The advent of the Internet as a powerful force in commerce has created a voracious appetite among businesses for written content. Whether they use articles as blog posts, as content posted directly to the homepage of their websites, or as information presented in newsletters, businesses all over the world have realized the advantages of offering well-written, informative content that provides value to the reader and engenders trust in the business. There is a tremendous opportunity for the linguistically-inclined to provide writing services to such businesses; however, making money from writing articles isn’t as easy as spilling a few words on the monitor and calling it a day. Businesses are looking for specialized content that meets several criteria, and producing marketable articles as a freelance writer requires both skill and knowledge of the field.
Step 1: Get a Handle on Search Engine Optimization
Most freelance writers today are at least somewhat familiar with search engine optimization, or SEO — the process of tweaking a website so that it appears high in search engine rankings when users search for terms related to the website. Producing marketable articles as a freelancer doesn’t require an intimate knowledge of SEO but it does help to understand a few aspects of SEO, namely keyword density. Search engines determine which sites are most relevant to a search term (also known as a “keyword”) and display the sites that would be most helpful to the user near the top of the results.
Keyword density is important to freelance writers because they will often need to insert certain keywords into their articles at the optimal density for those articles to be marketable. After all, most buyers of web content are looking for ways to increase traffic to their websites, so they’re looking for content that already has keywords built in. The proper keyword density for web content is somewhat controversial, but most experts recommend that a given keyword should represent about 3 percent to 6 percent of the total word count of an article. Including the keyword in the article title, in subheadings within the article, within the first 100 words of the text, and within the last 100 words of the text are also accepted practices in writing for the web.
Step 2: Choose a Niche (Or Two)
The word “niche” is used quite often in the discussion of websites and web content. Most web publishers, including businesses, are seeking to break into a “niche” — a specialized subject area on which they provide expertise or services. As a freelance writer, it is also wise for you to choose a niche (or perhaps two or three). Examples of popular niches in the web publishing world include weight loss, SEO, and internet marketing. Specializing in a niche offers several advantages: you may be able to establish yourself as a trusted expert in that field; you will be more familiar with the topic at hand when you sit down to write, so your research time will be cut down; and your work in a specialized niche will allow you to approach other prospective clients with a portfolio that shows you can comfortably produce excellent content that is relevant to their field.
Step 3: Size Up the Competition
Before you know what you can charge for your freelance writing services, you’ll need to understand the typical market rates for writing work. Do a little research online and try to find other freelance writers who produce articles. Some of them offer rates directly on their website, which you can use as a guideline for setting your own rates. When you’re first starting out, you may not be able to charge as much as the big dogs, so keep in mind that you’ll need to be competitive when you’re a relative unknown. Checking out the websites of other freelancers can also be very beneficial by demonstrating how they conduct their businesses and the type of websites they have set up; they may even have a blog where they offer tips to other freelance writers.
Step 4: Hone Your Skills
There are two ways to become a better writer: reading and writing. As a freelance writer who is trying to produce marketable articles, you should be a voracious reader. You will likely find it useful to read content written by other freelancers, such as blogs, but don’t neglect “high-brow” reading such as literature, either. Reading literature is a great way to expand your vocabulary and bring new ideas to the sometimes stale world of writing content for businesses. Literature often offers a phrasal structure and sentence flow that you won’t find by reading blogs; it can open your eyes to creative new ways of expressing ideas that could mean the difference between a sale and a pass.
Writing is obviously a fundamental part of being a freelance writer — you can’t produce articles without sitting down to type! However, you shouldn’t only be writing directly for your clients. Writers should practice their craft every working day to ensure that they stay sharp. Writing isn’t an easy task: it requires simultaneously writing out your thoughts while thinking about what you’ll say next, and it’s all coordinated through your fingers and onto the monitor. Writing every day keeps you mentally sharp and helps you feel more confident about your own writing skills. Try starting a blog so that you have something to write about besides just your work. You may even be able to network with other bloggers, which could open up new opportunities.
Producing marketable articles as a freelance writer isn’t rocket science. However, it does require a little knowledge of the field and a willingness to work hard and stay on top of developments in the publishing work. If you have a knack for writing and a good work ethic, chances are you can find work as a freelance article writer.