You’ve finally landed a new client or assignment from a hopeful client—congrats! And if you’re like most new writers, your heart sinks a little when you realize that pitching was the easy part. Now it is time to craft the article and impress your new client and/or editor.
Know Your Topic
I always suggest freelance writing from a place you know since it will make the research part of any article easier. However, even expert writers need to brush up on a few things each time they write an article. Before you start writing on your topic, find out what is trending in your topic. Maybe you’ve been given the assignment to write about online banking which you know everything about. Great! But what if there was news that you missed because you didn’t do some initial research—such as news of data breaches with online banks?
This is theoretical news at the time I write this, but if you hammer out your article praising online banks for being secure and confidential, you’ve created an irrelevant article for your client. Readers who know the data breach news will now forgo trusting your advice because you have painted online banks in a falsely positive light.
Know Your Client
It’s not enough just to know your topic to write an amazing article. You need to know your client. They are the ones who pay you, so it will be highly beneficial for you to write articles that help them bring in more traffic and money. When I say client, I really mean the brand.
For example, your client might be Walmart or it might be Jane Loveall, famous fitness instructor. If Walmart is your client, the CEO is not going to know you exist and your editors might switch around a bit, but everyone on the content marketing team is aiming to convert content into dollars while keeping everything Walmart stands for on point.
Similarly, fictional fitness instructor, Jane, might act as the CEO and content director for her business. You will definitely want to impress her and keep your article in line with her message and what she can publish legally, while also helping her grow her traffic. More money for her means more work for you—win-win!
Know The Style
Online writing as a freelance writer is not like your freshman English class. Each client and site has its own style guidelines. When in doubt, go with AP style. When I first started, one editor gave me a brilliant nugget of advice. She said that if I wasn’t sure how to spell or punctuate a certain word, I should Google it alongside Nytimes.com. For example, if I didn’t know whether to hyphenate the phrase “brick and mortar,” I could search for that term with Nytimes.com after it.
It is also a good idea to read several posts and articles that your client has recently published. If your client doesn’t have content already established, asked them which sites/articles they enjoy the most and want their site to emulate. The last thing you want to do is turn in or publish a whole lot of paragraphs.
When you analyze the articles, look at these essential things:
- Headings: Are there a lot of them? Are they straight to the point, funny, or questions?
- Lists: Do they rely on lists to pack in a lot of info without straining the eye?
- Studies: Do they like mentions of studies, polls, or relevant news?
- CTA: Is there a hard call to action at the end or a thoughtful close?
- Article Inception: I had no idea what to call this section, but basically I mean an article within an article. Does the client prefer very thorough articles that feel like a series of mini-articles? For example, an article on how to color your hair at home wouldn’t just list the steps but instead include informative paragraphs about setting up the right space, figuring out which hair color is best for your complexion, etc.
Know the Tone
One millennial bank I worked for wanted a very edgy tone to their articles. They preferred hip language that wasn’t natural to me. For example, instead of saying, “It’s unwise to continually withdraw from your savings account because you will never achieve your financial goals,” they wanted, “Dipping into your savings account constantly can be a sign that you’re letting FOMO control your spending habits.” The acronym FOMO in an article—I can’t even, but truth be told, adopting a new tone was fun.
When you are reading through recently published articles, what tone are you picking up? Does your client publish serious articles with no fluff or do the articles have more of a playful voice that tries to relate with the reader like friends having coffee?
Don’t Feel Overwhelmed
If you are a new freelance writer, and this all felt overwhelming, don’t panic. This list isn’t meant to add on hours to your research and article writing. Instead, they are background things that are nice to be aware of if you are doing your first few pieces for a new outlet.
The secret to earning a lot of money through freelance writing is to find your bread and butter clients. These are the clients that give you the bulk amount of your work rather than one or two articles a month. In order to become someone’s go-to writer, you have to put expertise and the right tone and brand in each piece you write.