How a Freelance Journalist Used Content Marketing to Double Her Income

by | Oct 22, 2019

I introduced content marketing into my freelance writing business almost five years ago and when I did my annual review in December of that year, 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.

Since then, content marketing has become a staple in my freelance writing business. It has helped me weather the storms when magazine and newspaper income has dried up, and provided a consistent source of assignments and money when I’ve wanted to work on personal projects such as two novels or my website The International Freelancer

What content marketing offered was simple: I routinely earn  $1-2 a word for my content marketing stories, the revisions are almost non-existent, the agencies I work with pay as soon as I submit my work, and I’m often given ready-made assignments from clients instead of having to come up with my own ideas. For much of my content marketing work in the last few years, I made between $300 and $400 an hour. My highest rate for a content marketing piece was $475 an hour.

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

Great alternative careers for journalists: 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 averaged $300-400 per hour even at the very beginning, but even if you’re a less experienced writer, finding the right clients could easily mean 50-cents-a-word assignments right off the bat.

That said, you do need some clips and credits. A new writer would do well to start with blog posts that pay $50 and graduate to greener pastures after getting some experience, 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 is 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(er) 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 prefer to pay quickly.

And some platforms, such as Contently, will pay not on acceptance, but on submission, which does wonders for your cash flow. (Check out this interview I did with Contently’s executive editor on the things they’re looking for right now in their freelancers and how to get work from them.) 

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.

And if you’d like my help in learning how to break into the industry and get high-paying content marketing clients, you can check out my course Content Marketing for Journalists.

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This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

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