While those within the writing/editing field may see this and think, “Duh, dude, I know this one,” many people out there don’t know the answer and use the terms more or less interchangeably.
What is content & what is copy?
In the world of words, “content” covers a multitude of things, including scripts, ebooks, journals, blog posts, white papers, technical guides, newsletters, guides, infographics, and more. The intent is more to educate, inform, or entertain, and the length depends on the needs of the piece.
“Copy” is used to refer specifically to writing with the intent to persuade. Sales ads, social media ads, commercials, slogans, landing pages, product pages, sales emails — copy is written to sell you something. It is persuasive writing, and typically the result is shorter.
While they have different purposes and intent, it is easy to remember it this way: Content is basically an umbrella term that covers all writing and word-related things. It can include copy as well, but in the writing world, most of us use the two distinctively — after all, words matter!
Think about “content creators” on social media. They are primarily using stories/scripts, videos, and images to share their lives. They are using the content from their lives to create physical content on the internet to both entertain their audience but ALSO to draw them in and get more followers.
In the writing industry, the two terms have specific meanings.
To put it simply, let’s say your company has a blog on its website and sends out weekly email newsletters to customers.
The content writer is coming up with topics, researching, finding credible sources and images, and writing blog posts for the blog portion of the site.
The copywriter writes the words on the website landing pages and creates an effective email newsletter to persuade subscribers to come to the website, read more, and spend money.
They are both words, but the purpose and intent differ — which requires a different set of skills.
Another example is a stand-up comedian. Their set is content, and the ads for the show are copy.
As a note, since copywriting is more specialized, it tends to be higher paid. So, if you are thinking about becoming a copywriter — do it! Take some courses and learn in the ins and outs of copywriting and jump in with both feet!
I am in several writing and freelancing groups on various platforms, including Facebook and LinkedIn.
I enjoy the community of other writers and seeing how others use software, how they approach issues with clients and more.
There are also a lot of newbies in those groups who have a ton of questions about finding clients, determining pricing, dealing with rejection, and scheduling.
I came across a GREAT question in one of the groups and really think it’s something many freelancers deal with. So here I am to give YOU this info!
Here is the question:
I have kept her name out for privacy’s sake.
Here is the answer I wrote to her:
It took me a while, but I learned to turn it off on weekends (unless I was under a deadline).
Here’s what you need to start doing: When you receive new work, whether from a new client or a current one, acknowledge receipt via email and ask when the deadline is.
Instead of just immediately starting, start having specific deadlines and then craft your workdays around them. If you have 3–4 weeks to dev edit a 50k-word draft, you know your pace and can start to set a schedule, such as “edit 10 pages per day” or “12,000 words per week,” etc. Build a schedule instead of just opening an email and starting work ASAP.
One thing that works for me is every single Monday morning, the first thing I do before starting any work is write down my to do list for the week. What projects need working on? Do I have any hard deadlines this week? Is there anyone I should be following up with? Any invoicing to do? I write a list by hand in a notebook I keep on my desk. Then I also have the pleasure of checking off things I complete “Edit 50 pages of X project — CHECK” or “Write press release and send to Y for review — CHECK.”
Having a visual list right in front of you that you can scratch out and add to as the week goes on, and then use it to push things forward to the next week as needed.
Let’s discuss this further.
When you first start freelancing, it’s easy to keep on top of everything. You’re typically not super busy yet, or haven’t put together a schedule yet, and can easily just check your email throughout the day.
You respond immediately to all new inquiries. When you get a new project, you jump right in and start working on it.
Maybe you have some organization and tools set up, maybe not.
Since the very beginning, I have used Google Drive to organize and house all of my projects. While these days I have to pay a bit (maybe $20 per year) for extra storage, that organization still works for me.
But you’re not super busy yet. And you probably haven’t really instituted a schedule.
Heck, maybe you’re still working from the couch or from bed!
Freelancing can be a full-time job — with a full-time salary.
But in most cases, that is because you treat it like a job. Like a business.
Don’t just do whatever whenever you feel like it.
Get on the phone with clients and discuss deadlines, deliverables, and payment terms.
Set up a workspace in your home where you can work and be comfortable and focused.
SET SCHEDULES & REMINDERS.
I do not know how to tell you how important it is to have a schedule for work and deadlines!
I use my Google calendar to put down deadlines on the dates projects are due and then use my weekly physical checklist to list out specific tasks that need to be done that week. Every week is a new, fresh page, even if the previous list still has unchecked items. Those things get moved to the new page.
