10 things you should know before starting out as a Content Writer | Shreya Pattar

This article by Shreya Pattar was originally published on cofounderstown.com

If you’re not putting out relevant content in relevant places, you don’t exist — Gary Vaynerchuk

Every text we see around us is content. The billboards on the roads, descriptions on your shampoo, ads in newspapers and phones, memes that you screenshot, heart-wrenching video links you share, the notifications from your apps, the Netflix Original web series you watch on repeat, this article you are reading… everything is content! Especially in this digital age, content is a mandatory investment a company must make to generate leads and establish their brand.

As the need for content only becomes more and more prominent, the demand for content writers is undoubtedly increasing. Content writing doesn’t even need to be a full-time job or require a specific degree; you can do it as a side-gig, or as a freelancer. As a student and Content Writer myself, I have learnt a lot about content through the hit-and-trial method of experience. I faced a lot of hurdles, I still do. But you don’t need to face the same hurdles to learn from them!

Here are my top 10 tips for anyone starting out as a (freelance) Content Writer:

1. Have a powerful online presence

As a writer, you should be known for your writing and by your writing. Put out consistent quality content on your website, social media profiles and even get work published. This way, your prospects will contact you themselves, asking about your work and fees. To this date, I have landed all my clients by posting extremely well-written content every day on LinkedIn.

2. You don’t need to work for free to build a portfolio

Initially when I was asked for a work portfolio, I would stall. I had just started out writing and did not know what to show in my portfolio. Then, I started sharing links to my high-engaging LinkedIn posts, and my published articles. This simple technique helped me not only leverage my existing work, but also show a ‘real-life demonstration’ of my work. So, you don’t need to work for free to build a portfolio in the initial stages of your career. Simply curate all your work and present it to the prospect!

3. Know how much to charge

You don’t need to charge the market rates for content; you must charge for your worth. When it comes to something as creative as writing content, the quality matters more than the number of years of experience. Base your charges considering parameters like:

  • Niche
  • Number of words
  • Frequency of work
  • Nature of work (are you writing from scratch, do you get a draft, etc)
  • Research involved
  • Time needed
  • Taxes
  • Minimum monthly income through freelancing

4. Know which deal is worth negotiating

Prospects tend to negotiate a lot over freelancing work, especially when it comes to content. At this point, you must know which deal is worth negotiating, and by how much. Some questions to consider are:

  • Is the work recurring?
  • Is it a new kind of writing that I have not done before?
  • Can this client get me more work references?
  • Is this a long term opportunity?
  • Do I need to write over 20 articles per month?

If the answer is yes to most of these questions, then you must consider sealing the deal at a reasonably negotiated price. You may earn less per piece, but you’ll earn well overall.

5. Have a contract with all terms clearly mentioned

Before you start the work or seal the deal, make sure you have a well-written contract ready. A few terms I would suggest you to include are:

  • 50% payment to be made in advance
  • Rest 50% payment to be made upon receiving first look of content
  • What work you are going to do for the amount
  • Number of edits you will provide in that amount
  • Any bank fees or conversion charges must be paid by client.

Make sure your choice of words in the contract have no chance of being misunderstood or questioned later.

6. Don’t hesitate to follow-up with prospects

Sometimes, clients genuinely forget to reply to your emails and calls. In such cases, don’t hesitate to drop a reminder email or text for any queries or confirmation.

7. Know when to stop following up with prospects

At times, you may be left hanging over a deal for weeks together. When this happens, you must understand how much time and effort you are putting into this one opportunity. If it takes too long, just move on. Find something else, invest time in getting more clients.

8. Don’t stop looking for prospects when you have a lot of work

Some days, you will be so busy that you may not have time to make calls or respond to emails. During such times, take out an hour a day to approach and respond to people. The work you have now will get over soon, so you should never stop looking for prospects. In case you are occupied for a few days, inform the client that you will be able to write for them after a certain period.

9. Explore retainership options

If the work is recurring, try out a mutually-beneficial option of retainership. A retainership means the client pays you a fixed price per month for a certain number of months, for which you provide them with a fixed amount of content.

For example, “For INR 85,000 per month retainership, I will provide upto 25 articles per month, not to exceed 700 words each”. Payments for retainership are usually made in full in advance.

This is a good option for clients who need work in bulk. You will also be able to have a steady flow of income for a fixed number of months.

10. Be patient and don’t give up

Freelancing is not easy. There are times when I just want to stop. I have heard ‘we’ll get back to you’ so many times in the past one year. But when I want to stop, I think about all the amazing results I’ll keep getting during the process, and how amazing it will feel. When I want to stop, I think about what it would be like to achieve everything I have ever wanted. And then, I keep going. So, no matter what, don’t stop writing; it will all work out!

Happy writing!