The Freelance Creative

Ask a Content Icon: Robert Rose on How to Use Generative AI to Your Benefit

Robert Rose, content icon

I’m not often surprised by what an interviewee says, but I was when I heard this from Robert Rose: “Generating content is the least interesting thing that ChatGPT and other generative AI tools do.”

Content icon Robert Rose spends a great deal of time thinking about AI and the future of content marketing. He is the chief strategy advisor for the Content Marketing Institute, which hosts the annual Content Marketing World event, and the owner and founder of The Content Advisory. In both roles, he provides strategy and consulting services to companies of all sizes. He is also a co-host of the podcast “This Old Marketing” with Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute.

When Rose told me that generating content was the least interesting thing about AI, I had to ask: What about the news headlines proclaiming that AI will replace 30% of jobs? Rose is familiar with the angst surrounding this issue and shared some thoughts.

First, the McKinsey study referenced in those headlines actually stated: “By 2030, activities that account for up to 30% of hours currently worked across the U.S. economy could be automated—a trend accelerated by generative AI.” The 30% reduction in hours that AI can help has a lot to do with the “most interesting things that generative AI can do,” he said. What are those things? They are all about productivity and efficiency.

Use generative AI as a tool to help your freelance business

“The most successful freelancers will be asking the right question about AI,” said Rose. “The question shouldn’t be, let me play with this and get good at it to see how I can use it to replace my talent to create content, but rather, how can I use it as a tool to help my business scale and make my work better, so that I’m more effective or have more time?”

Here are some ways he and freelance creatives can use generative AI as a tool:

Beating AI through differentiation and relationships

Even before generative AI, it was necessary to stand out in a sea of low-cost content providers. Today, it’s critical for the health of your freelance business.

“Content is, and always will be, a commoditized product based on the needs and requirements of a business that you’re working for. In a very, very noisy, competitive marketplace, regardless of AI, if you’re a content freelancer, you have to find something that you layer over the top of providing content to differentiate yourself,” Rose explained. “Whether that’s a specific subject matter expertise, a way of doing strategy, a process to help with measurement, or something else, you need to offer something other than just producing words and pictures.”

Delivering some type of strategy service is essential. “This is something that I advise every freelancer I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “It needs to be part of your methodology, whether you charge for it separately or include it as part of your core offering.” There are many ways to do this, of course, so he shared one easy way to get started.

“If a client says, ‘Hey, I just need three articles from you,’ immediately bring strategy into the conversation. In this case, you could say, ‘Great. My first step is to learn about your audience and what they want to hear about. Let’s develop a strategy for these three articles. Then, let’s develop a plan for more articles, whether I’m the one to deliver them or not. That way, the three articles I do deliver to you have the most impact and set you up with a nice foundation for future content.'”

Another difference between generative AI and freelancers? Humanity. Rose suggested leaning into that. “The interpersonal relationships, the human element, and the authenticity of the content—those are going to become the differentiators of tomorrow,” he said.

In any freelancing or consultative relationship, Rose explained, you need to understand your client’s pain and have an interpersonal relationship where they value the relationship with you more than just your output. “Is it because you listen to their problems? Do you know stuff that helps them become heroes in their business? Can you help them think about things they might not have thought about? Or is it because, quite frankly, they love going to lunch with you and bouncing ideas off of you? Those kinds of connections with people are something that AI will never replace.”

The bottom line: “Really deepen your expertise and your emotional connection to clients so that they appreciate the differentiator that is you as a person rather than talking with a bot.”

Larger companies still rely on human content workers

This might sound counterintuitive, but hear Rose out. “Some of the larger companies are shying away from using generative AI to create content and are even forbidding the use of generative AI to create content,” he said.

There are good reasons for this. “They’ve got copyright, content scraping, and intellectual property issues,” said Rose. “They’re also concerned about how their general audience might perceive the quality of AI-generated content.”

Those larger companies still place a high value on human-generated content and might be a good place to consider for freelance opportunities. Rose predicts a continued bright future for freelance content marketers.

“We haven’t gotten to AI satiation yet. And when we do, we’ll still have creative differentiation through being human. Until then, there will be a lot of experimenting, good decisions, and bad decisions. Freelancers just need to keep moving forward and plow through the middle of that. Keep true to your vision, your creativity, and passion, and all will be well.”

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