What is a content writer?
A content writer is a writer who writes and edits content for companies, primarily for their content marketing needs. That’s the formal definition, but a content writer is basically someone who writes for a business. If you are writing emails, blogs, social media content, etc., you’re a content writer.
A content writer is a member of a company’s marketing team. When the marketing team makes a content strategy and what kind of topics they’d like to cover, the content writer is the person who’ll actually be doing the writing that is published on a website.
There are different types of content writers and each one requires a different skillset. You can learn other types of content writing, but having a good understanding of writing is essential in becoming a good content writer.
Why is content writing important?
It took me years to actually figure out why content writing is important. As a content writer, I was happy that I was being paid to write. I didn’t give much thought to why companies hired me to write for them.
Let me break it down simply: content writing is important because it helps bring customers to businesses.
Of course, there’s a lot of technical knowledge needed to do that, but that’s the core of the purpose of content writing. When you write for a company, it helps them rank on Google. This can bring hundreds or thousands of free traffic to a website each month.
When you write a blog post for a company, it helps them rank for keywords that people are searching for on Google. When people from Google land on the blog post, they can read it and they can buy products or services from the company.
Content writers are a part of the marketing team that helps bring free and organic traffic to a website. The content writer is responsible for creating great content so the readers of the blog post end up becoming paying customers.
How I became a content writer
I ran into content writing a few years back when I was in college and wanted to find a way to make money online. I didn’t want to work a 9-5 job, so I started to hustle and try to find a way to make a few thousand dollars online.
I tried a bunch of things like selling products on eBay and Amazon, doing little tasks online to get paid, etc. I had a little success, but a few hundred dollars wasn’t going to help me work online full-time.
I came across a few blog posts where people said they work full-time online as a writer. I was a decent writer in college from writing a ton of papers, so I figured I’ll try it out. I started applying for literally hundreds of jobs as a content writer and didn’t get any response. This makes sense to me now because I literally had zero experience.
The only way I could start content writing was to do it freelance/contract. I read a ton of blogs and watched a lot of YouTube videos of how people started and grew their freelance writing businesses. So here’s what I did:
- I started a website that showed I’m a content writer
- Sent a few emails to a few companies to write for free so I can have samples of work
- Once I had 3-5 samples, I emailed a lot of companies and asked if they needed writing services
- After a few months of hard work, I landed my first client
I got more clients over time and the rest is history. I share my progress in my freelance writing business every month, you can check my latest income report here.
Now I work full-time as a freelance content writer. I could pursue a job, but I personally like the freelance lifestyle better.
Average salary of a content writer
The average salary of a content writer is anywhere between $29,000-$64,000 according to Glassdoor. If you’re an entry level content writer, you’re salary will be closer to the lower end of that spectrum.
As you gain more experience and skills, you can start demanding more in regards to pay. The higher earning content writers are typically the ones with years of experience and the ones who know how to negotiate their salaries better.
What do you need to become a content writer?
Now that you’ve got a good idea of what a content writer is, let’s cover what you need to become a content writer.
The only thing you need is a strong writing background and ability to learn. You don’t need to be the best writer, but you can’t have writing that has poor grammar, misspelling, etc.
When I first started content writing, I had nothing except my ability to write and look things up on Google. I had zero experience about specific niches, topics, etc.
I started writing IT content for clients. I knew nothing about IT, but when the client would give me a topic and I’d research it and write the article. I was willing to go through as many revisions as needed until the article was good.
Since I started content writing, I’ve written in IT, healthcare, HR, travel and every other niche you can think of. It’s very hard to overcome imposter syndrome, but you need to have the mentality that you’ll do whatever it takes to get the article done.
If you’re a decent writer, you can learn by doing paid work for clients. That’s how I did it and now most of the topics I write are fairly easy.
Different types of content writing
As a content writer, you’ll be asked to write several types of content for your employer or client. These types of content writing include:
Blog posts will generally be the vast majority of content you write. With blog posts, you’re generally given a topic and a general direction of what the blog should follow. Make sure the quality of content you write is great and don’t plagiarize any content. Many clients use tools like a plagiarism checker to ensure content is original.
