The beginner’s guide to content creation
Are you thinking of starting a career in content creation? The questions that are probably running through your mind may include – how to start writing content, what resources you need to develop your writing skills, what trainings would help you build your content writing skills, where you can find good jobs as a content writer and so on. When I first started content writing as a career, I had to learn most of what I know from different online resources. It would probably have been easier if all the material were condensed into one article that would provide me with most of the information I needed in one place.
In this article, a beginners guide to content creation, I have condensed all you need to know to start a career in content writing.I have also provided links to useful information that can give you a head start in your journey to becoming a great content writer.
What is content creation?
Content creation means contributing material in different forms to various platforms on the world wide web to engage and convert an internet audience. Any material whether video, infographics, text, photos, etc. created for use on the internet falls under the broad category of content.
Everybody creates content in one form or the other.When you send a post on Facebook or you tweet something interesting to your followers, you are creating content on the internet.
Content writing as a profession, however, involves a more strategic approach to writing content.Your objective for creating a piece of material should be to attract an audience, engage them and then get them to take the necessary action you want them to make.You probably would be working for a client or with a brand, and you need to take into consideration the needs of the client as well as the requirements of the job.
Being a professional content writer can be a rewarding job if you focus your attention on what your users are interested in learning about and if you keep up to date with the best trends in creating content to fulfil user experience.
What kind of content writer should you be?
If you’re thinking of starting a career in content writing, then you need to be aware that there are so many different opportunities in content creation.You can choose the one that suits you best by looking at the job requirements of the different kinds of content writers.
Creative Copywriter: The job of a creative copywriter involves designing content in an attention-grabbing manner to capture the target audience.A creative copywriter needs to be a highly imaginative storyteller who can connect with audience emotions using the right words , imagery, and design.A creative copywriter writes copy for online adverts, blogs, banners, billboards and other advertising media.
Social media content writer: A social media content writer is an expert in crafting attention-grabbing headlines and clickbait articles.They make social media copy that stands out from the crowd.
Subject matter experts: A content writer that specialises in writing content for one particular industry is known as a subject matter expert.They could specialize in writing content for the medical industry, IT and software industry, fashion industry and so on.These types of content experts usually have a background in that field and they are quite often very proficient in their area of specialisation.
Brand Journalists:The Corporate Reporter role is to find stories within the company and industry that often go untold and highlight these stories.A brand journalist profiles brands and the people that work for them. They are the journalists of the corporate world and keep abreast of the latest trends in whatever industry they are working in. They report trends and the latest news that help these brands stay ahead of the competition.
Technical content writer: This kind of writer is responsible for producing content that you see in product manuals, product leaflets, training guides, FAQs, assessments etc.
Grant writer: This kind of content writer specialises in writing proposals, grants, resumes and other forms of business content for use online.
Research writers: These are more academic writers that produce content for journals and research publications.They are able to collate data and transform it into language that is easily understood by a layman. As a research writer your job would involve transcribing scientific research or other forms of research into language that can easily be understood by the layman. Research writing follows different styles and formats which depend on how you choose to cite your sources.You can learn more about research writing from this article.
Script content writers: Produce scripts and screenplays for online videos.They usually work in the telecommunication and movie industry.Video animation makers also require their services.
Marketing copywriters: This group are also known as advertising copywriters, and come in handy when considerable scale content marketing and lead generation is required.An advertising copywriter knows how to funnel content for every stage of the buyer journey, from attracting the audience with the right headlines all through to engaging them with the right message.Their job is to create content that successfully guides customers through the sales funnel.They also need to know how to apply the concept of audience personas to their content production to make the content they produce relevant to the target audience.
SEO copywriter: A SEO copywriter is a content writer who combines professional copywriting skills with search engine optimisation(SEO) techniques. A Seo content writer creates web content that is optimised for visibility on the internet for specific user search queries. This kind of content writer specialises in creating content for websites and blogs. They can usually generate content on any topic in any niche and are not limited to a particular field. Click here to know more about SEO copywriting and what an SEO copywriter does, you can click on this link.
What skills do you need to become a content writer?
The quality of your work will determine how often you get hired by good clients.One way to ensure that you keep getting referrals from clients is to upskill your knowledge and your skills regularly.Find below 12 must-have skills you need to become a successful content writer.
A degree in any area of specialisation: Before you can become a professional content writer, you need a degree from a reputable college or university.The type of degree depends on what field of content writing you wish to work in. Some areas require more specialised training like brand journalism demands that you have a degree in journalism or mass communication.Having a language or marketing degree too can help you gain more grounds with potential employers.Generally, though, you don’t need a specific degree to start working as a content writer.Whatever your degree you can always find a niche that suits your capabilities; moreover there are several online courses you can take post-degree to boost your skills and qualifications.
