Back when social media was free, I spent nearly five years as a content marketing director for a tech company. And, while I did most of the writing, I can tell you what it takes to appeal to them from a freelancer side.
Writing for businesses may seem less exciting than National Geographic but corporate blogging, web copy, and article writing are good, solid ways to make a living as a writer!
First, you have to bring more to the table than just noun/verb agreement. You must understand business needs. When you do, you’ll not only attain more clients, you’ll retain them as well, which means steadier income, more assignments, and amazing word-of-mouth marketing for you.
But only if you know what a marketing director is looking for…
How to Think Like a Marketer
A marketers’ top concern is not pretty prose. It’s content that converts.
Here’s how you get there:
Understand The Target Audience
When writing good business content, it is essential to have information about the target audience because it affects the angle you take, the tone and language, and the level of research. After all, writing an article about China for a children’s blog looks very different than one you’d write for a briefing for Apple.
Pro tip: If they don’t provide info on the target audience, ask.
Understand the Content Goal
You’ll likely get this information upon assignment, but if not, find out why they are commissioning this piece and what their goals are.
- Do they want more customers?
- Are they trying to turn around a bad reputation?
- Do they want people to subscribe to their newsletter?
All of these reasons will affect the way you write the piece. Which brings us to…
Request the Call to Action
The marketer should know what the call to action is behind every piece but they don’t always pass it along to the writer. If they don’t, ask.
Gold star bonus points: Knowing the call to action will help you weave it into the piece earlier on so it doesn’t look like an afterthought.
Understand Tone and Style
Read the company’s content. Understand how they speak to their ideal customer and mimic that. Do they use contractions? Is their writing casual or formal?
If they don’t have a discernible tone, ask them about it. While you’re at it, ask about their style guide, too. I have a British client who wants everything written in U.S. English. If they didn’t tell me, I would’ve employed a much larger number of “U’s.”
Always Deliver on Time
Think of corporate writing as a relay race. Your contact assigned you work that their manager expects by a specified date. Some veteran content marketers will build in a buffer when assigning a deadline, but never assume they have. When you miss a deadline, you have dropped the baton. If you drop the baton, you’ve caused your client contact to drop the baton also. Then they look bad in front of their boss. No one wants to work with someone who makes them look bad.
As a freelance writer, you are running a business. Businesses adhere to deadlines. Don’t take on a job you can’t complete. Instead, offer a date on which you know you can deliver. If that doesn’t work for them, then pass on the assignment. Everyone will be happier.
Pro tip: Your computer problems should never be the client’s computer problems. Store your work in the cloud. Go to the library and use their computer to complete the assignment, if necessary. Better yet, build in redundancies and purchase a separate back-up device for emergencies.
Finally, do everything you can to make your content marketing connection look good. If you see an article that fits their target market, an interesting angle that they could curate on social media or rework in a post, send them the link. Follow them on social media. Share their content.
Be more than a good writer. Be a partner in their success. If you do, you will stand out above all of the competition. Value like that will trump whatever cheap purveyor of words comes knocking on their virtual door offering to do your job for less. When you give your clients more than just pretty phrases strung together, you’ll have a loyal network eager to work with you.
Blogging to Sell Books – By Eric D. Goodman
Christina R. Green is a blogger and freelance writer. She left the corporate world in order to pursue writing full time five years ago. Since then, she’s written for the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, Event Manager Blog, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. Her stories have appeared in several anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Women in Love. She is currently editing her first novel, West of You, and fighting off the urge to start a new project before she completes the edits. Like and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Also, see her website at christinargreen.com.
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