Web writing is a vast field, covering all the words ever written on the internet… and all the words yet to be written.
To give you an idea of the scale, around 7.5 million blog posts get published every day worldwide. And blog posts are just a small part of the writing on the web.
When you become a trained digital copywriter, you give yourself — and your clients — an advantage.
Digital copywriters understand how to write persuasively, how to guide a reader toward taking an action. The action could be to purchase a product or simply to read more about the subject you’re writing about.
Digital copywriters also understand how to write content in such a way that readers and the search engines will find it. This is a crucial skill in a world overwhelmed with online content.
Smart companies understand this and know the value a trained web writer brings to their bottom line.
“Web writing” is an umbrella term for all forms of digital copywriting. It’s the content and copy you encounter online.
This is by no means a complete list. We could add many more… and new types of web writing are developed with almost every new marketing channel or strategy that’s invented.
To give you an idea of the size of the web-writing market, AppSumo has identified 99 marketing channels. Seventy-five of those require web writers. So there’s no shortage of demand for trained digital copywriters.
Before we go on, let’s clear up a common question…
The terms “content” and “copy” are often used interchangeably. But they are quite different. Yet they complement each other, and the distinction between the two can become blurred.
How’s that for a clear answer!
The best way to explain this is to separate the two out and then look at how they fit together.
Content includes many types of web writing:
Again, that’s not an exhaustive list. Content is designed to be “pre-suasive.” It pre-sells the reader on a particular product or service.
In other cases, content provides support after a sale is made.
Either way, it does its job by providing useful information, without pushing for the sale.
Content broadly covers the digital content a visitor reads to get information on a specific topic or to get an answer to a question they have… It’s any web writing they interact with that leads up to a sale or helps fulfill a sale but doesn’t directly involve the sale.
Copy is another term that encompasses many project types:
Copy closes the sale. It gets the prospect to make a purchase or to take an action, by directly asking the reader for the sale.
You’re saying to the reader, “Okay, we’ve given you a whole lot of information about this product. You have enough information to make an informed decision. Would you like to take an action?”
By “take an action” we mean buy, sign up, or whatever action you want the reader to take.
In the above example, once you take the quiz, you need to enter your name and email address to see the results. This is the action they want the reader to take, so they ask directly for the reader’s details. “Do you want this? Take this action and you’ll get it.” That’s copy.
Content leads readers toward a sale by informing them. It answers their questions, solves their problems, provides solutions, builds trust.
Then copy takes over and closes the sale.
But content also sells. It’s just not as direct as copy. Content helps the reader gather information when they’re researching a solution to their problem. In the process, they consume content… articles, listicles, case studies, and so on.
You want the reader to think, Okay, this is a company I can trust. I’d like to find out more. You’re easing the reader toward the sale, without being pushy. You’re building trust and loyalty, providing value, and showing the reader this company knows the product and understands the reader’s needs.
Sometimes, in your content, you might provide a link to further information… another piece of content. Other times, you’ll provide a link that says something like, “If you’re looking to buy Product XYZ, go here.”
At this point, copy takes over. It’s time to ask the reader to buy. The copy could be a landing page or a sales page, for example.
The process we’ve just described is called content marketing. It works because people don’t like being sold to. They particularly don’t like hype or high-pressure sales tactics.
Content marketing avoids the hype.
Instead, it takes the prospect by the hand and leads them along a no-stress path. The company is saying, “We understand you have a problem with X. Here’s some helpful information that explains how to solve this problem.”
So, they provide one or more informative pieces of content. The reader starts to think, Hmm, this company knows a lot about the topic. Finally, someone who understands my problem! And it seems like they have a product that will solve my problem. This builds empathy, trust, and a degree of loyalty.
And then, only after a company has built trust, empathy, and loyalty with the reader does it ask for the sale.
By the time the company asks for a sale, the reader should be completely comfortable with them… and be convinced the company’s product will solve their problem. This is your job as a web writer.
