Today’s brands need to produce a lot of content if they want to cut through the noise and stand out against their competitors. And behind every single email, blog article, and social media post is a content writer, many of whom are getting paid good money to bring a brand’s voice to life.
Content writing is a high-demand field with a lot of variation in terms of the type of work that businesses are looking to have completed. For skilled writers with an interest in marketing, being an in-house or freelance content writer is a fantastic way to put their talents to use and build a comfortable and creative career.
It’s also a way to tap into a rapidly growing industry, with a near-endless number of opportunities for those who can produce an impressive product.
What Is a Content Writer?
Also sometimes referred to as a copywriter, a content writer is a creative professional who produces original written materials for brands. And while the types of materials vary widely, the purpose is almost always the same: to support a brand’s digital marketing efforts through storytelling and help it make more (and stronger) connections with its online audience.
Some content writers choose to specialize in a specific topic or industry. Others prefer a more jack-of-all-trades approach, taking on any project or client that aligns with their general interests, skill set, and experience level. Ultimately, there’s no one correct way to go about it, nor is there one path that tends to be more lucrative than any other.
Instead, it’s all about the quality of the content that’s produced, with the most successful content writers being those who can meet the expectations of their clients and create copy that’s effective in what it sets out to do.
Content Writer Job Description
Talk to 10 different content writers, and you’ll likely get 10 different answers about what their typical workday looks like. However, there are a number of key tasks that a content writer needs to be able to perform, all of which play an important role in the creation of brand marketing copy:
- Research and write 100% original content that adheres to client guidelines
- Collaborate with copyeditors, marketing managers, and other brand representatives
- Optimize content for SEO (search engine optimization), including inputting keywords and links as appropriate
- Revise content based on client requests
Because many content writers work on a freelance basis, the job also often entails a number of tasks related to running a small business. This includes invoicing, payment tracking, and client communications, as well as marketing to reach new clients and secure more work.
What Skills Are Required to Be a Content Writer?
You probably already know that stellar writing skills are a must. Brands—especially those with big content marketing budgets—have high standards for the writers they hire, and it’s important that you’re able to communicate their message with efficiency and meet their expectations for tone and style.
Additional skills that you’ll need in order to be a successful content writer include:
- Content research and development
- Ability to adapt to different writing styles and objectives
- Strong client communication skills
- Understanding SEO best practices
- Proficiency with document sharing and content management platforms, such as Google Docs and WordPress
If you can master these skills, you’ll be well on your way to a fulfilling career in content writing. You’ll also have a much easier time establishing a roster of satisfied, long-term clients.
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From Facebook posts to FAQ pages, businesses rely on writers to produce all sorts of content for their brands. That’s good news if you enjoy tackling new projects and challenges on a regular basis, and it’s an incentive to diversify your offerings and get comfortable working in a wide range of formats.
Here are some of the popular types of content you might be asked to produce if you pursue a content writing career.
Few things are more crucial to a brand’s overall online success than a website. Content writers may be tasked with writing new website copy or optimizing existing copy, including written content on an organization’s homepage, product and service landing pages, contact page, about page, and more.
Blog posts are one of the most recognizable forms of content writing, and they can be one of the most fun, too. Aside from creating compelling posts that keep a brand’s blog page fresh and updated, content writers must write posts that adhere to SEO standards and help position a brand’s content so that it appears in front of the right audience. They also must excel at writing some of the less glamorous parts of a blog post, such as its headline and meta description.
Digital Ad Copy
This is content for organic and paid ads that will be used to boost brand awareness, drive traffic to a brand’s website, and achieve a number of other key conversions. In most cases, ad copy is created as part of a larger marketing campaign and demands a fair amount of collaboration with other brand representatives.
Social Media Copy
Professional content writers are integral to executing a brand’s social media strategy. Specific tasks include developing and writing posts across social media platforms and pages and may also entail things like brainstorming ideas, cross-promoting content, and researching appropriate hashtags.
A great product description can make a sale, just as a bad product description can have the opposite effect. Skilled content writers are able to craft descriptions that are informative and persuasive and may write them for both a company’s website and anywhere else their products are sold, including Amazon and other ecommerce platforms.
Email marketing serves an essential role in digital marketing, and it’s one of the primary ways that brands stay connected to their prospects, leads, and customers. And to make sure their emails get opened, they use content writers to craft the body copy of their emails, plus open-worthy subject lines, preview text, and clickable calls-to-action.
