If you want to be a full time writer but aren’t sure you want to write books for a living, a content writer is a great alternative. If you dream of becoming a full time author but can’t give up your day job yet, content writing is a fantastic way to provide additional income while paving your way to author success.
In a saturated market, learning what skills to use and how to become a content writer is a must. In this article, we answer your questions and define what content writing is, the various skills you need, where to find work, and of course, what it pays.
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What Is Content Writing?
A simple definition of a content writer is simply a person who writes copy (content) for brands, businesses, or individuals. Whether you write for a large corporation’s website copy you ghostwrite a famous author’s newsletter, this is content writing.
While the definition for content writer may seem simple, the practice is not quite as straightforward. Due to the broad spectrum of content writing, choosing which area you want to niché into is a great first step as you pursue this goal.
Let’s dive into some of the top skills you will need as a content writer, regardless of the subject matter you choose to write on. You can apply these skills to social media, books, and emails.
5 Skills Needed To Become A Content Writer
If you want to work as a primary care physician, you will need a certain skill set. If you decide you want to become a surgeon, you will then focus on bettering yourself in a particular skill set. The same is true if you want to become a content writer: You must master your skillset.
#1 – Standout Copywriting
If you want to write content, you need to be a great writer. This said, you do not need to start at the level you want to reach. Everyone has to start somewhere, but as a content writer it’s crucial to focus on great grammar, finding every typo, and engaging your readers.
#2 – Love For Learning
Whether you plan to niché down or love writing on every topic a potential client wants to hire you for, loving the process of creating content is crucial to your longevity.
If you naturally love learning, researching topics, and engaging in subjects you may not have considered before, you can create a well-rounded content writing career.
Even if you find yourself writing on a topic you are familiar with, giving your best effort is key, so make sure to do your due diligence in research.
#3 – Confident Researcher
Speaking of research, when writing content on a deadline, knowing where to find quality data can make or break your project. When you work as a content writer, it’s not just your grade on the line, but the career you hope to create.
Don’t let this scare you, but make sure you know where to find quality content. Tip: Journals or academic research are a great starting point!
#4 – Time Management
We all have the same amount of hours in a day and somehow, we all end up at different places in our careers. One contributing factor is how we manage our time. Oftentimes, writing content for various companies will include many extraneous details:
- Long email threads
Create a schedule for yourself so you can achieve what you need to get done, without feeling overwhelmed. The earlier you can create healthy habits, the less stressful it will be to begin a content writing career.
#5 – Pay Attention To Details
While I could have described this as “detail oriented,” you do not need to naturally pay attention to details in order to work as a content writer. Just like content writing, you can learn the art of detailed organization.
Early on, you will likely book many small projects for a variety of clients. Turning in work on time, invoicing, replying to emails, etc., all require attention to detail.
Where To Find The Work?
Now that you know what a content writer is and some of the skills you need, it’s time to go online and find your opportunities! You may want to get your feet wet by browsing through places like Indeed, Glassdoor, or even LinkedIn.
Looking at the various jobs out there will give you an idea of what you think you will be good at, as well as alert you to jobs you may not have even known existed. You can also sign up for job alerts on specific sites (for example, LinkedIn) to save time searching out specific jobs.
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find content writing work. While it may take some time to build up your network, once you start building your base the work will likely come flooding in. Of course, this depends on how well you execute tasks, but you know what it takes to be a great writer!
What Does It Pay?
Content writing pay is extremely subjective. This is due to many factors. Take a look at the list below to get an idea for some of what goes in to determining how much you make:
- Your experience
- The quality of your work
- Your niché
- Your knowledge base
- The size of the company you work for
- Your negotiation strategies
- Turnaround time
- The location of the company you work for
For example, let’s say you have one year of experience, work in many fields and haven’t nichéd down yet, and land a job writing copy for a small nonprofit in a small town.
Now imagine that you have five plus years of experience writing in a specific niché and a national brand hires you to write copy for their company website. Their headquarters is based in Silicon Valley.
Which gig do you imagine will pay more? You get the idea! Much of content writing income depends on presenting your skill set well and then advocating for yourself. Additionally, understanding current rates nationally, and globally, will help you as you negotiate early on.
Become A Content Writer: Starting Your Career
Content writing covers many topics, but that said, you can expect to earn anywhere from $100 for a short post without images or formatting, to what’s considered the holy grail of $1 per word. You can aim for this amount of payment if you:
- Have several years of experience
- Write strong content in your niché
- Implement keywords and phrases
- Formatt your post for publication on the site
If you write website copy, your rate will depend on if you optimize for SEO, as well as the amount of copy you write, and the company you write for.
Do consider that when you set your prices, if you are a freelance writer, your pay will need to cover self-employment taxes, health insurance, and all the other additional expenses that come with the privilege of being your own boss. Companies who want quality work will be willing to pay for it.
As you begin looking for jobs, pitching companies, and negotiating rates, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. This allows you the time to present your best work and build your career!