How to become a content writer – an introduction to content writing
Find out everything you need to know about content writing, including how to get started in the industry.
We all consume (and create) content on a daily basis. Websites, blog posts, videos, emails, social media posts, and similar digital formats are all types of content. In many instances, a content writer will have a hand in creating such content. In this article, we provide an introduction to content writing.
As well as exploring what the role of content writer entails, we also examine the different types of content they might produce, how they write them, and how you can get started as a content writer.
What is content writing?
Let’s start with the basics – what is content writing? In the realm of digital marketing, content writing is the process of producing content, often for marketing purposes. Although you might associate this definition with things like blog posts and website landing pages, it can also include any form of content that requires planning, writing and editing.
Content writers will often write blog posts and web pages, craft social media posts and email marketing and even work on press releases and video or audio scripts. It’s a varied field that touches on many different areas of digital marketing.
Copywriting vs content writing
The differences between copywriting and content writing can vary depending on who you ask. Often, the two disciplines will overlap, and many writers act as both copywriters and content writers. So what’s the difference?
Copywriters usually focus on persuading readers and selling a brand. It’s often short-form, appearing on ads, products, taglines, and similar types of marketing copy. Content generally tends to be longer-form, focusing on informing, educating or entertaining readers.
Why does content writing matter?
You can probably already think of some useful ways in which written content can be utilised. But why is this a niche that requires a special set of skills? While it’s true that anyone can write, it’s not enough to just put words on a page. Content writers and copywriters must craft something compelling, original, engaging, and ultimately well-written.
The benefits of producing such high-quality content are numerous, and we’ve picked out some examples of why below:
It gives you something to market
Content forms the backbone of any digital marketing channel. Whether it’s short-form copy that appears on ads, product pages, or social media posts, or long-form content on blogs and whitepapers, engaging words can have many uses.
For example, this blog post on content writing will appear in search engine results pages shortly after publishing. It may also feature on a carefully crafted social media post, or appear in some copy in one of our emails. We could even feature it as part of our PPC (pay-per-click advertising) activity.
Hopefully, those who read it will find it engaging and informative, and might even want to learn more about mastering digital marketing strategy with our ExpertTrack.
It helps with SEO
One of the central pillars of any marketing strategy is search engine optimisation. Essentially, you want to make sure that people searching for keywords related to your business can find you online.
As we explored in our guide to SEO, ensuring your content is optimised for search engines will ultimately make your website more popular and lead to more business success. When creating great online content, the principles of SEO should always play a role, ensuring your writing is visible to those who will find it relevant.
If you want to learn more about SEO, you can check out our ExpertTrack that follows the basics of the practice right through to how to make it profitable.
It establishes your brand
While you and your company might know that you’re experts in your field, your potential customers or clients might not have the same perception. By producing high-quality and informative content, you can establish your brand as leaders in your industry.
By proving yourself as an expert in your field, you gain an authoritative voice, which helps to build trust and drive new business. Again, content writing plays a huge role in this strategy. You can find out how to build a brand that’s socially driven with our online course.
It helps you reach new people
Everyone enjoys good content. Whether it tells a story, captures your imagination, or guides you through the principles of a new skill, it can inspire and educate. It’s also the type of thing that people share and engage with.
Content that is shared reaches new people, raising awareness of your business’ brand and expanding your audience. Similarly, well-written content that targets specific keywords will reach new people through search engine results.
Types of content writing
Throughout the article so far, we’ve mentioned a variety of different ways of communicating through writing. Let’s look at some of them in more detail to find out exactly what’s required from these types of writing:
- Blogging. Blogs are often a central part of a strong content strategy. They can be used to communicate a variety of ideas related to your area of expertise. Blogs are generally less salesy, and more of a way to build brand authority and awareness.
- Emails. Another key area of content strategy is email marketing. There are few better ways to reach your customer base than with a well-written email that encourages engagement with your business.
- Social media. Social channels require a writer to tap into what’s current and communicate in and across a variety of different mediums. This style of writing generally needs to be succinct and stand out from the crowd.
- Ad and sales copy. Whether on print or digital ads, sales copy must persuade and convince. Again, brevity is at the heart of this style of writing, and a good copywriter can tell a story and evoke emotions using only a few words.
- Product content. Selling products and services requires a unique set of writing skills. You’ll have to balance sales copy with SEO and storytelling.
- White papers. Writing a white paper requires a deep dive into a specific subject, often in technical details. The aim is to educate readers and demonstrate how a problem is solved.
- Brand journalism. This type of content writing focuses on telling stories about a brand. This can include formats such as press releases, customer or brand stories, and even internal communications.