Content marketing flips the sales process on its head.
Instead of shouting at the prospect, “Buy me! Buy me NOW!,” it effectively says… “I see you have a problem. Here’s the solution, here’s how we can help you.”
Can you see why content marketing is such an effective marketing approach? It certainly beats the “old” way of selling. That’s why 82% of marketers actively use content marketing — because it works.
Content marketing is all about helping the user rather than being about the company or the product. Many companies are taking this a step further by embracing UX copywriting, which is covered in detail here.
We’ve just seen how content and copy work together as a team in content marketing. But this is only the tip of the web writing iceberg.
Let’s expand our horizons and take a look at the big picture. Then you’ll see exactly why content marketing is such a massive opportunity for digital copywriters.
Content marketing broadly comprises four discrete stages:
We’ll go through each one in detail. And as we go through each stage, you’ll get a better picture of the scale of web writing opportunities available to digital copywriters.
Stage 1 is about attracting potential customers to a business.
These prospects may never have heard of Company A. So they won’t know or trust the company. Your job is to build trust.
You do this by writing content. This content will show them you have a solution to their problem.
Imagine the company sells and installs window tinting for vehicles. And from your keyword research, you see the most common question is “What is the darkest legal tint I can have on my car windows?”
So you write a detailed blog post addressing this question. You even add a table or infographic, listing the rules for each US state.
Then at the end of the article, you have a link to another blog post. It answers the next most popular question, “How do I safely remove old window tinting?”
In Stage 1, you’re building trust. You want the reader to think, This company seems to know a lot about window tinting. They might be able to help me.
You’re trying to build website traffic, create awareness of the company, and generate leads.
Blog posts are just one type of digital content you can use in Stage 1. There are several others to as well:
You’ve created interest and built an audience. Now it’s time to move them to the next stage.
This is the point where you say, “Okay, you like what you see so far. Let’s get to know each other better.”
You do this by providing more content.
In our window tinting example, we used two blog posts to generate leads. At the end of those posts, you included a link to another blog post where your reader could learn even more. Let’s say you’ve written a third blog post explaining how to use one of the company’s products to safely remove window tinting.
It includes a video showing the company’s product in use.
You’re showing the prospect that the company does indeed have a solution to their problem. And by showing the product in use, the prospect can see it works… so this is a company they can trust to solve their problem.
They are moving down the path toward becoming a customer.
As with Stage 1, you can use multiple types of content in Stage 2:
Now it’s time to turn these prospects into customers.
Remember the third blog post and video in our window tinting example? You’ll have included a link at the end of the video and at the end of the blog post.
This time though, the link is a call to action (CTA). Your call to action might be a “Click Here to Buy” button or “Go here to buy our complete Window Tinting Removal Kit.”
At this point, you use copy. It’s time to be direct… “Do you want this product? If so, then buy it here.”
The CTA in the blog post and video will send the buyer to a sales page, a landing page, an online shop, or a product description.
Depending on the product or service, you might also use any of the following:
Stage 3 is a kind of go/no-go point. It’s the point where you ask for the sale. If they don’t buy, they were either never going to buy anyway or somewhere along the line, the case you made wasn’t as convincing as it could have been.
But if they do buy, the company has a new customer.
Now it’s time to look after the customers, both old and new.
This stage should be a no-brainer for every company. However, you’ll see many companies stop at Stage 3. Once they have a new customer, they think the job’s done.
But it’s not.
Nurturing and converting a prospect into a new customer costs five times as much as retaining an existing customer. Why? Because the company has to spend money on the first three stages to get a new customer.
At this stage, the customer knows the company and has experience with the product. Treat them well, and they are very likely to buy again. They may even recommend the product to others.
What type of information should you provide in Stage 4? The first thing you’d do is send an automated email series, thanking the new customer for their business and introducing them to other products. (We cover this in detail in our article on e-commerce.)
