Demand for content writers is on the rise, and projections show that demand will continue to grow. But how do you become a content writer in a competitive market? What skills and strategies do you need to stand out and succeed?
New technologies, platforms, and trends are shaping the way we create and consume content. To become a successful content writer in this landscape, you need to stay informed, adaptable, and continuously hone your skills.
In this article we’ll explore the essential skills, strategies, and tools that you need to get a successful start as a content writer in 2023 and beyond. From SEO and social media to a strong personal brand and network, we’ll cover everything you need to know to thrive in this exciting field.
What Is Content?
Content refers to any information or creative works that are shared or published for public consumption. When it comes to written content this can include blog posts, articles, social media updates, videos and podcast scripts, and more.
Content and content marketing have become foundational elements of most marketing strategies. While video and image-based content are extremely popular, writing is still a foundational element in content creation.
What Is Content Writing?
Content writing is the process of creating written content for websites, blogs, social media, and other digital platforms. This content can be informational, educational, promotional, or simply entertaining. In most cases, it serves a specific purpose, such as driving traffic and sales, generating leads, or increasing awareness about a brand, topic, or cause.
The key to successful content writing is attracting your target audience with topics they care about and creating emotional resonance. This requires a deep understanding of your ideal customers, as well as strong writing skills. Knowledge of SEO and social media best practices can make your services even more valuable to high-paying clients.
What Is a Content Writer?
The role of a content writer has evolved over the years, and today’s writers need to be skilled in a variety of areas. Writing high-quality, compelling copy that is optimized for search engines and social media is far different from providing a little information for a brochure.
In addition to writing you may also be responsible for tasks such as researching topics, conducting interviews, editing, and proofreading, and participating in editorial calendars and schedules. Some writers work independently as freelancers or for companies and agencies as part of a content team.
The ability to research and analyze data, collaborate with other team members, and stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices is imperative for anyone who wants to create a successful career as a content creator.
Types of Content Writing
This is a broad field that encompasses many different types of writing, each with its own set of best practices and skills, tactics, and strategies. All of them require strong writing, attention to detail, and the ability to connect with your target audience. Commanding the correct mixture of these elements often separates average writers from the best in the business.
Copywriting is designed to persuade the reader to take a specific action, such as buying a product or signing up for a service or mailing list. Copywriting can apply to website copy, ad copy, email copy, and many other mediums. While copy is a specific type of content, it’s often considered separate from other types because of its specific purpose and ability to generate revenue when properly implemented.
On average copywriting is one of the higher-paid types of freelance writing because it is easy to measure the immediate impact of copy on conversion or other KPIs. Most full-time copywriters earn $50,000 or more per year, and they can easily earn double that or much more with the right clientele.
Blogging is the most well-known type of content writing, typically involving writing regular blog posts on a variety of topics. There are several types of blog content, but most of them focus on either generating leads, promoting a product or service, or keeping visitors engaged so they read everything and generate more ad revenue.
Blog writers receive an extremely varied range of compensation. It’s not unheard of for beginners to start at $0.01 per word, or for experts to earn $2.00 per word or more. This is because blogs vary vastly in profitability based on niche, management, and more.
SEO writing involves crafting content that is optimized for search engines, with the goal of ranking higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). Most people who use search engines like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo never browse past the first page of results, which is typically ten links or less. Because of the massive amount of traffic driven by search engines, learning SEO is a tremendous add-on to existing writing skills.
SEO writing is mostly for websites and blogs, but it is often required for things like Amazon product descriptions and YouTube scripts. It is usually on the higher end of the blog writing range, but there are still SEO writers who start around $0.05-$0.10 per word.
Social Media Writing
Social media writing involves writing short, engaging posts for social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Although social media is more focused on images and videos these days, having great copy can still make a massive difference. In addition, images containing text (such as memes) are one of the most shared content types on most platforms. If you can write short, snappy text that’s likely to go viral, you can offer great value in this world.
Like other types of writing, social media copy can earn a lot or a little. Some freelancers will include it as part of a small management fee, while others who write for popular pages with high engagement will earn hundreds of dollars per post.
