A content writer is a knowledge worker who creates articles, blog posts, social media updates, and other kinds of web content. They are generally a part of a brand’s digital marketing.
Given brands are heavily investing billions of dollars in content marketing because it drives traffic and sales — writers who want to make a living from their craft can leverage content writing opportunities.
In this article, I’ll start with the basics of content writing, then share types of content writing, requisite content skills required to do a great job, more. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Frequently Asked Questions About Content Writing
Before we get into the nitty gritties of being a content writer, here are the answers to the most basic questions about the job.
What is content writing?
It’s writing done to create digital marketing assets. It generally includes blog posts, but also encompasses content created for video scripts, notes for podcasts, and social media updates. The web content produced through content writing always keeps the target audience in mind.
Why is content writing important in digital marketing?
Marketing on any platform now relies on “content” — whether text, graphic, or video. And content writing specifically is the backbone for all digital marketing efforts which generates website visitors, engagement, and eventually leads to conversions.
Is content writing a good career?
If you enjoy writing, curious to learn new subjects, and can collaborate with teammates to deliver content as per business expectations, then you’ll like content writing as a career. Remember though that content is a marketing channel for brands which has to deliver business results. So such a career is not going to comprise the creative craft of writing alone.
Can anyone do content writing?
If you’ve a knack for writing and appreciate feedback from peers, then content writing could be a decent fit for you. You’ll just need to learn technical skills (such as SEO) and tailor your writing for a target audience. It’s not a solely creative pursuit alone though — you become a part of the marketing department at a company.
Where to learn content writing?
You can consider taking the free content marketing course at HubSpot. But getting hands-on experience is key. So look out for internships or freelance gigs that interest you. If you’re unable to get professional content writing gigs, then write on self-publishing platforms such as Medium and solicit feedback — especially from content editors — to polish your writing.
How to become a content writer?
To get content writing jobs, you need to build a robust body of work. But nobody will hire you on the job to demonstrate your content writing skills. To get some experience under your belt, start a blog targeting a specific audience. You can also help a few businesses for free and guest post at niche publications to start building your writing portfolio.
What Does a Content Writer Do?
Content writers typically create textual content for websites including their blog, product pages, Ebooks and other marketing collateral, email newsletters, social media content, and more. Depending on the requirements and size of the company, they might collaborate with a content manager, an SEO executive, and a designer for their content projects.
Here’s the typical job description of a content writer:
- Produce content in various industries such as B2B, Ecommerce, and finance meeting quality guidelines of the brand,
- Conduct thorough research and if required, then interview folks relevant to the subject of your article,
- Write about a 1000 words every day, soliciting feedback from editors and content managers to ensure it meets the requirements,
- Ensure the written content meets style and formatting of the business blog,
- Publish content on WordPress using a plugin like Elementor or another content management system like HubSpot.
Next, let’s look at the various forms of online content writing.
Types Of Content Writing
Here are the types of content writing you might end up doing for a business. Or if you’re hiring a content writer, you might want to explore experts from the following categories — depending on your business needs.
1. SEO Content Writing
Content written for the purpose of ranking in search engines and driving traffic. Typically it means blog posts, though it could include other webpages targeting keywords such as your services page. The goal of this form of writing is to generate brand awareness.
2. Long-Form Writing
As the name suggests, these are long articles spanning 2000 words, 2500 words, or even more — depending on your industry. Long-form blog posts have become the norm in competitive niches such as SaaS and B2B because they tend to rank in search engines.
Such articles can help your website rank in search engines for many keywords as they naturally include many.
Also, long-form projects could also include whitepapers and Ebooks — though they are less prevalent then blog posts.
3. B2B Content Writing
It involves writing done specifically for a business audience and generally for the purpose of SEO. Generally it consists of blog posts to educate and inform your readers, though content written for a business audience on social media could also be clubbed under B2B content.
