being spread around, the media are finding a very difficult time funding their existence.

According to the 2015 Ad Blocking Report by Adobe, almost 200 million people worldwide are blocking ads, going up 41 per cent compared to a year before.

This has come to a point where 90 percent of Sweden’s publishers (approximately 20 of them) are planning to block ad blockers in August this year.

Books are a small(er) market

Books are huge projects. No small feat, especially for someone just trying to break into the business. Sure, you can start with short stories or a novelette, but those won’t differ much from blog writing. Only that the demand is nowhere near as big as for content marketing.

As a matter of fact, there are even some reports saying book sales are in decline. Some will say otherwise, but hey – where there’s smoke, there’s bound to be a fire.

That leads me to my point:

Content marketing is on the rise

Marketers are faced with the same problems news sites are facing – ad blocking. The problem is even bigger for marketers, as they’re the ones paying actual money to have these ads served to people, and then no one sees them because everyone’s happy blocking them away.

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive at WPP, one of the world’s largest marketing and PR groups, confirmed there are reasons to be anxious. “It’s not quite as significant a threat as people have said,” he said. “But am I worried about it? The honest answer is yes.”

Credit: Flickr / DigitalRalph
Credit: Flickr / DigitalRalph

But unlike the media, which is still struggling trying to find its place under the digital sun, marketers have found a way to bypass the ad blocking horror to everyone’s satisfaction – by creating content that’s engaging, educational and fun, and still can work to bring in new leads, improve sales, and overall increase the number of visits a business gets.

Content is King

At the same time, its target audience is getting something in return, and that’s probably the key point here. With classic advertising, you’re constantly being bombarded with messages that you actually need something, but with content marketing, businesses are giving something back – useful information, educational content. And people love it. You’ll find tons of content out there supporting the statement that ‘Content is King’, but there’s one particularly important element to it, perfectly summed up by Forbes’ contributor Neil Patel:

“Personal authority will be extremely important.”

Which means, you have to find a niche, and stick to it. That might be technology, finance, roofing services, I don’t care. Find something, then learn as much as you can about that industry. Read a bunch of books, get a course or two, heck, maybe even volunteer at a company of your choosing, just to see how it looks on the inside.

The best part about content marketing is that, being the modern and successful marketing model that it is – everyone’s doing it. And just looking at Great Britain – it has had more than 600,000 new companies created just last year. In a year! That’s 1,643 new companies every day! If that’s not a big market, then I honestly don’t know what is.


To recap

By going into content marketing, you’re tapping into a huge market, in dire need of quality content to get exposure. Their chief marketing officers are usually not editors, they will not be as picky as a journalist trying to impress his audience. They are looking to build a good relationship, which is why your content must be fun, educational and engaging, and doesn’t need to fit into the 5W paradigm or pass a certain opinion.

And their marketing budgets are, more often than not, bigger than those of a media outlet.

At the end of the day, becoming a specialist in a certain niche will, at some point, open the door to the media for you. At that point, you will have already become an expert, and they’ll come looking for you. Just make sure you don’t get scammed while looking for new clients.

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