How a Freelance Journalist Used Content Marketing to Double Her Income

Content Marketing
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I introduced content marketing into my freelance writing business last year. And when I did my yearly review in December, I found — much to my amazement — that my income had doubled from the year before.

The extra income was all from the content marketing work I’d taken on. Even better? I’d spent only about 20 percent of my time on that work.

I don’t know about you, but those numbers made me sit up and take notice. The work was the same; I was still writing news, profiles and trend pieces, so why was content marketing paying more while my journalism income stayed stagnant?

The answers were simple: I earned $1-2 a word for the content marketing stories, the revisions were almost non-existent, the agencies I worked with paid as soon as I submitted my work, and I was working on more assignments from clients instead of having to come up with my own ideas. For much of my content marketing work last year, I made between $300 and $400 an hour.

Curious about exploring these kinds of freelance writing jobs? Here’s what you need to know about content marketing.

What is content marketing?

Put simply, it’s when a business decides to use content (blog posts, articles or case studies) as a way to build a relationship with its customer. Good content marketing isn’t about actively selling products or serving an agenda. It’s about providing information, advice, resources and trustworthy content to a business’s clients and customers.

Here’s the all-important distinction: If a business asks you to write promotional content, such as brochures or sales newsletters, that’s not content marketing. That’s pure and simple marketing copy.

In truth, content marketing writing often isn’t all that different from the kind of work you’re probably already doing as a journalist or freelance writer.

Why is content marketing a good opportunity for writers? Let me count the ways.

1. Great pay

Let’s get straight to the good stuff. Content marketing writing pays well. I average $300-400 per hour, but even if you’re a bit less experienced, finding the right clients could easily mean 50-cents-a-word assignments right off the bat.

That said, you do have to be somewhat experienced. A new writer would do well to start with blog posts that pay $50 and graduate to greener pastures after getting some clips and credentials, especially with traditional media.

Why? Businesses love to see recognizable names in your portfolio, and they’ll often pay more if you have solid experience and specialized knowledge of their niche or topic.

In stark contrast to the falling rates many of us see for pieces in newspapers and magazines, in my experience, content marketing rates have only been going up. The more efficiently I work, the more I make.

2. Enjoyable work

In my experience, writing good content for businesses isn’t all that different from the work you may be doing as a freelance writer for websites or even newspapers and magazines (with the exception of hard news reporting, of course).

The point of content marketing is to deliver information to readers that is well researched, trustworthy and entertaining. As a content marketing writer, I’ve been asked to write service stories (how-to pieces), trend stories and profiles in exactly the way I would have written them for a magazine or newspaper.

And if I’m going to write the same types of stories as I normally would, I’m quite happy to earn substantially more for my time.

A common misconception among writers is that content marketing writing equals blogging. Since I don’t particularly enjoy blogging for businesses, I’ve stayed away from doing those jobs, and I still get enough work that I routinely have to turn down assignments that don’t appeal to me. Likewise, if you love the idea of writing posts for a company’s blog but don’t want to work on case studies, you’ll likely be able to focus on the work you prefer.

3. Efficient edits

This probably the biggest sell of content marketing writing for me: the ease and efficiency of edits.

Compared to traditional media, businesses run with a much higher sense of urgency. When a business fails to be efficient, in content or anything else, they lose money. So they learn to get things done pretty quickly, even if they’re a big hairy corporate that requires multiple levels of approval — and this drive for efficiency works in your favor.

Because business clients are less likely to ask for multiple revisions and aren’t content specialists themselves (which is partly why they’ve hired you), I find they request fewer — and easier — edits. When I spend less time on revisions, I have more time to devote to my next assignment — and I boost my hourly earnings.

As an entrepreneur myself, the efficiency of most business clients appeals to me greatly. And as a writer who likes to get paid on time, it appeals to me even more.

4. Quick payment

Speaking of efficiency, have I mentioned that no matter whether you work through an agency or directly with a client, you’ll often be paid within a week of submitting your work?

Of course, this depends on your clients and their policies. But in my experience, many clients pay this quickly.

If you pick your clients wisely, work with reputable agencies that have established relationships with clients whose names you recognize, and negotiate your contracts well, you’ll find that chasing invoices will quickly become a thing of the past.

5. Consistent work

One of the biggest problems freelancers face — and a common reason why many quit freelancing — is irregular cash flow.

Traditional media (and even websites) often simply don’t have enough work to give to you on a monthly basis. Even when I had stellar relationships with editors, I could never get more than one article in their magazines each month. Unless you’re blogging for a publication or get on board as a columnist, it’s very difficult to get regular slots in a publication.

Not so with content marketing writing. In fact, if you provide consistently good work that needs little or no reworking, you’ll find that you can rely on assignments on a weekly basis from the same clients, sometimes even more. This dependable work helps you forecast your income for the month and more importantly, find some stability in your cash flow.

For all these reasons and more, I’m convinced that content marketing writing is a fantastic opportunity for writers to get paid for their skills. If you’re looking to land higher-paying writing jobs, even as you work on breaking into your dream publications or writing your novel, content marketing could help you make more money as a writer.

Have you tried content marketing? Why or why not?

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Mridu Khullar Relph has written for The New York Times, TIME, CNN, ABC News, and dozens of other “big name” publications, and now teaches writers how to do the same. Download her free report .

