Working as a digital nomad, travelling the world and homeschooling my son means that I get to meet a ton of new people all the time, which is amazing.
But when they ask me what I do for a living and I explain that I’m a content writer, I often get a blank look.
“What does that mean?” they ask. “Is that like writing books and stuff?” “Do you get to write those cool ad campaigns?”
“Almost,” I answer. “I get to write and edit blog posts and articles for businesses’ websites. Plus create newsletters, write the words that go on websites and a whole lot more.”
At this point, I can almost physically see the lightbulb switch on as they understand what I mean. That’s before the inundate me with questions about how it works, what it involves, qualifications and all that jazz.
Which has made me realise that there are also entrepreneurs and business people who don’t really understand either.
That’s why I’ve decided to quickly explain what exactly it is that I do when I sit down in front of my laptop with a big mug of herbal tea and start creating content for businesses and organisations.
I explain what a content writer like me does, what skills they need and what the writing process looks like. We’ll also touch on the differences between a content writer and copywriter to get rid of any lasting scraps of confusion.
Here’s what I’ll be covering:
- “What is a content writer? What do you do?”
- “Why do businesses and organisations need content writers?”
- “What skills does a content writer need to have?”
- “Are you qualified to be a content writer?”
- “I’ve heard of copywriting. Is that the same thing?”
- “How does a content writer work?”
- “Cool. I have a business and I need your help. How can I hire you?”
“What is a content writer? What do you do?”
A content writer writes for entrepreneurs, businesses and other organisations.
This often takes the form of blog posts, articles and press releases, but it can also bleed into other areas such as newsletters, social media posts, websites and whatever else they are asked to do.
When us content writers are doing our job, we’re not just filling a page with words.
Our writing has to do several jobs at the same time:
- It needs to provide useful information to the business’ audience or clients.
- It needs to help solve real problems that these people face (both via relevant, useful info or products and services).
- It needs to be engaging and compelling.
- It needs to speak the brand or organisations’ language, core values and vision.
- It needs to be authentic, high quality and expertly written.
- It needs to help the business stand out in the highly competitive world of online businesses.
- It needs to help improve the business’ search engine rankings.
“Why do businesses and organisations need content writers?”
Although many businesses write their own blog posts, articles and other types of content, they often hire content writers like me to give them a helping hand.
This is because we are experienced professionals who have a trick or two up our sleeves when it comes to writing nonfiction for businesses. We know what works, what doesn’t work, and how you can also drive more sales by choosing the right words.
We also help take the stress off their shoulders so they don’t have to lose sleep trying to figure it all out for themselves or waste time struggling with the whole concept when there’s an expert who can do it all for them.
Finally, an expert content writer knows their way around language like the back of their hand. They can spot grammatical errors a mile off, sniff out problems in a text and zone in on typos and misspelled words so no silly mistakes sneak their way in.
“What skills does a content writer need to have?”
In order to create this awesome content for businesses, I need to wear a wide variety of hats of all shapes and sizes. Here’s a sample of what I need to do on an average day.
- I need to be able to ‘get into their head’ and understand the core of the business so I can share it with the world.
- I need to get creative and spot potential topics that we can create excellent, informative, compelling content around.
- I need to know how the business expresses yourself, how they speak and how they write so I can use their unique voice in the content for their website.
- I need to understand their niche audience so I can design the content with them in mind and ‘press their buttons’ effectively.
- I need to use my SEO skills to understand how we can use technology to get the content in front of as many hungry readers as possible.
- I need to be able to research topics and understand information that I might not be familiar with yet.
- I need to create writing that sounds natural, free and with just enough personality to help the business to shine.
- I need to professionally edit and proofread the content I’ve created so that it’s flawless
“Are you qualified to be a content writer?”
Although there aren’t any official qualifications needed to become a content writer, I do have several that puts me a cut above the rest:
- I hold a BA (Hons) degree in Linguistics from a British university.
- I’m a native English speaker.
- I’m a language nut, and a grammar geek. Working with grammar was one of my favourite parts of my degree. Imagine that!
- I’m also an English teacher with a TEFL certificate
“I’ve heard of copywriting. Is that the same thing?”
Copywriting isn’t exactly the same thing as content writing but there’s considerable overlap between the two.
Both can help you share your message with your target audience, grow your brand and ultimately boost sales. But there are some key differences too. Here they are:
Content writing refers to that text that businesses create, primarily to provide useful information to their audience and to grow their brand and community.
It can (and often does) encourage the customer to take action and buy from the business, but that isn’t its primary purpose.
It’s there to spark interest, to engage a person with the brand and business and eventually can help turn them into a loyal (paying) customer.
On the other hand, copywriting is advertising copy.
It can also take the form of a blog post, article or newsletter.
But more often than not, it’s used on a website, in sales emails and letters, on a landing page, on a call to action button and even in a tagline.
It’s there to grab attention and encourage people to act and make that purchase.
Unlike content, it’s usually short, punchy, packed with the business’ personality and uses psychology and emotions to help make a sale.
“How does a content writer work?”
Creating fabulous content isn’t as easy as getting a flash of inspiration and then sitting down at the computer to type away for a while.
There’s a huge amount of research, understanding, writing and editing involved at every stage along the way. Here’s how I usually roll:
1) First contact
A client gets in contact to ask for my help. Often they have a full creative brief that I can work from immediately but sometimes they don’t.
This means that our first task is to get clear on what they need and what they hope to achieve.
It’s a very important part of the process any hiccups or misunderstandings can make the content more challenging to create.
We discuss potential ideas, what the content hopes to achieve, target audience, which keywords to include (if relevant) and if the topic is complex, the point of view that the client wants to get across.
Once we’ve created or filled out the brief, it’s time for me to start my research.
If I’m not familiar with a topic I will begin to read through a variety of sources including trusted websites, research papers, surveys and so on.
I also cross-reference the details to ensure that I have my facts straight and add trusted links wherever possible to provide extra information to the reader and to boost SEO.
3) First draft!
The next step is to start drafting the content itself.
This stage can take a few hours, depending on the complexity of the topic and the length of the piece of content.
After I’ve completed the first draft, I’ll go back through and perform some careful edits which can help improve the content, boost engagement and ensure that the content performs as highly as it should.
This can also take several hours.
Once I’m happy with this, I will add any relevant links and proofread the entire piece.
This is the part when the business gets to enjoy the content I’ve created and start putting it to good use.
Although the majority of my customers are extremely satisfied to see the results, there are times when we need to make a few tweaks.
If this happens, I can get back to my desk and tweak it to perfection.
“Cool. I have a business and I need your help. How can I hire you?”
If you’d like to know more about what I do, or you’d like to hire me, please reach out today.