Exceptional writing and editing skills: Whether you are writing content for a website, social media, a business proposal or a billboard, your delivery has to be top notch, and your grammar must pass inspection. Several online tools can help you improve your grammar and structure, and we will look at a number of these tools further along in this article.
Organisational skills: Organization here means planning your work and finding a routine that works for you.As a new content writer trying to build credibility and trust, being organised helps you stay on top of your client or employers work and ensures that you meet deadlines.You can use an editorial calendar to help you plan your work and prioritise according to the urgency of the job.
Excellent work ethics:Your clients need to be able to trust that you will do good work and deliver in record time. You should also be prepared to do a few revisions for free if your client is not completely satisfied with your work.If you are working as a freelance writer, try not to take in more jobs than you can handle at any given time. If you do, the chances are that you could end up missing deadlines which would obviously irritate your clients. There’s also the chance that you rush to meet deadlines and end up submitting low-quality content.
Good salesmanship skills: There are a lot of content writers out there, and for you to get good jobs, you need to be able to sell yourself to potential clients.Salesmanship is especially necessary if you do not have a previous background in the content writing industry working for any brand.
Solid research skills: Working as a content writer requires that you develop a passion for researching the right material to use foproducingng content.You must be able to scour the internet for useful and credible sourceof informationon on any article that you are writing about.
Creativity and originality: while creative writing may be the forte of creative copywriters, it also applies to other forms of content creation too.A good content writer knows how to use imagination to weave a story and make it unique regardless of whether others have written on that topic. Plagiarism is something you must avoid at all cost because having duplicate content is frowned upon by Google and could incurr penalties.If you have to use someone else’s content, there is a guide that shows you how you can do that without incurring a penalty from the search engines.
Good networking skills : As a newbie content writer, you also need to leverage your networking to gain more referrals and also learn from other more experienced content writers in your community.You can join forums like Quora to ask questions on the latest trends in content writing and get answers from experts in the field.
Versatility: To be a good content writer, you must be willing to master creating content in different forms depending on the needs of the client or your target audience.You should learn how to use infographics, videos, and other visuals to present information in an engaging manner.
Adaptability: creating copy for clients requires that you must be able to blend your writing style, tone, and language to suit the needs of the job. It would be easy to fall back to writing in your writing voice, and you need to check this when creating copy for clients.
Know the basics of SEO: This is especially true if you intend to become an SEO copywriting expert. Seo is short for search engine optimisation and includes the various techniques that are used to make web content more visible on the internet. Businesses employ SEO content writers to help them develop content for their websites and also for content marketing purposes as a means of improving their organic rankings on the internet.An organic ranking is a result you usually see when you type in a query into a search engine. The results that are displayed without the hypertext AD on them are referred to as organic search results.
Learning mindset: You need to develop a passion for continually upskilling your content writing skills and learning new trends that will help you remain relevant in the industry.
What training or courses can help you become a good content writer?
For some types of content writing careers like creating news articles requires a background in journalism and if you plan to become a subject matter expert, you need professional expertise in the field you want to generate content for.
Apart from a background degree, several online courses are available to help you improve your content writing or copywriting skills. Some of these courses are free, while some others would require parting with a substantial sum of money.As a newbie writer, you don’ t have to get intimidated by what you need to learn or the cost of some of the online courses in content writing.You have to decide for yourself from the list of courses which ones would be necessary for your field and depending on the relevance, pick the top three to start.
Here are some of the best online courses for content writing
Coursera offers a wide variety of online courses ( about 77 in all) on content writing. Some of these courses can earn you a certification that would further boost your value in the eye of the next employer. You can filter these courses by the level of mastery, language and the skills you want to learn. For beginner content writers, my top three picks based on relevance and ratings are:
This course will help you develop practical communication skills as well as teaching you useful design skills.
Presentation skills speech writing and storytelling: In this course, you’ll learn how to engage an audience through the art of storytelling.You’ll learn how to sustain that interest all through the middle of your story and deliver a strong close that connects with your audience
English for effective business speaking : This course can help you if you intend to start a career in business content writing.Here you’ll learn how to adapt content to fit the purpose, context and audience and how to use appropriate style and tone of writing for business purposes
On the skillshare platform where you can get some online content writing courses for free.The courses are pretty basic for a beginner and can help you start on your journey to becoming a content writer.