The International Freelancer | @mridukhullar

Mridu Khullar Relph
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  1. Great article, thanks.

    Can you please explain this distinction that you make: “A common misconception among writers is that content marketing writing equals blogging.”

    How does a content marketing post differ from a blog post?

    • I thought I’d weigh in on my opinion here. I see it along the lines of that phrase, “every thumb is a finger, but not every finger’s a thumb.” Blog posts are one kind of content marketing, but other forms exist, like newsletters, whitepapers, email courses, guides and reports, etc.

      So while some freelance content marketing gigs may be blog posts, it won’t necessarily always be that way. For example, since Mridu doesn’t love business blogging, she can do freelance content marketing without having to write biz blog posts.

    • I like to think of content marketing (and teach this in my courses) as a hub and spoke model. The hub, or center of the wheel is “content marketing”. The spokes are all the kinds of content that could be of value to your readers: blogs, newsletters, video, podcasts, reports, checklists, and ….! The list could go on and on!

    • Thanks for the question, Kate. My answer is the same as what Brittany and Shannon said. Content marketing is basically marketing through the use of content and that content could take any number of forms, from content-rich website to magazine production (think of the magazines that are published by Tesco and Walmart, for instance) to audio and video. Each of those forms can further have a variety of content within them. The magazine published by Walmart will have recipes and how-to articles and even personal stories. Websites of businesses may have short blog posts, but also case studies and whitepapers and service articles.

      Hope that helps!

      • David Mendoza says:

        I have been trying to learn the blogging business. I promote and sell
        all the time for my business, to try to get people to take a look
        at my website. I have interests in writing inspirational items as well. To share my knowledge or feelings on issues.
        I just needing to know where to look and where to jump start in the right direction

        • Hey David – sounds exciting–and just know you are on the right track! I do a lot of networking in small biz/entrepreneur groups. I look on Meetup and association meetings. The good news is that everyone needs copy and content, if they want their business to grow. I also teach classes around how to find these gigs and where to start. I have a class starting next week and we have great fun. Just be persistent. Once you get a couple of clients, they will refer business to you. So, there is lots of energy on your part in the beginning, but boy-oh-boy is it nice when the referrals come in!

    • Kate,

      I’ve put together a website to try and help my clients understand the different types of content marketing options (branded/sponsored/native/SEO/blog posts/advertorial) they have. Even the majors are using different terms, so it will be a while before there’s more agreement. Shannon is correct that content marketing is the main catch-all phrase, with different “spokes” radiating from the center hub. Some define the spokes in a more macro fashion (see my examples in parens above), while others define the spokes as the actual platforms you use to deliver the content.

      You can get some more definitions at

  2. Hi Mridu — Thanks so much for writing this! As a former journo myself, I love that I use many of the same skills to run my content marketing business. Plus, it’s more creative and I earn more money. Kudos for a great piece!

    ~Alexis, founder of The Write Life

    • Thanks so much, Alexis. It’s such a fantastic opportunity for writers right now. I made my living (a good one) exclusively from newspapers and magazines for 13+ years, but was completely unprepared for how similar the content marketing work is and how much more the pay. I’m not complaining.

      Thanks for the vote of confidence!

  3. I concur with everything you said, Mridu. I just finished a content project that worked out to $363 an hour. Content definitely is the niche to be in right now.

  4. Mridu,

    What do you think is the best way to find businesses interested in hiring writers/editors for content marketing? In particular, finding well established businesses, to avoid possible payment problems? Also, any billing/contract tips from you might help others proactively.

    • Hi Laurie,

      I think LinkedIn is a fantastic way to start building relationships with potential clients. I’m also a huge fan of simply e-mailing a Letter of Introduction to agencies, small businesses (and even large ones), and associations to see if they have any content needs and whether I might be the right fit.

      For businesses, it’s not outrageous to ask for 50% upfront, so consider that if you’re nervous about the money. If you go through agencies, there’s no need to worry about it, so I’d start there if you’re new to the biz.

      Hope that helps. Good luck!

  5. Hello Mridu

    I purchased your guidelines from this site. I don’t seem to have received it yet.

    Di I need to do something else so that I receive it?

    • Chitra, as I’ve told you before, I don’t sell any “guidelines.” If you were able to tell me the name of the product you bought and which site you bought it from, I might be able to help you.

      You say “this site.” Did you buy something from The Write Life? In which case, as I’ve explained before, it’s not my product. I personally do sell an e-book, but I have no record of you buying it. If you can forward me the receipt, we can look into it.


  6. I purchased your ‘guidelines for freelance writing’ from the net for $9.99.
    I have yet to receive it. Is it something I am to expect via email?

    Further, I had sent you an email regarding this. I wonder whether you did read it? I hope you will respond to this comment.

    I really do enjoy your writing style. If time permits could you please respond to my email address:


    • Chitra,

      You’ve posted this message three times on many different websites and I’ve responded each time, including to your email. I don’t sell anything called “guidelines for freelance writing.” If you were able to send me a receipt, as I’ve asked for several times before, we can get to the bottom of this.


  7. Okay, yes, that is my book, but I don’t have a record of your purchase. If you can email me the receipt at, I’ll sort it out for you.



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