4. Landing Page Copywriting
A page with details of software or products where your prospects “land.” The goal of such writing is persuading a landing page visitor to become a customer. Joanna Wiebe, a copywriting thought leader, coined the term conversion copywriter to club all kinds of such writing which has to lead a visitor to “convert.”
5. Email Copywriting
It includes writing attention-grabbing subject lines to ensure your recipients open your email, and keep them hooked throughout your email — all the way to getting them to visit your product page. For bloggers, it could also include newsletters and general updates to educate their subscribers.
6. Product Copywriting
This type involves crafting sales copy and descriptions for the product pages of a website, generally an Ecommerce store. The product copywriter could also craft the words for the promotional material of a product including social media advertisements, brochures, banners, emails, and its landing pages.
7. Website Copywriting
Typically this involves web content writing for a business website. A web copywriter researches a business, their customers, the products they sell, and codifies their brand’s message through compelling copy for their website.
8. Technical Writing
Such writing consists of creating step-by-step tutorials for complex and specialized subjects trying to simplify information. A few examples of technical writing include end-user documentation of a product, a how to guide, or a journal. And industries where it’s employed are financial services, manufacturing, energy, and medical.
9. Script Writing
If you fancy being a creative content writer, then scripwring could be the closest you’ll come to it. It entails crafting content for multimedia formats such as explainer videos, radio advertisements, or even podcast scripts. Express Writers offer a script writing service from their experts:
Writing where you cede the credits for your creative work to another author or business. Many brands use ghostwriters to produce a large amount of content for their blog and publish it under their founder’s name. Newsletters, web copy, articles, speeches, and even books could all be ghostwritten.
11. Freelance Writing
Writing done for money by a self-employed professional on a contract basis. Clients specify their needs and inform the expected style to such writers, which they then deliver on a deadline. If you can create great content for a specific industry, you can become an in-demand freelance writer.
12. Brand Journalism
It’s journalism style storytelling done by a writing professional on the behalf of a brand. The goal of such writers is earning and keeping the attention of their audience. You can consider them as better versions of press releases — where you talk about your business without coming across as self-promotional.
The 88 Acres story created by the folks at Microsoft using their own products is one the best brand journalism examples in the recent past.
Content Writer Salary
If you develop subject-matter expertise, then it’s not uncommon to get paid a premium price as a freelance content creator. You can expect upwards of $500 per blog post and make more than $100 per hour.
Codeless are long-form content creation experts for B2B SaaS and eCommerce. Their domain expertise allows them to charge $1000 per article as visible in their pricing plans below.
Similarly, Mridu Khullar, an international journalist confessed how her foray into content marketing stories averaged $280 per hour.
I might paint a rosy picture here. So let me also warn you with another survey of 1400+ freelance writers. One-third of the surveyed writers earn under $20 an hour (damn).
It shows the need for working on your negotiation skills. If you’re content with getting paid $100/article (or worse, writing for content mills that pay peanuts), then you’re not going to make a healthy living wage.
Five Tips For Effective Content Writing
Want to improve your content writing process? Here are a few tips you can try to improve the effectiveness of your content:
1. It’s All About Serving Your Audience
While creative writing is generally about your expression, content writing has to serve the bottom line. Obsessing over serving the readers is key to the same and here are a few ways to practice it:
Write on subjects they care about: Every subject you write on should either come from your audience frequently asking similar questions or keyword research or both. This also means not going in a tangential direction while writing on a topic.
Once you gain industry experience, you might be able to predict the trends of the next year or original insights which nobody else does. Strive for that day, but don’t forget soliciting feedback from your audience on the same.
Plain writing: If your high-school teacher encouraged you to use flowery language and improve your vocabulary, then you’re in for disappointment. The best content writers use simple language with high readability so it’s accessible to a wide audience.
While consuming your content, readers know they are being marketed to. Instead of putting effort in understanding your ideas, they can always explore other content outlets — a consumer is spoiled for choices, anway.
