How to Become a Freelance Content Strategist
Content marketing is a rapidly growing industry, and if you’ve got the skills and experience to capitalize on that, why not do it on your terms? You can become a freelance content strategist.
Here’s a guide on how to start your career in content strategy.
What Is a Content Strategist?
Understanding the role of a content strategist requires some insight into the world of content marketing. This is an approach to digital marketing in which a company creates and publishes online content to connect with potential clients.
Through content marketing, companies can increase their visibility, build trust with customers, and establish themselves as go-to experts in their industry.
The content strategist is the person who oversees the planning and creation of a company’s content marketing assets. They’re responsible for figuring out which types of content will most effectively reach the target audience.
Essentially, the role of a content strategist is to map out marketing campaigns and to manage the creation of all the content included in those campaigns. They run the content development and production processes to ensure that their clients are distributing the right types of content at the right time, always maintaining quality as a priority.
This isn’t an entry-level role. Getting hired as a content strategist typically requires around five years of experience as a content manager, editor, or writer.
How to Become a Freelance Content Strategist
The competition among content strategists is fierce, as there are countless marketing firms and individuals with tons of experience helping companies grow.
But here’s the thing:
There’s always room for more.
There’s only one way to become a freelance content strategist, and that’s by becoming an expert.
If you’re a long-time blogger or full-time strategist looking to transition into freelance life, you probably already understand strategy. So, feel free to skip ahead to the next section. If not, here’s how you become one:
1. Know What Sets Your Client Apart
As a freelance content strategist, you first need to figure out what makes your client stand out in their industry. You can accomplish this through market research.
Identifying what makes your client special will help you create content that stands out and resolves the needs of your client’s customer base.
2. Learn How to Identify Audiences
When a company hires you to help create a new content marketing strategy, there’s a good chance that they don’t know who their target audience is. Surprisingly, many companies don’t even use online behavioral data to help target their ads.
This is where you come in — as a strategist, you can figure out who the clients’ ideal customer is. You’ll also map out a clear buyer persona to help the client understand their customer.
3. Know What Your Client Needs and What Content Will Work for Them
Every company is different, and your content marketing strategy needs to reflect that. Your content’s messaging should speak to the age group and demographic of your client’s target market.
Learning your client’s needs is crucial to formulating an effective content marketing strategy.
4. Be Able to Create A Branded Voice for Your Client
Branding is one of the most important factors driving companies towards success. Two different companies may provide the same product, but the one with more effective branding will always perform better.
A branded voice works in the same way. It’s the personality your client takes on in all of their communications with customers.
Maintaining a consistent brand voice influences your target audience’s perception of your client,
4. Gauge What Works and What Doesn’t
As a freelance content strategist, you need to measure the success of each campaign. Running a content strategy with no sense of direction can be a huge waste of time for everyone.
In measuring the performance campaigns, you’ll look at several metrics:
- Impressions: Number of people who encounter your content
- Dwell time: Average amount of time spent engaging with your content
- Shares: Number of times your content is linked to on social media
- Backlinks: Number of times your page is linked to other websites
- Click-through rates: Percentage of users who click on a CTA within your content
- Leads generated: Number of prospective customers who learn about your brand through a given piece of content
In analyzing these metrics, you’ll start to see the strengths and weaknesses of your strategy. Then, you’ll be able to adjust your strategy and future content accordingly.
5. Be Able to Articulate Why a Content Strategy Is a Valuable Asset for Any Business
As a freelancer, you need to be able to do your leg-work in acquiring clients, which means you need to be able to explain the value of your services.
Take some time to put together a 30-second elevator pitch and memorize it. This way, you’re always prepared when you meet a potential client.
6. SEO Research
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a way to make your website appear in search results related to a particular industry – all content strategists must know this, even novices.
Mastering SEO will ensure that the quality content you’re producing for your client gets discovered by the right people. Always remember to optimize your clients’ sites.
7. Create the Best Content
The internet is a vast expanse of endless content, so yours needs to stand out. Consider outsourcing the actual content creation process to a professional content writer (or several).
Strategy is a lot of work, and between research, marketing, and maintaining your clients’ editorial calendars, you may not have time for writing. Hiring out will ensure that the content you produce for clients is always top-notch.
8. Optimize Your Workflow with Tools
As a freelance content strategist, you’re going to have a million things to juggle, so you need to make sure to use tools that will help you work as efficiently as possible.
Content strategy requires creative skills, but you also need project management skills to make sure the job is done on time. Any tools that help you organize your content calendar or keep your schedule in order are worth having in your stack.
9. Health and Financial Benefits
You need health insurance to help you stay productive and a financial advisor to help you with taxes and retirement planning.
Gigly is a company that provides supplemental benefits for freelance workers. Our offerings include health and wellness benefits, finance and legal benefits, discounts at many of your favorite retailers.