In addition to that, you’ll keep in touch with the customer regularly and provide good support materials on your website.
Staying with our example of a window tinting business, you might…
You could also use any of the following:
Stage 4 is especially important now that we all have smartphones. Once we buy a product, we expect companies to have how-to articles and/or videos.
As an example, imagine you just installed a water tank in your home. It’s plumbed into the gutters and ready to go. But you’re wondering if you need to flush it out before first use.
You’re standing outside, right beside your brand-new tank. You take your smartphone out of your pocket and open the tank manufacturer’s website. Then in the Search, you type “do I need to flush new rainwater tank.”
You expect an answer. But unfortunately, their Search returns the dreaded “Sorry, no results” message.
You click back out of the company’s website and Google the same question. The company’s competitor has the answer on their website. In fact, they have a series of helpful articles and videos… even answers to questions you hadn’t thought of yet.
Now imagine what would have happened if you had Googled this question before you bought the water tank. Which company would you have been more likely to buy from? The one with dozens of helpful tips, articles, and videos… or the one with no information?
The smartphone has revolutionized how we use the internet. We want answers, and we want them now. Any business that doesn’t understand this will quickly be left behind.
Take a quick look back through the four stages of content marketing. We just listed well over 30 different types of content and copy you could be writing as a web writer.
Even with our simple Window Tinting Removal Kit example, we used at least six types — blog posts, video scripts, sales page, thank-you email, follow-up articles, and follow-up videos.
If you were the go-to digital copywriter for our fictional window tinting company, you’d be busy… You’d need only one or two more clients to be fully booked. So when we say the opportunities for web writers in content marketing are massive, we’re not exaggerating!
Here’s a helpful graphic from AWAI, showing the content and copy typically used in the four stages. And keep in mind, you need to grab only a small part of this work to fill your work schedule as a web writer.
Now, because there’s so much need for content marketing, it’s smart to generate multiple pieces of content from one idea.
Web writers can use different media to communicate.
Web writers also have dozens of marketing channels to work with.
That second list is not exhaustive. Combine the first list with the second and you end up with thousands of combinations.
Marketers typically want to cover as many marketing channels as they possibly can. So, you can offer them a technique called “repurposing” to help them reach this goal in a practical, cost-effective way… and you’ll become a hero in the process.
Imagine a marketer asks you to write a blog post. You could write that one blog post and then move on to the next client.
Or you could offer to repurpose your blog post.
Repurposing is a simple yet effective way to get the most from one piece of content. Here’s what you could propose to your client:
Keep in mind, these prices are at the low end of what you can charge. But even at these lower rates, you’ll be earning a healthy income.
You started with a $300 blog post. But now you offer the client 18 pieces of content for $1,850. You could easily charge more for the package, around $2,500. Why? Because it’s packed with value for the client. Eighteen pieces of content for $2,500 or even $3,000 is great value — all the more so because the additional content pieces will help make the original more successful.
And you can easily complete this entire package in less than a week.
That’s a neat package deal for the client, a healthy paycheck for you… and an ideal way to push one piece of content out to multiple marketing channels.
But repurposing creates a dilemma for clients. They can’t simply send out all this marketing content at once. It needs to be organized, scheduled so it goes out to the right channels at the right time.
Your client needs a strategy for their marketing campaign.
You can fill this void by offering to design a content strategy for them.
Marketing campaigns are complex. They have dozens of moving parts. Just look at our simple repurposing example above. One piece of content spawned 17 additional pieces of content!
If you’re looking to step up to the next level, offer to become a client’s content strategist. You’ll get paid good money to…
As a content strategist, you manage a company’s overall marketing strategy. You have a high perceived value, and you’re a vital part of their marketing team. You can easily be paid around $5,000 to create a content strategy, then negotiate a healthy monthly retainer fee to execute and manage it.
If you’d like to find out more, AWAI covers the content strategist opportunity in detail here.
