If you’ve ever Googled a question about content strategy, website design, or site analytics, there’s a good chance you’ve run into one of the hundreds of articles written by content icon Andy Crestodina.
Today, Crestodina is the Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder of Orbit Media Studios, a Chicago-based website design and development company. He spends around 20 hours a week creating and promoting content. Since 2001, his business has grown to $7 million in annual revenue, all without any advertising or cold calls. Oh, and did I mention he just published the sixth edition of his book, Content Chemistry?
It’s safe to say that Crestodina knows a thing or two about turning content into sales—so I was thrilled to get a chance to chat with him about how freelancers can use his techniques to attract clients.
Show off your skills to market yourself
Just like personal trainers work on their own toned physiques to be walking billboards for their services, freelance creatives can showcase their skills by making their own high-quality content—and using it to market themselves.
Whether you have two hours or 20 to dedicate to these efforts, Crestodina shared a few ways to maximize the value of your time.
1. Only publish great content
Crestodina only writes a new blog post once every two weeks. In his posts, he produces an “ultimate guide,” providing comprehensive data that will appeal to his target market. “I want people to say, ‘If Orbit wrote it, that’s the only post I need,'” he said. To stand out from the glut of content already out there, he suggested freelance writers ensure their work is original and/or takes a strong opinion.
Crestodina also puts in some serious time—around 10-12 hours—on every blog post. The effort pays off in spades. “By doubling the amount of time it might take to write an ‘average’ blog post, I might get 10 to 100 times better results,” he said.
2. Analyze everything
To quantify these results, you must analyze your content’s performance—and luckily, there are powerful tools you can use to do so. “Your Google Analytics will show which posts get the most views, time spent on the page, and engagement,” Crestodina said. Digging into these metrics not only provides valuable insight into what’s working (and what may not be), but it also helps justify the time you need to create excellent content.
3. Update and repurpose your content
“I update old articles as much as I write new ones,” Crestodina said, adding that updated articles provide better traction for SEO. Beyond updating existing content, you can also repurpose it—Crestodina, for instance, uses much of his previously published work in his email newsletter and LinkedIn newsletter. He also uses videos from his 15+ years of speaking engagements on his YouTube and other social media channels.
4. Go big
Crestodina’s book, Content Chemistry, is a vital part of Orbit’s marketing efforts. “It works as a sales tool since we send it to prospects, as a marketing tool since it helps me get speaking engagements and interviews, and as a client service tool since they can see our thinking and approach,” he said.
The content in the book is 80 percent repurposed (often rewritten) blog articles, so it’s an example of an efficient approach to “big content.” “Big content differentiates you from everyone else,” Crestodina said. “Few marketers will take the time to pull together an actual book.”
Pick a niche—strategically
You’ve heard about the importance of choosing a content niche. But how do you choose the right one?
Barring catastrophic events like pandemics (we see you, travel writers), consider trends and growing industries, along with your interests, when choosing a niche. In addition, make sure the industries you target use freelancers.
“I recently spoke with someone who was interested in freelancing for the craft brewing industry—[but that specific industry] tends to use a full-time, in-house-writer approach,” Crestodina said. “Freelancers live in the middle and need to find industries that are open to them.”
“Freelancers need to find industries that are open to them.”
Companies with a great deal of specific technical information, such as engineering firms, often use the same DIY approach and hire people in-house, Crestodina went on. But fast-growing industries like cannabis, health care, and infrastructure are niches freelancers may want to consider.
“To attract companies in your niche, write content that appeals to that niche and showcases your expertise,” he suggested. Tying into a trend is a great way to capture attention, too. For example: If health tech is your beat, consider writing about the benefits of using AI in health tech content writing. Given the emphasis on AI in the news cycle right now, your target market is probably wondering about this—and they’ll appreciate a bold take on the topic.
Understand content strategy—and charge for it
“When you add content strategy and measurement to the work you do, you are demonstrating a greater level of knowledge than other freelancers and can command a higher rate,” Crestodina said.
An excellent first step is to learn the basics of Google Analytics. This free tool is essential for businesses to understand the performance of the content on their websites: page views, number of users, engagement, time on page, etc. The newest version of Google Analytics (G4) allows for even greater insights into visitor engagement.
Crestodina offers an example of how to incorporate your understanding of Google Analytics into a conversation with a prospect: “Instead of saying ‘I write great blog posts,’ try saying, ‘My hope is to be the writer who creates your top-performing blog posts.'”
Once you’ve landed the client, during onboarding, ask which of their existing articles have been the most successful over the last few years—then, use that content as a guide.
To continue providing value and increasing your rates, consider learning and applying other ways to measure content. You can also offer clients suggestions for repurposing their content, creating bottom-of-funnel content, and more.
“By targeting a niche, understanding and applying a content strategy for your clients, and showcasing your expertise through the creation and distribution of your content, you can attract clients and continually grow your freelance business,” Crestodina said.