How Student Marketers Can Build Awesome Content Marketing Skills with Freelance Writing

As a student marketer, how can you make money? Better yet, how can you gain professional experience? While students often view internships as the sole answer to these questions, there’s another option: freelance writing.

Freelance writers publish articles and essays for clients. They might write a piece for their blog or create social media captions. In other words, freelance writers work just like content marketers.

Unlike many marketing professionals, college students write every single day. You have to pump out essays at a crazy pace. You might even have to write a script for a presentation. In other words, marketing students work exactly like content marketers.

Do you see the connection?

Marketing students have the opportunity to gain critical content marketing skills while making money through freelance writing. Not only will you refine your storytelling abilities but you will also develop time management, research, and organizational skills. 

“Marketing students have the opportunity to gain critical content marketing skills while making money through freelance writing.” – @TechieToFu

As a freelance writer, I ended up making over $2,500 within a few months – and so can you.

Excited about the prospect of freelance writing? Take a look through this seven-step guide to get you started.

1. Pick a profitable and interesting niche 

Before diving headfirst into freelance writing, spend time thinking about your intended writing field. You want your niche, or your topic, to be both profitable and interesting for you. While gaming might sound fun, you have to think about how many other freelancers work in that field.

Consider the following when picking a niche:

  • Your education
  • Your hobbies
  • Your professional experience
  • Your interests

For example, if you study marketing, it would make sense for you to enter a niche with this topic in mind. You could write primarily about major social media trends or even focus on covering TikTok-specific ones.

You might think focusing on a specific area minimizes your chances of succeeding. After all, you’ll have a smaller set of clients to work with. However, you’ll seldom make money writing about everything under the sun. By picking a niche and sticking with it, you’ll make more money and refine specific skills.

2. Find a freelancing platform that works for you

Rather than pitching yourself to professionals on LinkedIn, consider creating an account on a freelancing platform. According to DDIY, ten popular freelancing sites include:

  • Upwork
  • Fiverr
  • Panda Copy
  • SEOButler
  • WriterAccess
  • SEO Content Hero
  • Constant Content
  • The Writer Finder
  • Guru

Several platforms can connect you with clients right away – but they come at a cost. Most sites take a percentage of what you make on the platform. While this may seem unfavorable, as a student, you have a limited amount of time. When I first started freelance writing, I chose to start on Upwork.

Next, set up your profile. Remember to include your education and any relevant courses you’ve taken. Include writing samples and any prior work experience. For example, if you’ve worked as a marketing intern, make sure you reference it on the page.

When writing your introductory section, think creatively. After all, clients will first see your introduction when visiting your page. Consider focusing on the prospective customer first and then talk about yourself.

3. Write or find samples of your work

Now that you have your profile set up, you need to get your writing samples together. While you might have excellent writing skills, clients need to see it.

Conduct an audit of previous essays you’ve written for class. Before posting them on your freelancing profile, make sure the general public can understand your writing. Clients will not want their blogs to come off as academic or inaccessible, which school papers can sound like.

If you find yourself coming up empty, consider writing three sample articles to get started. Even better, write about recent topics related to your niche. Is there a current marketing trend you can analyze? Did a major company go through a public relations disaster recently? Prospective clients will recognize these articles as reflective of your current set of skills.

4. Set your price-per-word

You made your profile. You have your writing samples. Now, you need to set a price-per-word.

Before figuring out your price, remember to know your worth. Often, students count themselves out as inexperienced simply because they have yet to graduate. But the opposite is true. More than anyone, students have recent knowledge of key marketing concepts and theories. They also typically write much more often than most marketing professionals.

With that said, there isn’t a clear strategy on how to set an optimal price. These factors depend greatly on the industry, your experience, and the writing format. To give you a basic idea of where to start, Austin Copywriter reports the following:

  • 0.20 cents per word for new writers and $1 per word for experienced ones

But keep in mind this changes across industries. If you write in a more technical field, such as those within STEM, you can expect a much higher rate-per-word. However, if you freelance in a saturated area, you can expect a lower rate.

Either way, you need to ensure your rate reflects your experience and quality of work. If you find yourself writing 1000 words per hour, you would need to set a rate of three cents per word to make $30 in that time.

Another point to keep in mind: if you charge a higher rate, you will attract better clients. When you start freelance writing, you will likely run into difficult clients. But when you charge high rates, you work with people who value your writing skills.

5. Start pitching to clients

You have the foundations of a great freelance writing profile – now it’s time to start writing and making money.

On freelancing platforms, you can see a list of available jobs posted by clients all over the world. Within these postings, you will find a summary of the project, the client’s work history, and an expected rate. You should also see a button you can click to apply for the listing.

Your pitch matters a lot as a freelance writer. You need to demonstrate you understand their goals and problems. You also have to explain how your skills and experience enable you to solve their issue better than other candidates.

Here are a couple of pointers to keep in mind:

  • When possible, address the client by name (e.g., “Hello Sam”)
  • Focus on the project first – it’s not about you (e.g., “I totally understand why you need help writing blogs on SEO – it’s an incredibly complicated topic, one that I have written about previously”)
  • Relay your experience as a solution (e.g., “I have written three articles on SEO – attached here – and I’m confident I can match the voice of your brand”)
  • Give them a free sample of your work (e.g., “I’m really excited about this project – here are a few example topics for your blog we can start with”)
  • End with a call-to-action (e.g., “Thank you for taking the time to read my proposal – how about we start the conversation with the first blog topic I suggested?”)

When I freelance wrote, I put my customers at the center of my pitches. Why? Because they did not care about me or my experience. I eventually wanted to up my rate, so I wrote a few pitches using this strategy. Within one day, I doubled my rate because I made the pitch all about the client instead of myself.

6. Foster relationships with your current customers

If you’re able to secure a project with a client, congratulations! But you still have to foster an effective relationship with your new customers.

First and foremost, ensure you turn in quality work in a timely manner. Proofread your article and double-check for typos. 

Secondly, when you finish your first project, pitch the next one. Drum up a few topic ideas and send them to the client. You want to try and turn every good client into a long-term one. Why? Because applying for new projects can eat up a lot of valuable time. Long-term customers will also secure consistent income and experience for you.

If a client ends up not liking your first piece, take their feedback and communicate with them. Unless the feedback comes across as angry or irrational, you might have misinterpreted what the client expected. Offer to amend the issue by implementing their changes. Make a promise to communicate more effectively during the next project.

7. As you continue writing, consider upping your rate

When you work at a company, your rate goes up commensurate with your experience. Freelance writing operates in the same exact way. As you get more experience, your rate should go up.

During the beginning of my freelance writing career, I made the big mistake of getting comfortable. I worked with one client who paid well – and stuck with them for several months. At one point, I realized how much money I left on the table. I had written tons of articles but never upped my rate.

Eventually, I realized my mistake and worked to amend it. Here’s what I did. 

First, you should pitch to new clients using your higher rate. Once you secure a higher-paying client, let the older one know of this change. A point of note here: you’re not requesting a higher rate, you’re stating it. Sure, the client might reject it – but you already have a higher-paying one elsewhere. You need to stand up for yourself and not accept suboptimal rates. 

Having gotten this far, you now have a solid understanding of how to start refining your content marketing skills through freelance writing.

If you hate writing, don’t worry – you can do other side projects to build marketing skills. But remember: a lot of marketing relies on writing and telling stories. By freelancing, you’ll set yourself up for success in your future marketing career. Take a look back through the steps above and get started sooner rather than later.

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