Set a reminder in your calendar to check in with clients and give them brief progress updates on the project. Mine is usually a brief email to let them know I am on track to meet the deadline, and then I include anything additional, like if I need more information, access to something, for them to review something, etc.
Let yourself rest on weekends! That email can wait until Monday; it is most definitely not a writing emergency — and even if it is, enjoy one of my favorite quotes:
“A lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”
*chef’s kiss* what a beautiful sentiment. You’re allowed to stop working at a reasonable hour and not answer unexpected calls or emails at 10 pm!
If you TREAT freelancing as just “Oh, my side gig for a bit of extra cash,” then that’s all it might be.
But if you take it seriously and treat it like a job, even a part-time one, you are more likely to succeed faster.
So, find your rhythm. Create a schedule, make deadlines, organize your work and your space, and take weekends to yourself.
But I…(shhh, don’t tell anyone!) like marketing myself and my business.
No, no, don’t run away!
I know most people hate marketing themselves.
It can feel “braggy” to talk about yourself. There is anxiety when approaching strangers. What if the person/company doesn’t like your work? And, hey, marketing takes time away from other (paid) work.
“I’m just not good at it.”
“I don’t see the point.”
I have HEARD IT ALL.
And I still know it to be 100% true that if you market yourself, even a little bit, you will get back SO MUCH return and will be more profitable and successful FASTER.
So, instead of a lecture on why marketing is super important and why you really just need to do it, full stop, I am going to give you a few quick tips you can implement starting right now to do some marketing with minimal work or effort on your part.
None of the below ideas require you to spend hours researching or scrolling through social media or emailing individual companies and people. They are all free. And even just picking a couple and trying them will show you how useful this kind of marketing can be.
I CHALLENGE YOU:
Do just a couple of these things consistently for 60–90 days and see if you are getting more leads, more money, and better clients.
Just see if it works for you.
You may find that some things work better than others. Great! Drop the ones that don’t work after the first 30-60 days and focus on the things that are producing results. Maybe replace it with another item on the list if you have time to incorporate it.
You may be surprised that some of these end up being things you actually enjoy doing. Yes, I blog for my business — but I genuinely enjoy blogging!
1. Add your blog, books, and links to your email signature (and social bios).
Time it takes: 10 minutes (max)
This is a super simple one. Add the links for your company, website, books, courses, etc. into your email signature and also into all of your social media bios.
It takes basically no time, and then they are there forever.
Here is my Gmail email signature:
2. Ask for referrals.
Time it takes: 10–20 minutes
This is something you SHOULD be doing with every client, but it’s easy to forget.
Go through your spreadsheet or email folders or wherever and gather the list of previous clients you’ve worked with over the past, say two years.
Shoot them a super quick email saying hello and checking in, and letting them know you enjoyed working with them previously. Mention any exciting developments (you launched a new course, have new services, got married, etc.). And end it by saying, “If you or anyone you know anyone who needs _____ services, please let me know! I am currently looking to add 2 new clients to my roster. Thank you!”
You can even create a referral program where you give an old client $100 or a percentage of the first project you do with any client they refer.
If you decide to create a referral program, mention it in the same email!
Then, moving forward, every time you work with a client, ask for referrals. You don’t have to wait until you’re done working with someone. Once you’ve done some work for anyone, they have enough information to know they like working with you.
Always ask for referrals!
3. Upsell your existing clients for more services.
Time it takes: 10 minutes of conversation (or a REALLY good email)
As a writer/editor, most first-time or prospective clients assume that writing or editing is all I do. They ask me about the cost of website copy, blogging, or editing a book, and that’s it.
However, I use the conversation to let them know about my other skills and other ways I can bring value to their business.
For example, instead of ONLY writing the blog post, I offer to source images, upload the post to their site (if they want), and create a social media post with the link, a quote from the article, and hashtags.
This takes a lot off their plate — uploading, scheduling posts, grabbing images, etc.
They then get excited when they realize I can do the entire process, which also helps them understand why my prices are what they are — because I’m worth it.
Or if I am editing for a client, I like to also offer my writing, fact-checking, research, and formatting services.
If you offer graphic design and are brought on to update the website, talk about your logo creation services, too.
In most cases (in my experience), the client didn’t even think to ask if you also did these other things and are excited you can take more off their plate.
The result is more money from each client.
4. Create a free one-pager, article, infographic, 3-minute video, or other informational item related to your business.
Time it takes: 1–2 hours one time (+ long-term returns)
This one and #5 work hand in hand.
You can offer a free opt-in item to anyone who is interested.