What does a content writer do?
As you can see, this is a role that can be varied in terms of workload. But if we were to look at a content writer job description, what would it entail? Of course, a lot would be company- or industry-specific. However, we’ve picked out some of the main elements that might appear in a content writer job description:
Content marketing often forms part of a wider strategy. A good content writer will be involved with a project from the planning stages, understanding the brief, audience, and purpose of the content.
They may get involved with planning the wider campaign, considering the scope and impact of a project, the exact content that’s needed, and what it’s expected to achieve. They will also plan out each piece of written content, potentially researching keywords, best practices, and more details on the subject.
Content writers will spend the majority of their time in the writing process. Again, the volume of work will depend on the industry, business, and scope of each project. Some assignments may be a few hundred words, others a couple of thousand or more.
As a writer, you may spend hours agonising over a few words of carefully crafted copy one day, while you write an essay-length piece the next. You’ll also likely need to draft several versions and go through an editing and approval process before your work is ready to publish.
While editing your own work is important, there’s a good chance you’ll also proofread other writers’ work too. As well as taking into account elements such as spelling, punctuation and grammar, you’ll likely also work with a style guide and tone of voice document.
A hallmark of good content is the quality and accuracy of your work. It’s always vital to have a second (and sometimes third) set of eyes on the content before you set it live into the world. Similarly, refreshing existing content can play an important role in SEO, meaning you’ll need to possibly check and update others’ work.
Ultimately, you want to know how successful your work is. Content writers and copywriters should have at least a basic understanding of data analytics to assess the effectiveness of their writing.
When it comes to reviewing what’s worked and what hasn’t, there are often a few metrics to consider. On social media, you might measure engagements, on a blog, organic traffic. Similarly, for products, you might consider conversion rates and on ads, click-through rates.
How to become a content writer
If the life of a writer sounds appealing, you’re probably wondering how you can get started as a content writer. Thankfully, there are multiple routes into this type of writing. Many people start within a marketing team at an organisation. However, if you’re looking to strike out on your own, our guide on how to become a freelance writer will come in useful.
Below, we’ve also highlighted some of the ways that you can start getting into content writing:
Many people aspire to be writers. There is a certain romance to it, after all. However, many of these people don’t actually write, which can be a real problem. It takes a lot of hours to get proficient in anything, and writing is no exception. The majority of people can write to a reasonable level, but it takes time and effort to get good.
You might start by writing your own blog. It can be about literally anything you choose, so long as you’re regularly writing and getting practice. You can also learn about some of the other aspects of digital marketing while you do so.
There are other ways you can practice writing too. The One Minute Briefs twitter page is a fun way to improve your ad copy game. Even getting started writing fiction can help you get in the groove.
Find your niche
Many content writers and copywriters work across a broad range of topics, often collaborating across a marketing team. However, it’s not uncommon for writers to have a particular area of specialisation.
Whether it’s creating compelling ad copy, shareable social media posts, or engaging and informative blog posts, having a focus can help you hone your skills in these areas. Again, you can work on many of these skills.
The classic dilemma is that you can’t get a job without experience, but can’t get experience without a job. There are several ways around this. The first is to build yourself a portfolio of work that you can share with potential employers. These examples of your work can be mock-ups of ads, blog posts you’ve written yourself, or ideas for social media campaigns.
What’s more, you don’t have to even start out as a writer. Many marketing roles dovetail nicely into writing experience, giving you the chance to gain valuable experience with marketing before finding your feet as a writer.
For example, you could start with our ExpertTrack on CRM fundamentals and practice to prepare for a CRM role and then work on your written communication and engagement skills.
Work on your skills
If you want to become a content writer, it’s useful to work on some of the key skills we’ve mentioned so far. As well as your writing abilities, you might also want to consider working on:
- Communication. You’ll need to convey ideas effectively and to a wide audience. Communication and collaboration skills can play a significant role in this.
- Problem-solving. Creative problem-solving skills are invaluable in any role, and writers are no exception.
- Research. The ability to find and verify details is a key role for any good writer. Working on researching a project can help you get to the heart of an issue.
- Adaptability. You’ll need to be resilient and adaptable working as a content writer, making sure that you can change your focus and work on multiple projects at once.
Hopefully, our introduction to content writing has given you some ideas and inspiration for how to get started. This is a diverse role that gives you the chance to work in many different areas and industries, and it can be highly rewarding.
The key to getting started is to focus on honing your writing skills and getting as much experience and exposure as possible. However, learning some of the other fundamentals of marketing can also be beneficial.