As we’ve just seen, the opportunities for web writers are pretty much unlimited. Content marketing has blown demand for trained web writers sky high.
Should this be social media posts?
Nick Usborne is a pioneer in digital copywriting and a talented teacher. Nick has created a course to help digital copywriters understand and master the most common web writing projects.
Offered through AWAI, this course covers every aspect of digital copywriting, from SEO to writing sales pages to social media to getting clients.
Find out more about the Digital Copywriter’s Handbook here.
And here’s the proof…
That search is for the term “web writer jobs.” However, the term “content writer jobs” will reveal even more job ads.
You’ll also find many companies now offer full-time or part-time work from home… one of the few positives to emerge from the global pandemic. Businesses generally use the terms “remote” or “hybrid” jobs. So keep an eye out for these if you’re planning to work from home. And plenty of businesses are looking for freelancers, so watch for those opportunities as well.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
There’s a better way to find work as a web writer than trolling through hundreds of job ads. And it avoids the onerous job application process.
These two resources cover a wealth of useful tips and ideas for choosing a niche and getting started:
They’re worth checking out, even if you’ve already chosen a niche and have clients.
Make a list of companies in your niche. Then check out their websites and their social media. How often do they publish content?
The ones who publish most consistently and most frequently are the ones you should contact first.
This might seem counterintuitive. Shouldn’t you go after the companies that don’t publish much content? After all, they’re the ones who need the most help.
True, they are the ones who could use the most help.
However, the ones who publish most frequently already check several important boxes:
These are the companies who will value your services the most. They are the ones most likely to say yes.
But how do you make first contact with these potential clients? This is the point where new web writers most often falter. The idea of cold calling fills many of us with dread. Fortunately, there’s an easier way…
The first thing you need to do is look for content gaps. Look at the websites and/or social media channels of the companies on your list.
What’s missing? What would make their content stronger? You might see an opportunity for a series of how-to articles, a video series that explains how to get the most from their products, areas where their homepage could be improved, and so on.
Once you find those gaps, the next step is to contact them directly.
Nearly all companies have a Contact Us page on their website. It usually includes an info@company_name.com email address.
In larger companies, this email address will be monitored by a “gatekeeper.” That person will scan each new email, then pass it directly to the relevant person within their company. In smaller companies, the gatekeeper is usually the business owner or a decision maker like the marketing manager.
Simply send an email. No cold calling or awkward self-promotion… and no need for resumes or protracted job applications.
Say something like this:
Hi, I’m a trained digital copywriter specializing in [your niche, which is related to their business type].
I noticed you have been running a series on Topic XYZ in your blog posts. I have some ideas for additional blog posts that would complement that series.
Who is the best person in your company to speak to about this?
By taking this approach, you go straight to the decision maker.
If they get back to you, be ready with a bunch of ideas. You might propose a series of blog posts, new content ideas for a social media channel, or a series of infographics to complement existing blog posts… just to list a few examples.
Be their idea-generator. Make it easy for them to say yes.
Always keep in mind, the person who contacts you will be a busy person. If you present new ideas, you’re making their lives easier.
If they say yes to your first proposal, complete the agreed-upon work, and then, if they’re happy with it, give them another bunch of ideas. Pretty soon they’ll view you as a valuable part of their team.
In fact, they’ll likely start approaching you when they have a new marketing campaign… “We have a new product, Product A. We need a series of blog posts explaining more about Product A and how it works. What ideas do you have for this?”
Once you’ve established your worth, ask what else they need help with. This way, you’ll build a long-term relationship with the company.
Bonus Tip: Write a few samples, in case they ask for them. You can make some up. Even better, go to their website and write a short post about one of their products. This will help them see the value you can bring to them specifically.
You might be wondering how a typical web-writing project unfolds and how you can grow your business. Let’s set up an example to show how one project can lead to another.
Before we do, we should address the one thing that’s crucial for freelance writing success. It’s the key to success or the road to failure… and it’s entirely dependent on you.