Marketing Yourself as a Freelance Content Strategist
When you’re freelancing as a content strategist, you’re going to have to overcome the same obstacles that you intend to help your future clients overcome.
To begin, you’ll need to create an online presence, including a website and social media accounts (LinkedIn, especially). Being visible in the public eye allows you to do what you would do for a client — except this time it’s for yourself.
Then, you should create some content for your website. Go through the steps in the last section (identify what sets you apart, find a brand voice, etc.), and create some awesome content to help you start generating leads.
Also, get your resume together. Your resume should include any marketing-related employment (content writing, editing, etc.) and any relevant certifications you hold.
Of course, if you can get some references from a marketing manager or creative director you worked under at an old full-time, this always looks good on your resume. You could even quote these references on your website as testimonials (be sure to ask first, obviously).
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Land Your First Client
There are a bunch of ways to find your first clients. Here are a few of the most effective ones:
Use a Freelance Site
With platforms like UpWork or Fiverr, finding your first clients is easier than ever. These sites allow you to browse through freelance content strategist jobs and submit dozens of proposals in just a few hours.
It may take a couple of days to set up an account and get verified, but once you have a completed profile, it’s off to the races.
Researching and submitting proposals will also take time and energy, but it’s one of the most convenient ways to find and approach new clients.
You’ll be up against lots of competition, but who isn’t these days?
Reach Out to Prospects
Your other option is to contact potential clients directly. This might be old-fashioned, but if you’re personable and articulate, a good first impression might be the key to your first client.
Whether it’s a company you know well or one you just discovered, contacting them directly shows initiative from the get-go.
Since you just walked in off the street, there’s a good chance that they aren’t actively looking for a content strategist, but they haven’t heard your elevator pitch yet either …
If you can’t visit in person, make sure you prepare a proposal email or letter detailing how you can improve their business, and provide examples of past successes if at all possible.
Emphasize the value of your services, and make yourself an asset. If you don’t get a response within a week, be persistent but not invasive.
Contact a Recruiter
You may be able to find a digital content strategist job through a local recruiting agency. Many recruiters work directly with marketing agencies, and a lot of agencies prefer freelancers over full-time employees.
So, do some research and look for recruiters with marketing-related listings on their site. Send them your resume and a cover letter stating the type of work you’re interested in, and see what they say.
Build Your Portfolio
As you gain new clients, you should begin to build a portfolio to show new potential customers how successful your past clients have been with your help.
You don’t need to go into scientific detail describing the effectiveness of your services, but you should make your portfolio clean and easy to follow.
- Describe the problem your client was having in clear, objective terms.
- Explain the solution you offered to resolve that problem.
- Discuss any roadblocks or complications that came up throughout the process and how you helped resolve them.
- Objectively demonstrate the outcome in terms of your client’s growth.
How to Set Up Your Content Marketing Business
Here are some steps to set up the business side of your operation:
Choose a Name
If you haven’t yet, you need to choose a name for your business. As you already know, it should fit with your branded voice.
Establish the Legal Structure
Every person may have a different vision for their content strategy business, so it’s always good to do some research on your own and choose what’s best for you.
In determining the legal structure of your business, you have several options:
This is the simplest way to do business when working by yourself. Within this legal structure, you own the company and pay personal income tax on all profits earned.
In a general partnership, you may work with one or more partners and share the costs, profits, and taxes equally.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
In an LLC, one or more people own the company. An LLC provides the same limited liability protection as a corporation but is simpler and easier to manage.
A corporation differs slightly from an LLC. Instead of ownership being shared among the business’ assets, ownership is held in stocks
You won’t use this business designation as a freelancer, but it’s helpful to know as you grow your business.
Apply for an EIN
The next step in setting up your content strategy business is applying for an EIN (employer identification number). This isn’t necessary for all business entity types but will be helpful if you ever decide to expand your business and hire team members.
Even if you don’t have employees on the payroll, having an EIN can help you keep your personal and business finances separated.
If you’re interested in applying for an EIN, you can do so for free on the IRS website.
Get a Home Occupation Permit (If Applicable)
Some people assume that you need a license to conduct your business activities.
The truth is, if you’ve set up a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you don’t need to register your business with the state.
What you do need to look out for is a home occupation permit.
This permit is simply a way for the government to ensure that you aren’t adding any extra noise to your residential area by operating your business from home.
As a content strategist, your business is probably pretty quiet, but do some research to see if this permit is required in your area so you can be sure you’re operating on the right side of the law.
Becoming a freelance content strategist is no easy task, but if you’ve got the drive, the knowledge, and the experience to back it up, there’s no telling how far you can go.
To recap, here are some things to keep in mind:
No matter how focused you are on growing your new business, you also need to take care of yourself. A Gigly subscription offers the supplemental healthcare benefits you need to stay healthy and productive!