Taylor Medine, a freelance personal finance writer, had been penning blog posts for a few years when a client said they were looking for someone to help craft email campaigns. Medine saw it as an opportunity to expand her portfolio and jumped right in.
While it took some practice to refine her marketing copy chops, Medine found creating email campaigns to be more lucrative and less time-intensive than, say, writing longform articles. “With articles, often the pay is based on word count and complexity, so to earn more, you have to work more,” Medine said. “With email copy, it doesn’t matter how many words are on the page. What matters is how effective those words are. If you can write copy quickly and get results, the earning potential is high.”
“If you can write copy quickly and get results, the earning potential is high.”
There’s a glut of freelancers out there who create top-of-the-funnel content—social copy, blog posts, and other forms of writing that build brand awareness. But there’s an emerging need for writers who are well-versed in copywriting that nudges readers closer to conversion—to sign up for whatever a company is trying to sell. Think data-driven reports, user experience (UX) writing, product copy, webinars, case studies, customer success stories, landing pages, and whitepapers.
Establishing yourself as a freelancer in one of these “middle- and bottom-funnel” niches can set you apart from the crowd.
Develop a marketing mind
Content writers often come from a journalistic background, explained Konrad Sanders, CEO and lead strategist at The Creative Copywriter. They’re great at educational, value-driven, and entertaining content—stuff that generally sits at the top of the funnel.
“The issue is that those freelance writers don’t always have the skillset of a trained copywriter—someone who really understands how to sell,” Sanders said. “Copywriters are trained to consider things like psychology, the art of persuasion, and how to effectively move prospects through each stage of the funnel. They also know how to get that message across in just a few words.”
Because it’s a more specialized field, middle- and bottom-funnel copywriters can be harder to find than run-of-the-mill generalists. That also means they’re in higher demand—and often command top dollar.
To create a good case study or write landing page copy, you need to have a marketing mind, said Todd Anthony, executive creative director of content marketing agency Pinwheel. There are legions of writers who can churn out a blog post, but not all understand the intricacies of marketing strategy, he added.
“If I get an email from a business, I’ll go through it and try to figure out what’s sparking a feeling or motivating me to act.”
“Copywriting is both a science and an art. It’s not really something that you can just pick up and do naturally,” Sanders said. Marketing copy involves speaking to a segmented audience. It also needs to be coupled with the appropriate architecture. To learn these basics, freelance writers can take a content marketing or copywriting course through Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, or another online resource.
Alternatively, you can study the masters—brands whose copywriting you admire. In Medine’s case, she studied emails that inspired her to click on CTAs to buy something or learn more. “If I get an email from a business, I’ll go through it and try to figure out what’s sparking a feeling or motivating me to act,” she said.
Storytelling is still foundational
Those with more traditional writing backgrounds do have one advantage when it comes to marketing copy—storytelling is still a fundamental part of the process. It just looks a little different.
In a nutshell, marketing copy like sales emails, landing pages, or case studies tells a story that addresses customer pain points and illustrates how the service or product can help them with their problem. To do this effectively, writers need to be alternately compelling, educational, and persuasive, explained Anthony. A dash of humor from time to time doesn’t hurt, either.
For freelancers looking for ways to break into this type of content, Medine suggested filtering novel-writing or investigative journalism skills through a product-centric lens. “Start by writing about your favorite product or service,” she said. Play around with the basic pillars of a story arc and the main elements of a narrative, putting the product at the center.
As in Medine’s case, freelancers can look for opportunities with existing clients. Ask around to see if your go-to contacts need help with case studies, webinars, or landing pages. You might be surprised at how many current clients need this type of content.
Become a big fish in a small pond
Content marketers today need to think more like curriculum designers, explained Anthony. “They have a real opportunity to be educators—to help their audience develop a certain mastery in a particular area,” he said. “When you think about content, look at it from that perspective.”
To be successful, writers must develop their own knowledge of an industry or brand. It’s prudent to establish yourself as an authority. “Expertise and experience—particularly in small niches where those things are very rare—are what get you higher rates and more frequent assignments,” said content expert Paul Conley.
“Expertise and experience are what gets you higher rates and more frequent assignments.”
This is true when it comes to all kinds of marketing collateral, longform articles included, Conley added. There are only so many people out there, for example, who can write about how machine learning can predict intent among retail shoppers, the latest developments that railroads use in track geometry, or the impact that managed care has on group homes.
To be that big fish, invest the time and effort to stay on top of industry trends by reading trade publications, subscribing to news feeds, following prominent individuals and companies on Twitter, and reading academic journals. Find experts in your space and talk to them.
No matter where you are in the funnel, some skills remain the same. “You need to have a keen sense of your audience, where they are in their journey, and how to reinforce your brand story along the way,” Anthony said. “You need to be a great writer with a deep sense of empathy.”