This platform provides over 400 e-learning courses on content writing for beginners.You can learn content strategy, SEO, technical content writing, design thinking and so many other classes to get you started as an online writer.You get a free trial when you start and you can use this trial to pick one course that comprehensively covers what aspect of content writing you want to learn about.
Moz learning centre provides you with an online guide on writing content for SEO purposes.If you are interested in a in-depth knowledge of search engine optimisation techniques including technical SEO, you’ll find this an invaluable resource.If all you need, though, is a practical guide on SEO copywriting that can help you rank your clients work on the internet, then I suggest you check out this article on content writing tips for beginners, how to write content that ranks.
What tools will help you become a more effective content writer?
Just like with every other career or job, being a content writer requires that you have the necessary tools to make your work professional and of high- quality. You need grammar editing tools, word processor tools, SEO analysis tools, Style consistency tools and reading-level checking tools.I have highlighted below the 7 best tools you need to begin a successful career in content writing.
- Google Docs: Google docs is a word processing tool like Microsoft word but with a significant difference. With Google docs, you can share your work real time with your clients or some other person; like your editor for instance. Your client can make real-time corrections to work, and these corrections can be viewed by you and other members of the teams, regardless of wherever you are.This removes the need for sending your content back and forth for editing or proofreading. All the corrections and revisions can be done online using Google docs, and when you’re done, you can download the final review and send it to your client. You also have the option to work offline, and you can choose this option until you’re ready to share the first draft with your client or editor.
- Grammarly: This is an editing tool, probably the best one in the market currently that allows you to check for mistakes in spelling, structure and word usage. There is a basic version which is free and which detects errors in grammar, punctuation and spacing. The premium version checks for over 400 errors including style errors, use of outdated colloquialisms, advanced punctuation errors, too many word usage etc.
- Hemingway app: Hemingway checks for sentence complexity and grades your content based on how easy it is to read. A reading grade level of 7-9 is usually the best for the content writing on the web as it ensures that most of your readers can comprehend your text.
- Content planning tools: Content planning tools come in very handy for creating an outline of your work and keeping tabs on all the research material that you intend to use. Scrivener is a content planning, writing and editing tool that helps you organise your work, ideas, research material, content outline and everything you need to craft great content, in one place.
- Idea generator tools: If you are looking for creative ideas to help you spin content from a unique angle, then you could try an online content idea generator. These idea generators are free, and you could be fortunate enough to get some excellent ideas from them. Note of warning though, some of the ideas you get could be absurd, but you have to keep trying until you find something that fits in with the context of what you want to write.
- Tools for creating great visuals: Canva is my favourite tool for creating great visuals that stand out. Most of the resources on Canva are free, and when you have to pay, it usually comes at a token fee of $1.With canva you can create infographic, banners, Facebook and Instagram posters and pictures for blog posts.Canva comes with excellent picture editing tools too that can allow you to customise your graphics any way you want. If you need more images than this platform provides, you can download free illustrations, stock images, royalty free images, vectors and cartoon images online.
- Videomaker: To be a good content writer, one of the skills required is being able to vary your content forms to suit your target audience.Videos prove useful resources that can really bring your content to life and help people connect better with your work. Most people are more likely to engage with a video than with written content.
- For a more exhaustive list of content creation tools you can check this ultimate list by dreamgrow.
How to find jobs as a content writer
We’ve talked about all the skills, courses, tools and resources that you need to become a good content writer. We’ve even looked at an essential guide to creating great content on the internet. Now the final question is how do you get work as a content writer? Well that actually depends on whether you want to work full time or part time, whether you want to be employed in an organization or if you choose to branch out on your own as a freelance writer.
As a new writer you can get freelance jobs and you can also find work in organisations that are looking for interns or beginner content writers.
There are a number of places where you can find work as a content writer and your choice depends on whether you want to work as a freelance writer or work for a brand or organization.
- Freelance job boards
- Social media forums
- Freelance market places
- Private freelance organisations
- Cold pitching to clients
- Guest posting for free
- Starting your blog.
Freelance market places:
You can get work on freelance market places such as Upwork, Fiverr, People, Freelancer, Guru.com. Flex jobs, etc.Just as the name implies; a freelance market place is an online platform where employers post jobs and anyone can respond by applying for the jobs.It’s pretty easy to get registered and accepted on most of these platforms as long as you fulfil the minimum criteria.
- You can get jobs regardless of your level of experience, expertise or qualifications
- The jobs are numerous, and they are almost always available. You can always get something that matches your skillset.