We’re talking about deadlines.
THE best way to lose a client is to miss deadlines. DO NOT miss deadlines… EVER.
If you promise to deliver by a given date, make sure you deliver it by that date — before if possible.
Should an unexpected event happen like a death in the family or sickness, contact your client immediately. Talk to them, tell them what’s happened. Explain how this project will be X days late. And give them the option to go elsewhere.
Tell them you understand if they need to pass your project on to someone else. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, they’ll work around your delayed deadline.
Build a reputation for meeting deadlines. Clients might not notice if you do meet deadlines. But they most certainly will notice if you miss a deadline.
Okay, with this warning about deadlines ringing loudly in your ears, we’ll get back to our sample project.
Imagine you followed the approach we set out earlier and landed a client by…
Imagine you’ve agreed to provide one article per month. You might be thinking, One article per month! That’s not enough. And yes, you’re right.
But you need to build trust with your new client. That takes time.
Imagine every positive interaction between you and the company as one brick in a wall you’re building.
Every negative interaction? A whole row of bricks disappears. And the entire wall crumbles to dust if it’s really serious. (Missing deadlines springs to mind here.)
So at first, you’re establishing a relationship. They need to test you out… Can you deliver as promised, how good is your writing, do you write in their voice, can you follow guidelines, how easy are you to work with?
When you get started, ideally search for three or four clients. Then as you progress, you’ll figure out which ones you want to continue working with.
You’ll let the non-performers or difficult clients fall away and be left with two or three solid clients. They’ll provide you with more than enough work to keep you busy and grow your income.
Once you’ve built trust with a client, you can ask for more work.
Say you’ve been writing a new article every month. The client is happy with your work, so you suggest they set up a retainer deal. This is easy for them because they can set up a monthly recurring payment. And it means consistent work for you.
Then you notice another gap in their content. Say they send out a regular e-newsletter, but you can see ways to make it stronger. Pitch a series of ideas for their newsletter, showing how they could make it better. The company might ask you to write their newsletter as a result.
But if they don’t, it’s okay.
Look for other gaps in their content and keep suggesting new ideas. Maybe they need help with social media, writing video scripts, writing Google ads, or updating existing content with SEO.
Or their landing pages could be ineffective. Offer to rewrite a landing page, and ask them to compare the click-throughs it generates with the original landing page (an A/B test).
If yours performs better, ask them if they want all their landing pages rewritten.
And remember how we spoke about repurposing content earlier? Offer to repurpose the articles you’ve already written… Offer them multiple pieces of content in one neat package. In the process, you’ll multiply your income.
Eventually, you might even become their content strategist… if this is something you want to do.
A word of warning here. Don’t bombard them with ideas all at once. Always keep in mind, marketing managers are busy people. “Frantic” might be a better word.
Put yourself in their shoes. Always ask, “How can I make their lives easier?” Then figure out ways to help them, ways to take work off their hands.
First build trust and empathy with your clients… then the work will follow.
We’ve seen the incredible opportunities available to web writers. And we’ve seen how repurposing one piece of content can boost your income by six, eight, or even ten times.
There’s no doubt, content marketing is where the opportunities are for web writers. We saw how 82% of marketers actively use content marketing… That’s millions of pieces of content every day.
You might prefer the low-key, conversational style of writing informational content. Or maybe writing fast-paced, persuasive sales copy is more your thing.
It doesn’t matter. Web writing offers both… in spades.
And the exciting thing is, there’s always something new to try. Web writing covers the entire spectrum, from blog posts all the way through to long-form direct-response copywriting.
But the best part about being a web writer? It’s fun.
You’ll wake up every morning looking forward to starting on your latest project. The variety is endless, and every new project is another challenge.
Digital copywriting is the way of the future. Marketers continue to move online, and they’re not going back. Your job is to help them stand out from the noise.
If you can do that, you’ll find web writing is a very rewarding career.