There is quite a number of questions surrounding the fact of what a freelance content writer does. Even these writers themselves often have their own dilemmas about it. It starts with a question what is content writing after all? The next one that pops to mind is the difference between content writing and copywriting. It usually ends up with the perennial one – what is freelance content writing worth? How much should freelance content writers charge for their work, i.e. how much should potential clients pay for it?
Content and content writing as terms came into vogue with the development of the internet and writing for online purposes. As one such writer notes, “content, at the most basic level, is information. Content on the web takes a variety of forms: blog posts, social media posts, video and audio recordings, web pages, white papers and more. Content writers, therefore, specialize in written content.”
Aside from writing content, these writers might also be responsible for making sure the sites’ pages and content connect. They’re also responsible for setting the overall tone of the site. Content writers accomplish these tasks by researching and deciding what information to include or exclude from the site. (above)
So, it seems, just writing is not the only task content writers have. What else do they have to do?
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This post was updated on March 2021
The tasks of a freelance content writer
Julia Spence, a freelance content writer herself gave a detailed explanation of her job and tasks for Yahoo’s Small Business.” The truth is the job of a content writer is about much more than just churning out articles or blog posts.,” she says.
“To some writers, writing online content is basically equivalent to journalism. They contribute articles to e-zines, corporate blogs, and other such places on the web. Yet more content writers spend their days working exclusively for small businesses, and some even write content for government websites. Content writers are full-time employees and independent contractors. We are SEO specialists and HTML experts. We’re reporters, experts, comedians, and salespeople. We’re the filter and the amplifier that sends your voice out into the universe, and when used effectively, we are the keys to success on the web.”
Besides writing itself, Spence gives these characteristics that define the job of a freelance content writer:
- SEO expertise;
- Consulting concerning all things ‘online’.
On the other hand, Find A Way Media(FAWM) note that content writers “often describe themselves by the writing formats and vertical(s) they specialize in. For example, a healthcare technical writer or an executive article ghostwriter. They do this for two reasons:
- Having a niche helps you find clients. It’s easier to filter through job posting sites.
- Having a niche helps clients find you. Marketers and editors looking to hire will have an easier time recognizing that you’re a fit for their team or publication if your niche is in your title. “
As common niches and content formats they list:
- Long-form writer: Articles, e-books, guides
- Technical writer: User guides, white papers, patents, documentation
- Copywriter: Generalist; websites, articles, videos, speeches
- Social media writer: Social posts, profiles
- Direct response writer: Ads
What do content writers write about and the difference and similarities between them and copywriters?
The range of topics that content writers can and do cover is practically limitless. The content verticals as FAWM (above) include, but are not limited to can be:
- Technology or software
As they and Location Rebel note, “content writing is really just sort of an interchangeable term for freelance writing in general. Freelance writing covers all types of writing out there from blogging to writing Tweets.” On the other hand, “copywriting is just one of many types of freelance writing. Where copywriting sets itself apart from other types of writing is it’s created with sales in mind.”
“While copywriting is included in the general world of content writing, it’s important to understand that copywriting is its own special sort of category.”
But what about the consulting tasks Julia Spence (above) mentions? FAWM says that in that respect content writers become content strategists. According to them, “a content strategist plans, promotes and measures content. If content marketing is a race, strategists pick the drivers and lay the track. They conduct SEO research to identify keywords, interview customers to learn where they get their news, produce a backlog of ideas, assign pitches, publish articles, and measure the results. Creative content strategists ensure the content performs.”
Elna Cain, quoted in the introduction, presents a list of characteristics a freelance content writer should possess. They should have:
- Solid grip on grammar and style;
- Excellent researching ability;
- Ability to write quickly and perform under tight deadlines;
- Must write in a variety of tones, on a variety of subjects, within a variety of structures;
- Strong knowledge of the field you wish to write about;
- Creative ability to generate content ideas.
More on the skills a freelance content writer needs
Here are the skills a freelance content writer needs to successfully perform her/his job:
- Writing skills
- Content Developing
- Managing Content
- Balance, Acceptance, and Clarity
- Consistency is Key
- Capability for Remote Work
- Interpersonal skills
Being such a ‘jack of all trades’ so to say, content writer obviously needs to divide his time between all the tasks he needs to perform. FAWM presents a general concept about how content writers use their work hours. Of those:
15% Research: Content writers read and research constantly, and frequent sites and sources they know they can trust. Over time, they memorize a virtual catalog for their industry. Similar to how London cab drivers must commit every city street to memory, writers learn all the companies, blogs, and publications in their sector. (It also probably enlarges the region of their brain tied to memory, as happens with cab drivers.)
5% Pitching: Most content marketing operations have an editor, or at least a manager, who assigns and approves topics. Content writers either pitch or are assigned stories.
50% Writing: At least half of a content writer’s time is spent writing and editing.
20% Strategy: To write successful content, writers need to know their audience and how their audience will interact with their work. If your readers are attention-starved stockbrokers, you know to use lots of spaces and to whittle your introductions into irresistible hooks. If you know that your audience has opted into your marketing and wants to receive emails, you know you can skip the introductions and get to the good stuff.
10% Reading: As Stephen King and countless others have said, to be a great writer, you have to read—a lot. Freelancer writer Linsey Knerl stays inspired by reading outside of her genre.
Where to Find Freelance Content Writers?
It is not an uncommon practice for some businesses to have content writers as permanent employees. But even those businesses often find themselves in a situation that most others do anyway. Engage a freelance writer on a project or a set of projects basis.
For the writers, working freelance offers the flexibility of remote, or work from home. With potential clients they share the flexibility of working in different time zones and at different working hours. For clients, this is an important factor when specific deadlines come into play.
Usually, in those situations, organizations don’t have much time or want to have a few viable offers on hand. In those situations, they usually resort to freelance brokering agencies like BunnyStudio. Fast turnarounds, fair prices, and high-quality freelancers at the drop of a hat are the main advantages.
So how much should potential clients pay for freelance content writing?
As the small business site The Balance SMB (TBSMB) notes, there are basically five types of freelance writing rates:
- By the project, or flat rate
- Charging by the hour
- By the word
- Charging by the page
- Retainer fee, for ongoing work.
They categorize freelance writing in general into four categories: online writing, newspaper writing, marketing-related writing and ghostwriting. In all of these cases, writing overlaps with the online presentation.
Online-specific writing like web content, blogging, SEO writing and writing for agencies, generally pays the least. Newspaper writing and some social media work (posting, campaigns) is the next step on the payment scale. Marketing-related writers usually earn more than those who work on general content creation.
“This includes copywriting, sales pages, press releases, ads (pay-per-click ads or advertorials), and email content. Other business writing, such as white papers, brochures, and position statements, generally pays better than articles and other online writing. Working on pieces that are typical for non-profits may also fall in this better-than-average area.” (TBSMB)
Penguin Random House Writer’s Market Guide can in many cases serve as a starting guide when freelance writing prices are concerned. Freelance writing agencies like BunnyStudio (above), have their own pricing guides.
The Importance of Content Writing
As eyerys.com, precisely notes, “websites have turned from the stage of popularity to the stage of necessity.” These days, most people depend “on the internet to get their products and services, anywhere and anytime. The internet has become their most favorite marketplace to find their favorite shops, blogs, and source of trusted information. So it is a must for every website owner to keep their websites attractive and informative at the same time.”
To that effect, online businesses and organizations in general “need good, informative and attractive content on their sites.” Content writing and engaging freelance content writers are one of the most effective and the easiest method to keep (any) website informative and updated than any other online tools.