- The monthly fee charged to join any of these freelance platforms is on the average minimum, and some platforms even offer free subscriptions for the beginner level packages.
- The good news is that some clients are actually on the lookout for new talent and you’ll see some join postings stating explicitly that new freelancers are welcome to bid.
While there are several advantages to using freelance market places to look for jobs, there are also a lot of Cons.
- These freelance platforms are pretty competitive, and it may be quite tricky to land a writing gig as a new freelance writer. The number of freelancers bidding for a job is usually higher than the number of available jobs.
- A major downside to using freelance market platforms is the high risk of getting scammed. Employers could take off with your work, and there is no guarantee that you’ll get your pay at the end of the day. Some of these freelance market places guard against that by advising that you request a substantial deposit from the potential employer. This deposit is made to the freelance market organisers and is only paid to you on completion of the job.
- Another disadvantage to using the marketplace is that a percentage of what you make on each job goes to the platform and so you can’t keep all you earn.
Freelance job boards:
A freelance job board is more streamlined in its approach and works to deliver jobs directly from employers to your mailbox.You also have the option to apply directly to the employer for the position without going through the third party which is the job board. The jobs could be contract work, full-time, part-time, remote or onsite. You can specify which kind of jobs you are interested in and help to tailor the ads that would be delivered to your mailbox.
Examples of freelance job boards include. Indeed, Jobberman and Careerjet.ng ( specifically for the Nigerian market), Craigslist, LinkedIn, Flexjobs, Blogging pro.The primary advantage of using a job board is that you can get to connect with trusted brands looking for contract or full-time writers.Since the companies have to pay a substantial fee to post their jobs on the job boards, the likelihood of scamming is reduced significantly.The options are many, and you can select based on your location and job preferences.
Social media platforms:
You probably are on several social media sites already. The key ones that can help you with finding content writing jobs are Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. On Linkedin, you can search for jobs using the job search function.You can also search for recruiters and follow them. On Facebook, there are several Facebook groups you can join and apply for jobs posted in these groups. Twitter is another platform to look for jobs.You can use #writingjobs, #writers, #writersforhire and other hashtags to search for jobs on Twitter. Reddit is another forum where you can find writing jobs for all levels of writing experience.
Start a blog:
You can also use a blog to gain exposure as a new content writer. The good thing about writing for your blog is that it allows you to define your creative voice and you can print at your own pace.It takes time, though, to build enough followership and recognition to start earning money from your blogs.
A good strategy that can help you to grow your online presence with blogging is to guest post to other sites that have more readership.This would often require that you post your content to this other sites for free or for a token amount, but the recognition for your brand name could well be worth it.Most times you can get a quality link back to your site and people who like your post would likely follow the link back to your blog.
There are other ways by which you can earn money from your blog. On WordPress, for instance, if you have a lot of traffic on your blog, you can ask to join the Word ads program. This is an ad program run by WordPress which is quite similar to Google ads.
Affiliate marketing is another way in which you can earn income from monetising your blog.
Cold-Pitching to clients:
Cold pitching? Yes, cold pitching! If you plan to start a professional career in content writing, you would need to send cold emails to potential clients at some point or the other, so why not start early.
- To start, you’ll need a professional looking website or social media page where your clients can interact with you online.You can create a site at a reasonable cost on WordPress, Wix, square space or any of the other platforms that allow you to create a professional website without the need for coding skills.You can also choose to create a site that’s free on Google my business or a Facebook or LinkedIn page for that matter.You can learn how to set up a free website or social media pages here.
- Next, you’ll have to create an online portfolio showcasing your best work.This could be your best blog posts showing off your expert writing in a particular field, guest posts, articles you’ve written for clients etc.
- Start pitching: You would probably feel a bit nervous about sending emails to people who do not know you, but if you want to get your business out there, you have to start addressing those emails. A good place to start is by looking up potential employers on social media to get personal or professional touchpoints that can help you break the ice and connect with them in your mails.
- When pitching to clients, it’s usually better to individualise them and personalise your mails for each client.That way you can connect better with them and reduce the risk of getting rejected.
There are several advantages to guest posting for beginner content writers.The major one is that guest posting gives you the exposure you need to boost your reputation in the world of content creation. Sometimes, especially in the beginning stages, you may have to do a few guest posts for free or for peanuts. Don’t be disheartened or discouraged when you get offers to post on sites for less than what you believe you deserve.At this point, you should be as concerned about making a reputation for yourself as you are about earning good money.
Where can you guestpost paid or for free? If you check online, you’ll find lists of sites accepting guestposts.
Other useful resources that can help to boost your career in content writing are:
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