Ghostwriting is simply creating content that will not be credited to the writer. Ghostwriters provide everything from full-length books to articles to tweets for their clients, and often charge more because they sell their authorship along with the words.
While the lack of recognition makes ghostwriting unappealing to some, others prefer anonymity and thrive by charging their busy, successful clients premium rates.
The pricing varies depending on the type of ghostwriting and the value it provides. Ghostwriters generally charge above average for the type of content they create because they don’t have as many long-term benefits attached to their work.
Email writing is typically considered a type of copywriting, but with its unique nature and the massive value it can provide, it deserves its own category. Most businesses with an online presence can benefit from some sort of email marketing. For those that make all or most of their sales online (such as eCommerce stores and Software-as-a-Service apps), a good email writer can have an immediately recognizable impact on profitability.
Like copywriting, email writing can be extremely lucrative. A great email writer can potentially double (or more) a list’s open rate, clickthrough rate, and revenue. Some experienced email copywriters will charge a percentage of the sales generated by their work, or a percentage of profits that exceed the list’s average results.
Academic writing is often overlooked by aspiring content writers, but it can be a great niche for those who enjoy research and academic discourse. This type of content can take many forms, including research papers, essays, case studies, and literature reviews.
One of the benefits of academic writing is that it often pays well, especially if you have expertise or certification in a particular field. Additionally, academic writing can help you develop strong research and writing skills, as well as critical thinking and analysis.
Academic writers average a little over $50,000 per year in Canada, although that could vary significantly based on your field of study and how much content you’re able to produce.
This involves writing technical documentation, such as user manuals, instruction manuals, and technical specifications. Many digital tools require extensive documentation for their user base, and having the necessary technical skills makes a good technical writer highly valuable.
For example, many companies have employee handbooks and/or SOPs (standard operating procedures) which are detailed instructions explaining how the company works. These instructions need to be detailed, extremely clear, and updated regularly.
Technical writers earn $60,000 on average because they are difficult to replace and often work a lot to keep documentation up to date.
Scriptwriting is a versatile and increasingly important skill for content writers, given the rise of video and audio content. Whether you’re writing for YouTube, podcasts, or online courses, understanding the principles of scriptwriting can help you create engaging and effective content.
One of the crucial aspects of scriptwriting is understanding your audience and the format you’re working with. For example, a YouTube video will have different requirements than a podcast. In general, video content requires more visual engagement and pacing, while audio content relies more on the rhythm and tone of the speaker’s voice.
Scriptwriters average around $60,000 per year in Canada but may earn much more or less based on their compensation model and the success of their works.
How to Become a Content Writer
Like anything else, this will take time and dedication, but with the right combination of skills and strategy, you can become an in-demand content creator. Here’s a quick guide with some tried-and-true steps you can follow.
Tips for Effective Content Writing
Suggestion: First up, you’ll want to develop your skills as a content writer. If you’ve already got a knack for expressing thoughts and ideas, there are some important ways you can develop your practice to make you an asset to potential employers.
The first step is to understand the most popular styles of writing in your niche, and to do that you must read—a lot. Make a list of popular blogs or websites that would be your ideal clients and consume their work. If they feature the names of their authors, you can look those writers up and see what else they’ve published online.
In addition to popular niche sites, it’s worth looking at some of the biggest content sites on the web. Forbes and Entrepreneur are two examples of high-profile blogs that primarily focus on business. Medium and Vocal Media are both websites where anyone can publish, but they still feature a lot of popular posts.
Improve Your Research Skills
Research is a cornerstone of writing high-quality content. When it comes to keeping readers interested and impressing search engines, having enough of the right information to provide a uniquely insightful perspective cannot be overstated. Too many publishers only care about having the same generic details as their competitors, so if you find unique facts and angles to approach the topic your services will be highly sought after.
Previously called E-A-T, this is an acronym from Google meaning Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trust. This is a criterion that search engine evaluators consider when rating a site’s helpfulness.
You can improve your E-E-A-T in a number of ways. Experience can be demonstrated through personal anecdotes related to the topic and your associated opinions. Expertise is best demonstrated with degrees, certifications, and other credentials and accolades from other experts. Authority is best commanded through an overall body of successful work, and honesty and transparency help to build trust.
