What skills should you learn as a freelance writer? Beyond just knowing how to write, there are several skills that will help you land more work and earn more money.
As a freelance writer, you have the opportunity to determine your own earning potential. Always a good thing, right? Depending on your skill set, you can dial up your freelancer rates and consistently increase your per-project income by being strategic about the skills you add to your arsenal. In this post, I want to identify eight skills freelance writers can learn to increase their market value.
I would venture a bet that most people would be proud to clearly and succinctly explain a topic by filling an empty page with words. However, in the online world, that equates to about 400 words. And that’s not great for online content.
Most companies that use content to make sales will, at one point or another, publish long-form content. Long-form content is an article or blog post that exceeds 1500 words, give or take (imagine filling up 3.5 pieces of paper with single-spaced typed words).
SEMRush reports the average length of a typical blog post these days is around 1142 words, with the posts that get the most love on Google averaging more than 2,000 words.
There’s also a direct correlation between higher word counts of a website’s typical blog post and the amount of organic traffic the site gets, AS WELL AS the quality of feedback articles get from readers.
That said, I know that creating long-form content isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It can be tough when you’re writing about topics you don’t already know and understand. So, the ability to consistently create high-value, long-form content on any topic and at any time is a valuable skill for freelance writers.
I actually created an outline you can use to structure longer articles to make sure you’re not babbling or filling your article with fluff. You can check out that outline in this writing tutorial.
Search engine optimization (or SEO) is the process of creating content in a way that helps search engines find and surface content when certain topics are searched.
Most small businesses have no idea how to create the kind of content that will help them show up on Google even though showing up in search results can seriously boost their visibility and their sales. That’s where you come in.
For freelance writers who understand how to create SEO content that can help businesses show up for important search terms like “marketing agency” or “custom journal” or “dog kennel” or whatever terms people search to find what they need, SEO ends up being a lucrative, marketable skill.
I saw an astounding stat on Oberlo recently: for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average business can expect a return of $42. In short, effective email marketing converts in a pretty big way for businesses.
When I say email marketing, I’m not talking about sending notifications of meetings to other employees in a business. I’m talking about being able to create what are called nurture emails specifically designed to help social media followers, blog readers, and leads become customers.
Many companies have at least one way that they get people to sign up to receive emails from them, whether people do it with the expectation of receiving discounts via email and SMS text, or they do it in order to get tips and insights from experts they follow.
For instance, I get emails from Il Makiage. My sister says their foundation is amazing. I get SMS text messages from Knix and Forever 21. I get monthly postcards from Bath & Body Works that include discount coupons and coupons for free stuff. (Love those. In fact, my last trip into Bath & Body Works was last weekend when I loaded up on shower gels.)
I also get emails from publications like MarketingProfs and Statista, and experts like Danielle Leslie and Joanna Wiebe because they provide tons of great info, strategies, and tutorials.
But I don’t always click on their emails, and when I do click on the emails, there has to be a pretty compelling reason for me to attend their webinar, download their book, or buy their thing.
As an email marketer, it would be your job to help someone like me go from reading their emails to buying their thing by writing emails that compel me to take specific actions.
Wanna learn more about email marketing? HubSpot offers an email marketing certification course that’s a really good way for you to get started. I just completed this course myself a few weeks ago.
Copywriting is sales-focused writing. It’s the words and ideas brands use to get their customers to take specific actions. I mentioned Joanna Weibe earlier. She’s one of the founders of CopyHackers, and offers a weekly training session called Tutorial Tuesdays where she spends half an hour guiding writers through copywriting techniques.
You see copywriting all the time. It’s the stuff you hear in TV spots. It’s the words on the full-page ads you see in publications like O Magazine and Real Simple .
Copywriters make big bucks, and the more successful copywriters can negotiate royalties for the sales they are able to generate from their copywriting campaigns. Very cool.
UX (user experience) writers create the content that helps users navigate digital products. You may not think much about this, but the other day, I actually declined adopting a new piece of tech because there weren’t enough instructions and prompts available inside the app to help me quickly find my way around during my 7-day trial period.
The new software I was considering is less expensive than what I’m currently using and seems to be comparable, but I’ll never know for sure because after that third try, I stopped even bothering with the software. I couldn’t figure out how to see and test all the features. Neither could I tell for sure if certain features were off-limits because I hadn’t paid for them or if the UX writing just sucked.
That’s why UX writers are so important. For email marketers and copywriters trying to extol the value of a digital product, the goal is to get a person to sign up for a demo. UX writers are supposed to convert that demo into a sale by understanding how people will use the software and what questions they will have.
In the case of the software I decided not to continue demoing, the value of my subscription would have been about $950 a year.
So, yeah… UX writer.
Writing and publishing ebooks is consistently one of the most popular ways to make money online, both for the person ghostwriting the book and for the person publishing the book.
The thing is many ebook authors have neither the time, the interest, nor the skill to write the kinds of books that will get downloads, generate good reviews, and get even more downloads. So, authors will often hire freelance ghostwriters to pen their books.
Writing ebooks is consistently one of the top sought-after skills on Upwork, and provides freelance writers the chance to earn lump sums of money for completing book projects, many of which can be completed in a matter of just a few weeks.
As a freelance writer, I only write nonfiction business books. That’s my sweet spot. But you may be more interested in ghostwriting fitness books or romance novels or memoirs. And the good thing about this is there is always a need for more books.
WordPress is a content management system that helps website owners (aka publishers) organize and publish content online. In 2021, about one-third of all the websites online are made using WordPress, and 70% of blogs are made using WordPress.
UpskilledMamas.com is a WordPress site. But then, so are CNN, The New Yorker, and Variety.
As a freelance writer, clients won’t necessarily be looking for you to build WordPress sites from scratch. Rather, after writing your article, your client probably expects you to upload your post; embed images, video, or other media into your blog post; interlink to related blog posts; adding meta data to the article and images; embed CTAs and opt-in forms, and use WordPress plug-ins (these are just extra features that help publishers customize their websites) to make sure your article is good for SEO.
Squarespace is an all-in-one website builder and hosting service that comes with tons of pre-made website templates and a dashboard that’s arguably more user-friendly than WordPress since the templates are pre-made and you don’t have to add plug-ins to customize a website.
Squarespace has drag-and-drop functionality, so you don’t have to have any design chops to put a website up.
This set of eight skills aren’t requirements by any stretch of the imagination, but as a writer, the more you’re able to automate the content creation process for your clients, the better off they’ll be and the more consistent work you’ll be able to geenerate.
And just a side note about why you’d want to know how to use WordPress and Squarespace: This may seem like a small thing, but it can take anywhere from a few minutes up to an hour for an editor to upload an article you’ve written to WordPress or Squarespace. It’s not hard at all, but you can imagine how time-consuming that can end up being for an editor who is working with multiple writers. So, adding these skills to your arsenal is really just a small thing you can do that will go a long way toward helping you build repeat customers.