The demand for writers: Finding high-paying writing gigs with zero cold calls

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What if I told you, you don’t ever have to make a cold call to score high-paying, marketing content clients? I never have.

Oh, and you don’t have to write for content mills either. In fact, I encourage you not to, unless you’re a newbie in need of writing samples. (The pay is alarmingly low, you have little to no control over terms, rates or client relationships, and you tend to be treated like a low-level worker.)

I know the idea of selling makes you uneasy. In fact, you might feel downright paralyzed, unable to launch or grow your freelance business because of it. We’re going to fix that.

I’m going to walk you through where and how to find high-paying work with zero cold calls and no pressure (on you, or the prospect).

But first, you need to understand where the marketing industry is today — especially with respect to content trends.

Companies are shifting their marketing budgets and strategies to content in a BIG way. For years now, their performance metrics all point to an undeniable fact: Content is the only kind of marketing that pays in today’s market, when buyers are more skeptical, distracted and discerning than they’ve ever been.

In fact, studies tell us content marketing generates 3X more leads per dollar than traditional tactics, and astute marketers are well aware.

According to a 2017 industry survey:

  • 89% of surveyed marketers are using content marketing today.
  • 70% expect to spend more on content production in 2017.
  • 73% said content marketing is an ongoing process for their organizations, not simply a campaign.
  • 63% said their organization is “extremely” or “very committed” to content marketing. That number jumps up to 91% among top-performing marketers.
  • 75% said they can demonstrate how content marketing has increased audience engagement.
  • 62% said they are more successful with content marketing now than a year ago.
  • 85% attributed 2016 successes to higher quality, more efficient content production.
  • 76% prioritize content quality over quantity.
  • Top three challenges: (1) not enough time devoted to content marketing; (2) content creation; (3) strategy issues.

(Here are similar reports that may be more reflective of your niche or part of the world.)

What the above stats mean for you and me is that any company big enough to have a marketing department is likely starving for fresh, quality content. The obstacle is that they often lack in-house talent or capacity to produce all that content.

These companies are already sold on the value of content, have a dedicated budget for it, and are actively seeking out writers.

Did you get that? They are already sold. And they have deep pockets, to boot.

You already have a starving crowd — all you have to do is feed them.

These are the people — and the only people — you should go after. Waste no time on prospects who don’t value, don’t understand, or can’t afford what you have to offer.

Alright, so who are these hungry prospects, and where do you find them?

Look for at least one of the following traits:

(1) They have a marketing director, content director, brand manager, or any variation of those titles.

It’s a safe bet that if a company has invested in a marketing team or director, they’re likely pursuing a content strategy on some level. (Notice this eliminates tiny businesses with no marketing department.)

You’ll find plenty of these folks on LinkedIn, which is my favorite place to prospect. (We cover LinkedIn how-to’s here.)

(2) They show signs of investing in content.

Do they have a blog, white papers, downloadable resources, or other content assets on their website? These are all signs that a company already values and invests in good content, and will continue to do so.

You’ll often find the people responsible for content decisions interacting in online forums related to content, copywriting and inbound marketing. (Again, LinkedIn is a gold mine for that.)

You’ll also find them tweeting with hashtags like #contentmarketing, #copywriting, #inbound and #leadgeneration. Plus, they’re all over this free industry magazine, the Chief Content Officer.

They also love to network with peers through trade associations like the PRSA and AMA, and at conferences like Content Marketing World (possibly my favorite conference ever).

(3) Marketing agencies.

Marketing agencies have always worked with freelancers, but I’ve noticed a sharp increase in this practice in recent years.

One agency owner I know fired his entire staff a couple of years ago and works with freelancers only now. That’s an extreme example, but the point is that a lot of agencies are hurting for skilled writers and keeping in-house staff to a minimum.

An added bonus of working with marketing agencies is that their need for content is never-ending. If they like working with you, they’ll likely feed you recurring work for a long time. (Same goes for medium-to-large companies that have a marketing department.)

Yes, some writers prefer working with small organizations that don’t fit these criteria (e.g., startups, nonprofits, solopreneurs). If that’s your thing, go for it. Pursue the kind of work and the kind of clients that light you up.

Just be mindful that you’ll likely need to devote considerable time and effort to educate those prospects on what content marketing is, and why they should care enough to hand over their credit cards — if they can even afford it. As a fellow writer put it, “that’s a lot of free consulting.”

Otherwise, you’ll find selling is far easier and more profitable when you focus on prospects who are pre-sold, and forget the rest.

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Your Homework:

Begin building a list of prospects that exhibit some of the characteristics outlined above. (If there’s a niche you favor or specialize in, then by all means, narrow your search to align with those strengths or preferences.)

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