The content marketing machine is voraciously hungry, and with the concept having really taken off the past couple of years there’s a golden opportunity for writers to make a killing. If you can get it right, that is. And getting it right means producing content for clients that makes you an indispensable asset for them. It means producing content that gets results, generates leads and builds up readership.
Here’s how to simplify and streamline the process so it becomes lucrative and viable for you.
Interpreting the Client’s Instructions
Some clients really don’t know how to give instructions, do they? Often, that’s because they don’t understand what works, or because don’t know how to ask for what they want. So, sometimes you have to interpret. I always ask for the following info, if it isn’t included upfront:
- Where is this content going to be published (e.g. website address, blog, online publication etc)?
- Who will be listed as the author, and where can I read other work by this person (for tone etc)?
- What’s the primary purpose of the content? Sounds simple enough, but clients often don’t tell you what the call to action is going to be, and that’s important to help you produce a balanced piece that supports what they want to get out of it. So, I want to know if the purpose is to drive traffic, encourage downloads or generate commentary and discussion.
If anything is unclear, ask! I’d rather ask stupid questions than make stupid mistakes, even if they are legitimate ones (i.e. the client forgot to tell you something important). Here’s an example: I’m currently writing for a proctology client, qualified to deal with colorectal issues. The client neglected to tell me he specializes in rectal conditions, not colonic ones! Who knew… So now I have to review everything and remove all references to colorectal. There’s no way I would have even thought of asking whether a colorectal specialist actually does, well – colorectal stuff!
Simplicity is Key
How often have you heard the phrase “keep it simple, stupid?” Users don’t want to read copy that requires a university degree to understand it, and far too many writers still use language that came out of the ark. Either that, or it’s too technical for easy consumption. How do you write using plain language? Simple. Just write it the way you say it.
I often sit down to write a piece of content and get tangled up in how to start it. When that happens I step back and forget about the introduction, and just write the body copy. Instead of trying to figure out how best to phrase something, I “just do it.” Just write it. I can always edit it later, right? Just get it down so I know what I want to cover. Then I go back and write the intro last.
If you leave generating content subject matter to an inexperienced client, you’re going to be writing the same topic over and over again, every which way from Sunday. And each piece will be a promotion of the client’s product or service. With new clients I like to give them a chance, because there are some who know how it works. After the second or third attempt, I’ll know whether they need help brainstorming topic ideas. Then I’ll tactfully email them with a few suggested topics, which I find by researching their keywords, checking their analytics to see what pages are popular (if they’re available and meaningful) and setting up alerts based on their industry. Usually, they’re only too grateful to leave the process in my hands after that!
Fulfilling the Topic
Staying on topic is one of the hardest things for a writer to do, but it’s vital if you want to capture and keep the reader’s attention. And let’s face it, if they don’t get to the end of the piece and the call to action, the content you’ve written isn’t going to achieve its objective, now is it? Here are my tricks for fulfilling the title:
- Outline first. When you know what you want to cover, you can flesh out the sections in your own time without getting lost in the topic.
- Reiterate the title throughout the copy, at least once in each section. That will keep you from straying from what you—or your client—are trying to say.
- Say what you’re going to say, say it and then say what you said. It’s an oldie but it still holds true.
Keep your approach as simple as possible and don’t let it become complicated. That way, you’ll satisfy your clients’ needs for easy-to-read content that achieves its purpose—and your own need to build up clients and generate income. To learn more, check out our white paper, "What is Content Marketing? And Why It's So Important."