I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of popups on websites and blogs that say, “Get a FREE ____ workbook!” or “Click here to download a free 10-day meal plan!”
Those are free opt-ins.
You can create ANYTHING to be a free promo item. It could be a PDF of an article you wrote that is particularly valuable for your industry, a one-video short webinar on the topic you get asked about the most, a listicle of paid opportunities in your field, an infographic, a free ebook you’ve written — anything.
But having a free promo item helps you build your email list AND gets your name and work to a wider audience with basically no additional work from you.
Then you can add the link to your free promo item in your email signature and bios, at the end of blog posts, as a popup on your website. There are plugins for that OR you can do it via your mailing list site (see #5), and every time someone signs up for your free item, they are added to a mailing list and become leads.
5. Build an email list and send out newsletters.
Time it takes: 20 minutes to get started, then ongoing, maybe 30 minutes per newsletter
Cost: Free (depending on what resource you use)
I use a free MailChimp account for my email list and to send newsletters. If you choose a different service, this might not be free.
But MailChimp (and other email services) have free signup forms you can create and add to your website or blog to encourage people to sign up for your mailing list. In my MailChimp account, I can go to any audience and click on “Create a signup form” to get their form builder.
I have the link to my mailing list form (that “eepurl” URL at the top left) at the bottom of blog posts and on my website. You can also add it to your email signature, social media bios, and more.
Once I put it at the bottom of my blog posts, I started getting new signups every week!
Once you have a few signups, start sending out newsletters to your list. You choose how often you want to send them out and what they say. Do it consistently, similar to how you might create a blogging schedule.
I tend to only send out newsletters about once a month. I usually feature a recent (useful) blog post and mention what I am working on next and any announcements about my work or business.
Yours could be anything. They could be valuable resources you’ve found for people in your industry, a list of websites that pay for contributor articles, a recommended reading list, a recent blog post or video you posted, or anything!
But sending out newsletters keeps your name in peoples’ minds, engages with leads, and shows them the value you provide for free. They will be certain your paid services are worth your price.
6. Write and post blogs consistently.
Time it takes: 1–2 hours per blog
Content marketing is super important, but all you need to know is that you should post more on your blog, whether that is on your website or on an independent platform like Medium.
Blogging consistently (I recommend at least once per week) will grow your audience and get you ranked higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Original content is huge for search engines.
And if more people find you from the SERPs, you’ll continue growing your audience and your credibility with useful content.
Bonus tip: Do some guest blogging! If you have a piece of content that could be a good fit on another site, shoot them an email and ask if they accept guest posts. Whether they pay or not, you’re widening your audience base and getting your name further afield.
7. Post on social media more often (& not necessarily work stuff!).
Time it takes: 5–10 minutes a couple of days a week
You have an online business. You KNOW you should be using social media, even just a little bit every week.
Start making a point to post on social media 2–3 times per week. The posts do not need to be only about your business. In fact, most consumers prefer to see the humanity and authenticity behind the brand. Post about yourself, a cute photo of your pet, a challenge you are working through, anything.
Posting more often widens your reach and expands who sees you. And then, when they check your bio, they see all the stuff you do! It all works together.
Make sure to use hashtags when posting so that the people who follow those tags see your posts, and remember it doesn’t even have to be original content — you can retweet and share other people’s content. Tag them so their audience sees you, too.
Finally, don’t sleep on LinkedIn. I’ve gotten a bunch of clients through LinkedIn. Grab the post you just made on Facebook or Twitter and paste it into LinkedIn to share. Throw up a blog post from your blog onto LinkedIn’s platform occasionally. Just use it; there are so many business owners on that platform!
8. Get involved in a couple of Facebook or LinkedIn groups in your field of expertise and answer a few questions.
Time it takes: 10 minutes a couple of times per week
You’re probably already in a few groups here and there for your industry. I am in a couple of writing groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. While I don’t check them every day, I do like to go in once or twice each week and answer some questions.
I have gotten new clients who told me they saw my comments in the FB/LI group and wanted to work with me.
I just answer questions with a few sentences. Not every day and not every question, but I go in and clearly answer a few things weekly to show my authority and continue to brand myself as a thought leader.
I am also not afraid to ask a question or two myself in the group and get some info from others.
It’s a great way to engage with people and get your name out without having to actively market yourself. It also shows off your knowledge and expertise. Win-win!
9. Join HARO & PodcastGuests to get featured in articles and podcasts.
Time it takes: 2–3 minutes to scroll through the list. 3-5 minutes per answer
I’ve talked about HARO before, and I’m saying it here because it’s a great way to get free publicity and market yourself by getting quoted by other websites for free.
HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out and is at www.HelpAReporter.com. Go to the website and sign up as a “source.” It’s free and quick.
You will receive 3 emails per day from HARO with a list of all the writers and reporters looking for information and quotes for their articles. They always list out what they are looking for and the information they need, and in most cases, they list the publication.
If they like your response, they’ll quote you in the article and usually send you a link once it is published.
In case they don’t, I do a Google search of my name about once a month to see if anything new has been posted with my name.
If you’re interested in getting on podcasts, a similar free resource to HARO for podcasts is podcastguests.com. Sign up and you’ll receive daily emails about podcasts actively looking for people to interview on their show. You can very quickly fill out a Google form for each one you’re interested in.
Not only is this a great free way to get your name even further out there and pops up when people search your name, but it ALSO is a great addition to the Media page on your website. My media page lists everywhere I have been featured or directly interviewed, including podcasts. It just adds to my credibility when people look at my website and search for me online.
James M. Ranson, a close friend of mine who is also a successful freelancer, wants to add his thoughts to this post. This comes directly from his own experience:
If you look at these 9 marketing tips and just don’t want to do any of them or don’t see the point in doing them, you may not have a marketing issue — you may have a business problem. Take some time to reflect and make sure that you are happy with what you do and offer and the work you produce. Revisit what you do, why you do it, who you do it for, and how you feel about doing it.
If you aren’t excited to share it, you may not be doing the thing that is right for you. And that’s ok! It’s totally fine — even encouraged — to reassess and pivot to a new offering or work that you like more.
Be ruthlessly honest with yourself about what’s working for you around those things and what isn’t. Then use what you find to tweak, refine, pivot, or even completely revamp your business into something you’re excited to do at least SOME of these 9 marketing tasks for.
There is a myth that pervades the writing world that you HAVE to write every single day.
If you don’t, then you won’t be successful or good…or make money!
That is NOT true.
Let’s talk about this.
While I have long thought, written, and advised that writing more often is essential to improving, the main thing anyone can take away from my advice is:
Consistency is the true path to success.
I do not write every day.
Not on my blog, for my next book, or in my journal.
Depending on my clients and deadlines, not even for clients! (To be fair, I mostly do editing these days.)
Consistency is the only real way to create a sustainable, profitable writing career.
Some writers may prefer a writing schedule that has them writing every day. But that is certainly not the only way to be successful.
I post on my Medium blog once each week. Sometimes more than once, if I am struck by a good idea.
But I strive to always post one new blog per week.
Not because I cannot write more but because that is a schedule and expectation I can actually meet every single week.
When I’ve tried to commit to more than that in the past, it will be okay for a few weeks, but then I get busy or run out of ideas or hit writer’s block or don’t feel like writing that day, and I stop.
A sustainable writing schedule is more important (to me) than money right this moment.
When I’m working on a new book (I’ve written 6!), my goal is not to finish it right this moment and get it away from me — my goal is to actually write a good book.
And I know myself well enough to know that a daily several-hour writing commitment is not going to happen. I might try for a couple of days, but that will quickly lead to burnout for me.
I’ll get bored of it and just chuck the proverbial ball into the shed and ignore it until I kind of lose passion for the topic.
Instead, I create a sustainable writing schedule that I can actually stick to and continue with over time.
Building a profitable writing business is always a longer-term goal, not an overnight implementation.
Listen, I got clients right away when I started freelancing. Meaning I started making money ASAP.
But if I’d stopped there and didn’t continue to market my business, refine my offerings, raise my prices, and improve my skills, I would not have been able to continue.
Because those first few clients paid me peanuts! I didn’t know what to charge, I was saying yes to any project that came along, and I allowed clients to scope creep.
Because I hadn’t figured it all out yet.
I HAD to take a longer view. Raising my prices and knowing my worth. Putting a contract in place with revision limits. Figuring out the things I LIKED doing and no longer doing the things I didn’t enjoy.
My business has evolved significantly over the years.
I no longer even offer weekly blogging! I mainly do editing work these days and very little actual writing for clients.
But it all takes time.
Consistently giving clients high-quality work products.
Consistently marketing myself.
Consistently asking for referrals.
Consistently providing top-notch customer service to clients.
Consistently valuing my time and not over-committing or under-charging.
Consistently producing personal writing on a schedule that works for me.
…consistently making money and running a profitable business.
When it comes to branding and entrepreneurship as a whole, authenticity is often far more important than any “sales tactics” or marketing plans.