Websites can improve their E-E-A-T by bringing in writers who have ideal experience, expertise, authority, and trust for the topic of each article.
Get To Grips With SEO
Search engine optimization is an excellent way to add value to your web copy. It’s important to most online and local businesses, and many content writing jobs include it as a significant asset or even a required skill.
As a content writer, you don’t need to be an SEO expert. That said, having a basic working knowledge of ranking factors and the ability to thoroughly cover topics while using appropriate keywords makes a big difference.
Work on your Headlines
Whether it’s a blog post, an email, or a news story, the headline plays a massive role in determining how many people start reading your content. Having engaging content is key to keep them reading, but if they don’t click you don’t even get that chance.
A common recommendation for beginner writers is to write at least ten headline ideas for each piece of content, then pick the top few and work on them until one stands ahead of the rest.
Develop your content’s hook
The hook can be anything from the first few words to the first few paragraphs. Regardless of length, the hook compels your reader to keep going. Common methods of catching the reader’s interest include starting with shocking information, making a strong and/or controversial statement, asking questions, and sharing personal true stories.
Without a strong hook many people will lose interest in your content.
Take Writing Classes
Taking writing classes is a great way to hone your skills and stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends. Writing classes can help you learn the fundamentals of grammar, punctuation, and structure, as well as more advanced topics such as search engine optimization and digital marketing.
Whether you choose to attend a university course, buy a premium online course, or just watch some YouTube videos, the resources to help you improve your craft are endless. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses and focusing on improving your most marketable skills will make this process much more streamlined.
Udemy is an online learning platform with a vast library of writing courses. Most are fairly expensive but they often go on sale, and there are thousands of free options as well. EdX makes many University courses available for free, including this one on Business Writing Techniques. Students can take the course with limited access for free or receive permanent access and certification with payment.
On YouTube there are many standalone practical tutorials such as my video on How to Write SEO Friendly Articles With Only Free Tools, and full courses such as this five-hour guide on The Secrets of Copywriting by Copy That!
Practice Practice Practice
Some people who want to make money online get the idea that they can skip straight from deciding to become a writer to getting high-value clients. While this isn’t impossible, it’s quite rare. Most freelance writers start out by putting in a serious amount of practice on their own time.
Websites like Medium, Vocal Media, and Publish0x will let you sign up and publish content for free – you can even potentially earn some money based on how much your articles are read. These platforms are great for beginners because in addition to giving you a practice space full of readers and other writers, it exposes you to current online writing trends and best practices.
How to Market Yourself as a Content Writer
Marketing can be divided into two main categories: inbound and outbound. Outbound marketing involves reaching out to potential clients by email, cold calling, or advertising, while inbound marketing refers to generating interest in your business through methods like content marketing and SEO.
A solid, inexpensive way to market your services is by starting with one or two types of inbound marketing and then adding more methods including some outbound marketing as you progress. For example, you could create content on social media to grow your influence and then buy some ads on the same platforms to boost growth and increase sales after a few months.
Create a Portfolio
There are a wide range of options available for compiling an online portfolio full of your writing samples. While the traditional way is to create your own website and blog, there are also a number of easier, free tools you can use to get started.
Free publishing platforms are a great place to put your first portfolio pieces. In addition to having a permanent home on the open web, these articles can also be found via the platform’s recommendation or search engines.
If you publish your work on multiple websites, you can use a free account at clippings.me to compile them all easily in one place. You can also build a custom portfolio website and sales funnel using tools like Systeme.io. While there are definitely benefits to having your portfolio on your own website, the free options are just as good for beginners on a budget.
Build Authority by Blogging
For content writers and other types of digital marketing professionals, authority is a critical trait. When people in your space start to think of you as a top-tier expert, finding great clients becomes as easy as making yourself available.
In addition to publishing content on your own blog and other publishing platforms, guest blogging is a great way to build authority. Not only will this expose more people to your name and your skill, it often gives you a chance to link back to your own website, which helps both humans and search engines respect your work.