Make it practical: If you can break down the ideas you discuss in your article into actionable steps and examples — such that a visitor can immediately implement them after reading — your articles will become irresistible for your audience.
Simultaneously if you’re writing content for an executive leadership, understand they don’t want tactical advice. Keep your writing based on high-level principles they could ponder upon.
Know your audience and write the kind of articles that serve them —
2. Keep It Engaging
If you present your information in a content piece in a dull manner, then it will bore your readers. So use memes, crack jokes, present original insights by interviewing experts, use data and stat, embed YouTube videos, and keep the reader interested.
Stay succinct: Use as few words as possible to illustrate your ideas.
Format well: Web users scan content, so aid this behavior by breaking your content through visuals, multimedia, tables, and avoiding presenting your information into walls of text.
Use short sentences and paragraphs: They are faster to read and visually pleasing to visitors’ eyes. Concise writing conveys your point in an impactful manner while being easy to read.
Keep the headline enticing: A prospective reader should get curious reading the title of your article. If you fail to grab their attention, they will scan and pass through to the next article which might seem more interesting to them.
Come with fresh angles: Given the amount of content published every day, you can’t refurbish old articles. Come with unique titles even while writing on similar topics. When I wrote an article on “seeking validation”, I went against accepted wisdom and resonated when it’s okay to rely on it occasionally. People loved it!
3. Get Your Content In Shape For Search Engines
Most created online content remains in the deep corners of the internet. Google though remains the top referrer of traffic to websites. So optimizing your content for it could deliver a substantial readership for your content.
A few ways to do it:
Perform keyword research: If you’re working with clients, they might provide you with the main keyword they want you to write your article. But content writing for your own website also needs to begin with finding low-competition keywords that have a decent volume. For example, I’m targeting the keyword “content creator” with this article.
Integrate keywords: Search engines now understand the actual meaning of words, but they rely on associations between keywords. Use your target keyword and phrases related to it throughout your article — of course only if it could be done naturally.
4. Serve The Business
Remember I told you that content is a marketing channel? As a content writer, it calls for helping the business achieve its goals. You do it by adding value to the readers through informative content writing which also organically weaves your company’s products.
The key is to remain non-promotional and push your pitch in a reader’s face. Show the features of your product in action — where relevant. Content writers at software companies do it with screenshots of their products.
Also, your content should end with a persuasive call to action (CTA). Invite readers to join your email list, take a trial of your company’s product, or press the buy button. Your content writing can be sustainable for your business only if it pays the bills.
5. Find Your Voice
The folks whom I continue reading articles from today have a characteristic and unique way of writing. Same will go for your target audience. If you want them to look forward to your updates, then you need to stand out in the sea of content.
It could happen only when you share your unique experiences, expertise, and find your voice. It could include memes, stick figures, or corny jokes – experiment to find out what works for you and your audience.
Have realistic expectations though as the process of finding it could take a few years. You’ll need to read a lot of content, maybe copy the best in your industry, and experiment with articulating your ideas.
Content Writing Examples
Let me share some of my website content writing samples
Eight Skills Needed To Become A Content Writer
If you want to become successful in the content writing industry, look beyond your writing prowess. Your content writing resume needs to expand. Below are the eight skills you can consider building as a content writer. The first four are soft and the later four are hard skills.
As a content writer, you might work with businesses in different industries that have different personalities. You’ll need to tailor your writing style as per their brand style guidelines and contribute different types of content that helps their marketing efforts.
Being adaptable to write short and persuasive copy for a Facebook advertisement vs. long copy for a blog post — and tailor them for audiences in different industries spanning manufacturing to fashion — can help your prospects of getting content jobs.
Rejections and corrective feedback are a regular part of a content writer’s day at work.
One day, your editor might point out your habitual mistakes hampering the quality of your writing. Another day, the search engine team might make suggestions for improving the potential of driving traffic to your article. Your article’s pitch to a third-party website could even get rejected.