Those things are also incredibly important — essential for businesses to thrive, in fact.
Let’s first take a look at the concepts
Branding is “the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.”
Basically, branding is how you and your company are presented to the world. Your name, logo, color choices, fonts, banners, mascots, etc.
Your branding is a marketing tool and is what allows your company to stand out from the competition. When done right, it helps build trust and even support your mission and vision as a business.
Think about the Nike swoosh — I don’t have to put an image; you know exactly what I’m talking about. No matter where you see it or if it has text with it, you know exactly what brand it represents.
Marketing “refers to activities a company undertakes to promote the buying or selling of a product, service, or good.”
In other words, marketing is really what you’re using the branding FOR. For example, doing a paid ad campaign on social media or sending an email blast to your list.
You use your branding to make your marketing strategies cohesive and recognizable.
Almost anything can be a marketing tool, a driver of traffic to your product or service.
As an example, (some of) the books I’ve written are marketing tools for my writing and editing business. I write about freelancing and books and writing, therefore, people who read them understand that I am knowledgeable about the subject and might reach out to me to hire me.
Your social media accounts, especially those tied directly to your business, are marketing tools. You use them to announce new products, give information, and engage with your audience.
Sales is “a transaction between two or more parties in which the buyer receives tangible or intangible goods, services, or assets in exchange for money. … Regardless of the context, a sale is essentially a contract between the buyer and the seller of the particular good or service in question.”
Essentially, a sale is a short-term, sometimes one-time interaction. It is transactional in nature.
But marketing is a longer-term, more relationship-based activity. Sure, it exists to drive sales, but that is not its only purpose. It is meant to engage with your target market, promote the company, build relationships, and advertise the services/goods.
How does authenticity come into play?
Authenticity is imperative in today’s world.
With the advent of the internet and how connected we are, the world has become a smaller place. Customers can easily look up any company and learn about its business practices, mission, social impact, how they treat employees, and so much more.
Customers are smart — and they have more options than ever before.
If customers don’t like how you do business, there are a dozen other companies they can turn to.
And if they don’t trust you, they will not buy from you.
Authenticity is being real and genuine. For businesses, it often goes hand-in-hand with transparency, integrity, sincerity, and building genuine relationships with your customers.
No matter how beautiful your branding or masterful your marketing, without authenticity, you cannot reach the success you want.
If you want to stand out, you must figure out how to be authentic.
And it needs to be real.
Customers will see through fake authenticity.
Think about it — do you trust Facebook?
Probably not. They have had too many issues with data, privacy, and gobbling up the competition.
Sure, you might still use it, but you’re not an advocate of the brand, and it’s all too easy for you to bash it, even on its own platform!
What are some signs of fake authenticity?
Not delivering on promises your business makes. If your customers are not getting the quality they expect, are missing pieces of the product, or are unable to get a promised refund, etc., how can they believe you care about your product or your customers?
Pretending you/your business is perfect. Perfection is highly overrated — most customers would rather see reality than an airbrushed image of perfection. And since most people don’t trust perfection, you will lose customers.
Companies that claim they have a social mission but are unable to prove it.
Companies that only support certain groups or say they are allies during the month it is celebrated — Black History Month, Pride Month, etc. If you only post a picture of a rainbow cookie in June but never support LGBTQIA+ the rest of the year, we notice. Allyship shouldn’t be just a marketing tool or performative.
The same goes for gender and minority equality. You can say you support it, but if you have 2% female or POC leadership and a wage gap — then you don’t.
Fake before and after shots or dramatically photoshopped images.
Authenticity in Marketing
Those were some ways companies come off as not genuine or real. But how do you show your authenticity in marketing and on social media?
The answer is both simple and complex: be yourself, be honest, and have fun.
Companies are neither perfect nor relatable. PEOPLE are relatable and real.
Instead of going for polished perfection, aim for human and genuine.
Look at the way some major corporations have let their social media managers have fun and be human and silly.
Take a look at some of the small business creators on TikTok that have gained huge followings just by being themselves — they talk about the highs and lows of owning a business, share trials and triumphs, and above all, show themselves as human.
@ktscanvases, @jenonajetplane, @lindatongplanners, @belexieshoppe, @modernyarn, and genuinely so many more.
Larger businesses can follow the same template: show your work, show yourself, and be honest.
Highlight employees, show any social impact projects you’re involved in, and discuss the challenges and successes of your business.
When it comes to authenticity, it is NOT a “fake it ’til you make it” process. It’s the opposite — be real ’til you grow.