There are also a number of ways to increase your notoriety by micro-blogging. You can do this by answering HARO (help a reporter) queries, and by posting regularly on social platforms like Twitter, Quora, Linkedin, and Reddit.
Develop a Pitch
A good pitch should contain three elements: What you do, who you do it for, and the result it achieves.
Here are two examples:
- I’ll write or upgrade your white paper so it will bring the best and most ideal students to your educational institution.
- I’ll craft unique content for your entertainment blog that will rank high in the search engines and keep your readers engaged and wanting to learn more.
A good pitch assures a potential client that you provide a service they need, explains why they need it, and gives an idea of why you’re the best candidate for the job.
Sign Up For Freelancer Websites
Many freelance writers start out or even build long-term careers around freelancing platforms and job boards. While these sites restrict your opportunities, they also provide a convenient and steady source of leads you can potentially work with.
Platforms like Upwork, iWriter, and ProbBlogger all work differently, but the common factor is the fact that they facilitate meetings between clients and freelancers. While it’s easier for an experienced writer to earn ideal rates independently, it’s easier for most new writers to find work on a third-party platform.
Establish Your Presence With a Linkedin Profile
Linkedin is an ideal place to find work as an employee or as a contractor. It’s especially useful for writers because text posts are easy to share and consume on Linkedin. Many freelancers have built their brand name through the effective use of their Linkedin profile and Linkedin publishing tools.
Make sure you fill out all of the profile information you can and set your privacy settings however you’re comfortable. Use a professional profile image that shows your face and write a snappy bio based on your pitch, your training, and your experience.
Once your profile is ready, follow people in your industry and join any relevant Linkedin groups. Comment on other people’s posts, start conversations, publish your own posts, and send connection requests to people you want to network with.
When someone connects with you they follow you by default, which means they may see any subsequent posts you make.
Post On Content Platforms
In addition to the free blogging platforms discussed above, there are many ways to share content and gain authority online. YouTube is ideal if you’re comfortable making videos, and Facebook and Instagram allow you to publish multiple types of creative content.
Podcasting is another powerful way to publish content, and there are many websites where you can upload or share your episodes easily. Depending on your niche, you may want to research where your ideal audience is most likely to consume content and focus your energy there.
Look For Companies and Firms That Are Hiring
Many businesses that have marketing teams will hire in-house content writers to keep their digital presence thriving. Linkedin, Indeed, and Creative Niche are great places to find job advertisements, and so are regional, provincial, and national job banks.
Should You Register a Business as a Content Writer?
While you can work as a freelancer without registering a business in Canada, there are many benefits to doing so. It makes it easier to separate your personal and professional finances and makes applicable tax law clearer. It also creates a more professional image, demonstrating that you take your work seriously.
If you want to register as a sole proprietor, Ownr’s registration package costs less than the ordinary government fee and includes a number of helpful tools.
Here are a few key takeaways to remember from this article:
- There are lots of opportunities for content writers, even those with low experience
- There is no substitute for high-level writing skills
- Having a digital presence in the form of a portfolio and social media is helpful and often necessary
- Focusing on specific types of writing (content, copy, technical) and specific niches will make it easier to earn more
- Many skills can stack with content writing to make your offer more valuable (such as SEO)
How to Become Content Writer FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers.
What Qualifications Do I Need to Be a Content Writer?
You don’t necessarily need any specific qualifications to be a content writer, but having demonstrable education and experience as a writer or subject matter expert can give you a big advantage. Some clients and positions require specific certification, especially in niches like academic, medical, and technical writing.
How Do I Become a Content Writer With No Experience?
Start by reading and practicing your skills. Next, you’ll want to create an online portfolio you can share with potential clients and employers. Make sure to always update and add your most recent work to your portfolio to showcase your evolving skills.
Do Content Writers Get Paid?
Yes, content writers get paid. Like any service provider, there is a risk of not receiving payment, but qualifying potential clients and having clear agreements can reduce the chances. Skilled content writers can earn over $50,000 a year when working full-time or over $80 per hour as freelancers.
This article offers general information only, is current as of the date of publication, and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.