White papers are informational documents that help turn leads into customers. Usually, a white paper will take a deep dive into a specific problem that a business’s product or service helped solve. It’s intended to highlight the features of that product or service and illustrate to potential buyers why it’s so valuable.
Case studies are similar to white papers, except instead of focusing on a broad problem, they tell the story of a specific instance where a company’s product or service provided a solution. Content writers are tasked with laying out a real-world example in an interesting and narrative-driven format and should be able to identify major takeaways and make it easy for readers to find them.
Technical writing involves taking complex ideas and distilling them down into a readable format. User manuals and product instructions are both examples of technical writing, but it can also apply to any sort of writing for difficult-to-understand industries like healthcare, information technology, engineering, and finance.
Content writing doesn’t always come with a byline. Case in point: ghostwriting, which involves creating content on behalf of another individual—and then letting them put their name on it. Executives, celebrities, and other thought leaders use ghostwriters to publish work without having to write it themselves, so this type of writing requires an ability to capture someone else’s voice and accurately get it onto the page.
Somewhere at the intersection of content writing and screenwriting is the crafting of video scripts, which are used for marketing videos and other types of branded video content. This is a rather niche format, but there’s a lot of work in it for content writers who can churn out engaging scripts.
How to Become a Content Writer
Do you need a journalism degree in order to become a content writer? What about an English degree or a creative writing degree? As is true for many creative careers, the answer is that it depends—and that there are multiple paths you can take to get your foot in the door.
Get a Journalism Degree, English Degree, or Other Related Degree
If your goal is to become a freelance content writer, then it’s your portfolio—and not your diploma—that you’re going to be presenting to clients. But there are advantages to getting a formal education if you want to be a content writer.
An associate or bachelor’s degree in a writing-based field gives you a ton of practice researching and writing. That’s true for many other degree programs too, including history, political science, and communications, so go with what interests you and simply focus on establishing your skills.
Another benefit of getting a degree to become a content writer is that you may have access to mentorships, internships, and other opportunities. Again, these aren’t prerequisites to being a content writer, but they could be helpful.
Gain Content Writing Experience
A lack of a degree shouldn’t stop you from pursuing content writing as a career. There are plenty of ways to learn about SEO and content marketing online, and if you hustle, you can snag some entry-level work and start building up a portfolio.
Keep in mind that work doesn’t have to be paid in order to serve as a writing sample for a potential new client. Practice writing different types of content so you can show clients what you’re capable of. The more work you put in, the more you’ll have to show for it—and the easier time you’ll have getting paid opportunities.
Average Content Writer Salary
A content writer makes about $64,000 per year on average. Note though that this applies to salaried writers, and may be more or less for a freelance content writer.
If you’re working on a freelance basis, you can charge by word, hour, or project. As you establish yourself, you’ll be able to increase your rates and make more money doing less work. Freelance content writer salaries range from about $45,000 to $62,500 per year, with the chance to make a lot more if your work is worthy of a higher rate.
Finding Content Writer Jobs
There is no shortage of businesses looking to hire content writers. Use the internet to find and apply for jobs, pitching yourself directly to clients or working through an agency.
The SEO or Marketing Agency Route
Prefer a salaried position? Work in-house for an SEO firm or marketing agency and put your talents to work for their client roster. You won’t get as much say over the types of projects that you take on, but you will get a steady stream of work without having to source it yourself.
Search online for open positions, and consider expanding your search to include remote opportunities. As you search, have your resume and writing samples polished and ready to go, and mention any additional skills that you can offer, such as keyword research or content planning.
The Freelance Route
Freelancing is a common choice for content writers and can be just as profitable (if not more so) than working for an agency.
Breaking into the field as a freelancer takes time, and there is no guarantee that it will all pan out. But if you can manage it, you can build a fulfilling career with a lot of upward mobility. A good place to start is by applying for jobs on content platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and iWriter. You can also pitch your services directly to clients.
Create a simple website to help with lead generation and lend more credibility to your name. And don’t forget to protect your interests by always working under contract with your clients. You can find basic freelance contracts available for free online and then modify them to suit your needs.
Is Content Writing a Good Career?
It definitely can be! Content writing is a competitive field, but the profit potential is high, and there are always opportunities available. Set yourself apart in any way that you can, especially when it comes to the quality of work that you produce for your clients.
And if you want to stand out even more, look into expanding your skills so you can offer additional content-related services. It’s not necessary (and there are certainly plenty of content writers who do just content and nothing else), but it could make you an even more attractive hire.
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