You’re responsible for doing the research for the topic, writing the blog and doing any edits necessary after your draft has been reviewed. Blogs may seem like a lot of work, but you’ll quickly get used to publishing a lot of them.
As a freelance content writer, I publish anywhere between 30-40 blog posts per month. They become a lot easier to do as you get better at writing and researching for topics.
A white paper is a professional, information document that companies give to their clients. White papers highlight the different products and services a company has and they are used as promotional products to help convince a customer to do business with a company.
White papers require a lot more work than blog posts, so they take much longer to do. If you’re doing white papers on a contract basis, you can charge a lot more than blog posts.
Ebooks are short publications that companies write to talk in-depth about a particular product, service or topic. They are some of the longest forms of content writing, they can be anywhere from a few pages to dozens of pages.
Generally, it will take weeks to complete a decent sized ebook. This includes the writing, editing and anything else needed. Most content writers only write a handful of ebooks throughout their career.
Case studies are common for content writers to do. In a case study, a content writer will discuss in-depth how their company helped a customer meet their goals. Common aspects covered in case studies include the client’s problem, approach to solving the problem, solutions and results.
Social media posts:
Social media posts are another popular form of content writing. With social media content, a writer has to be familiar with the specific trends on the platform they are publishing on. For example, content on Twitter is far different from content on Instagram.
The content writer will write the social media content ahead of time and it will be automatically published at a later date.
Email writing is a special kind of content writing. Most people refer to it as email copywriting. With writing emails, your company or client will have an email list of contacts that they want to market towards.
You have to write compelling email content that will entice the email readers to try different types of services and products.
Career paths as a content writer
There are several career paths you can pursue as a writer. These are the main ones and I’ve added a few extra ones for those that are more entrepreneurial.
Staff content writer:
A staff content writer is probably the position you’re looking for. This is a full-time content writing position at a company. As a staff content writer, you’ll spend most of your time writing content and collaborating with members of the marketing team.
You can have the opportunity to become a senior staff writer once you gain experience within the business. This will open other doors and other writing careers you can pursue.
You can also a pursue a career as a content manager. The content manager is the manager of the content writers. This is who I actually work under some of my freelance clients.
The content manager is in charge of making sure all of the content writing is done and all of the bigger content goals for the company are being met. Content managers also work alongside SEO managers, editors, content writers and other senior members within a company. This is a good role to transition to if you’re no longer interested in writing content everyday.
Freelance content writer:
Content writers can also pursue a freelance career where they are self-employed. Although freelance content writing comes with the perks of working remotely, choosing your hours, etc, it also means that you are responsible for finding clients, payments, etc.
The jump into freelance content writing can be risky, so many content writers decide to work their full-time jobs until their freelance writing business takes off. This is a good strategy for any content writer who’s interested in self-employment, working remotely, etc.
Yes, you can be a blogger. This is the stage where I’m at now. When people think of blogging, they think of someone writing about their day, lifestyle or something similar. Although that may be true in some cases, the blogging I’m referring to is blogging as a business.
As a content writer, the writing you do is for the benefit of a company. With blogging, you can get those benefits directly for yourself. This means all of the traffic and money you could’ve generated for a business goes directly to you.
Just like freelance writing, blogging is a self-paced business. The money you earn is directly correlated with your skills and ability to get traffic and monetize your blog.
With blogging, you can build your own brand and audience, write your own content and monetize through several ways. This includes:
- Affiliate marketing
- Your own products
To learn more about how blogging works, check out this in-depth blog here.
You can definitely become a great content writer and advance in your career if you have the ability to write well and learn. No one starts off content writing as an expert, it takes years of work to get better and learn the different strategies that will help you become successful.
For a new content writer, I’d recommend solidifying your writing skills and reaching out to several companies to get a few samples of work. Once you have that, you can start applying to content writer jobs or start emailing companies to get freelance work.
For most people, I’d recommend trying to find a content writer job. Diving into freelance writing head first is very difficult and it’ll be some time before you start making real money with your blog. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take it one step at a time, land a writing job and then start looking towards other things like freelancing or blogging.