Don’t take any of this personally. Constructive feedback can improve your craft and ultimately help to drive more readers to your writing.
If you start out as a freelance content writer, you’ll juggle with numerous clients. Indeed even while pursuing a content writing role at a single organization, you might be involved in multiple projects. Given the 24-hours content cycle, you’ll have tight deadlines to meet — especially if you’re working with the social media team.
So you’ll need to manage your time effectively across the different functions of the role: researching, writing, editing, collaborating with team members, and publishing content through a CMS.
Plagiarism is off the books for a content writer. But what about emulating the structure, examples, and other nuances of the currently ranking content in search engines?
While that might deliver business results in search engines, it won’t differentiate yourself as a writer.
If you aspire to belong to the top 1% of content writers in the globe, you can’t simply be a copycat of other writers’ ideas. You need to inculcate problem-solving skills and couple them with your creativity to explore original ideas in your writing. Since you’ll be writing on unfamiliar subjects, you might feel lazy.
Don’t solely rely on the same SEO tools every content writer uses to find keywords, outline, and write their content.
Curiously approach commonly accepted wisdom on the subjects you write about. If you find contrary evidence, don’t fear disagreeing with “best practices.”
Remember your job as a content writer isn’t to just fill the page with words. It’s engaging with and helping your readers. Mixing creativity and imagination in the mix here will help.
Most companies might provide you with writing briefs and train you in optimizing your content for Google. But you should know compliance on page requirements that helps search engine bots understand the content and context of your writing.
It can include usage of the main keyword in prominent places inside the article including the title, meta description, the first paragraph, and maybe a few times in the body of the article.
You also need to know how to find out and sprinkle related keywords in subtitles, the alternative image tags, and the main content.
A WordPress plugin such as Yoast SEO is generally used by most company blogs to ensure every article is optimized for search.
But if you can develop a deeper understanding of SEO — including building backlinks and keyword research specifically — you’ll become invaluable.
When clients assign me writing projects, I’ve helped them numerous times sharing why their chosen keywords are bad for their business. They are grateful to me because it saves wastage of their budget. I also get to work on content that performs well and makes my writing portfolio stronger.
You want to inform and educate your readers based on information from credible sources. Coming up with unique examples for your content might also need a lot of digging. That’s why learning how to conduct research is important.
Well researched content ensures your brand is perceived as trustworthy. It’s also more likely to be comprehensive and insightful — which your readers will appreciate.
I would recommend coming to terms with using search operators for finding relevant information in Google. Also, subscribe to a few industry-leading publications so you’ll keep up with industry updates.
For example, I write in the content marketing industry, and regularly follow updates from these blogs: Animalz, Ahrefs, and Content Marketing Institute.
Lastly, bookmark and build a repository of great content from your industry which you tend to repeatedly include in your writing. It might include statistics, case studies, and other thought leadership articles by influential leaders in your niche.
Using an Evernote notebook for collecting articles could prove convenient. Whenever you perform a Google research, your saved pages then appear in the right sidebar alongside Google results.
Visual And Multimedia Content Creation
Depending on your industry and target audience, text content alone can be dry and boring to different extents for readers. With the boom in drag-and-drop software for designing visuals and producing videos, step out of the “writing” box.
Try packaging your ideas in an elegant graphic using Canva, or record yourself in front of the camera. Then integrate them in relevant blog posts. Even though it might sound scary, you’ll probably find how much people love your visuals, listening to, and watching you.
Multimedia content creators are more valuable to brands. So can command higher rates with video and audio editing skills.
A major technical competency expected from a content writer is the ability to find their way around WordPress. That’s because this open source software powers over one-third of the web.
Depending on the preferences of the business you work with, you may need to use a plugin such as Elementor for uploading your content. It can become tedious, but lets you extend the functionality of your blog and improve the reading experience for your visitors.
You might also work with businesses that use other content management systems such as HubSpot.