Very few content writers are “just writers”. Most of them are much more than that…
Allow me to explain:
Most content writers and ghostwriters start writing not only because they enjoy writing, but out of necessity. Some of us are people laid off from their jobs, while others quit their dead end jobs. Some of us start it as a sideline for an additional income, and some of us write to buy time with emergency funding.
(Many freelancers have their own blogs, but it can take a year or more to get up to speed – when you compete in the global arena. As such they write to sustain their incomes while their own blogs grow.)
All of these content writers have one thing in common:
When they started out, they didn’t have any money to invest. There was no money for fancy web design services, marketing, branding, or (quite often) even basic coaching (about marketing their services).
As such, just about all of these “born-from-necessity” freelancers were forced to develop several other skills along the way. Some of these skills were required immediately, while others only came into play do the road – but all of these are honed over time.
As such, for the average freelancer, writing is not all they DO. In most cases, however, it is all that they OFFER.
I may be wrong on the numbers, but this is my personal opinion:
Any freelance writer or ghostwriter who has been writing for more than two years, making a living from it, is likely to have mastered most of the following skills, if not all of them:
1. Your content writer probably knows WordPress:
WordPress started off as a blogging platform. Today it is so much more, facilitating anything from forums to membership sites, from business directories to real estate showcases, and from automated content farms to online stores.
While your freelancer many not necessarily be able to set up a shopping cart and do payment integration, he or she probably knows the basics of WordPress quite well. After all, he or she probably built that blog or website – which you landed on – alone.
As such, you freelance writer had to learn a few more items in his or her hidden skill set…
2. Your content writer probably knows a bit about web design:
Fair enough, the average freelance writer isn’t a coder or a web developer – but when you have no money to start with, and you sift through the free WordPress themes (templates) database for days at a time…
You end up with some basic understanding of what works and what doesn’t. You learn about things like usability, readability, spacing, functionality and mobile compatibility.
While most successful freelance writers eventually purchase a professional WordPress theme (template) later on, the relentless search for (and constant experimenting to find) something that does what you want it to do, teaches you a lot.
Since most new “writing service professionals” start out on (close to) a zero budget, they also have to learn how to attract people to their blogs or websites. As such…
3. Your content writer probably knows the basics of SEO:
Search engine optimization can be quite a bit of work, but once it starts sending you visitors, it’s awesome. For a cash strapped freelancer, who has yet to find enough work to fill his or her day, it is also – essentially – free.
Most content writers have – over time – taught themselves the basics of SEO. They understand the basics of keyword research, checking out the competition, SEO content, on-site SEO and off-site SEO.
While most of them never offer any services as SEO experts, their knowledge of search engine algorithms are enough to get most local businesses onto the front page of Google.
(Local SEO is a LOT easier than having to compete nationwide or globally – which is what most freelance writers have to do.)
Speaking of algorithms, your freelancer’s hidden skill set also means…
4. Your content writer probably knows the basics of social media marketing:
SEO takes time. Social media marketing – even without any advertising budget – is quicker to yield results. As such, the writer you want to work with – or are working with – has probably explored a variety of social media platforms to try and find clients.
Note: Not all freelancers are equally proficient on all social media platforms. Some of them are more comfortable working with Twitter or Instagram, while others have more success with Pinterest, or Facebook marketing. Maybe the size of their existing followings on specific platforms have something to do with how well they adapt to using it for marketing.
For me personally, it is easier to work with platforms that have somewhat predictable algorithms. Just like search engines such as Google, the internal search engines of Pinterest, Linkedin and Instagram are quite easy to understand and to cater for.
The hidden skill set of every freelance writer includes a reasonable pool of knowledge about at least one social network. It might just be one that you can exploit for your mutual benefit.
5. Your content writer probably knows the basics of copywriting:
The writer you (want to) work with usually have to let their website “do the selling”. As such, he or she has probably done some experimenting over time to improve the wording to make it more persuasive. After all, your freelancer’s website is not simply an online portfolio – it is a lead generation tool.
In this day and age where potential employers and clients are spoiled for choice, it takes a LOT more than just a “slapped-up online CV” to convince clients to do business with you.
As such, your freelance writer probably understands the basics of profiling his/her ideal/typical client. He or she knows how crucial it is to understand your audience, and to know what they want.
This means your writer can also be tasked with writing engaging product descriptions, social profile summaries, and any content that needs to “sell”.
On top of that, there is also a good chance that…
6. Your content writer can do ebook writing:
Not all content writers do this, but many of them offer a free ebook on their blog or website. It is – in most cases – something short (5K to 10K words), on a topic relevant to making a choice about hiring him or her.
As such, he or she has taken the time to consider your needs and wants, as well as things you may not know – but which you may want to know.
That means your (would-be) writer knows the value of offering additional information in order to facilitate informed decisions.
In some cases, these ebooks are available as direct downloads, and in other cases they offer it in return for your email address. That means that they trade the ebook for the ability to follow up with you, which is substantially more likely to lead to you becoming a new client.
In most cases, however, the follow-up is a series of pre-programmed, automated emails – which we refer to as an “autoresponder follow-up series”.
Note: Many people offer a series of emails – or an e-course – instead of offering an ebook. While fewer people may choose to sign up, more people are likely to read the emails, and respond to one of them.
The availability of an ebook (via email subscription) or e-course implies two things:
Firstly, it means that your freelancer is probably spending a lot of time on marketing, and he or she would like to make the most out of every visitor that lands on his or her website.
Secondly, it means that your content writer also has another hidden skill…
7. Your blog writer probably knows the basics of email marketing:
If he or she has an email capture system in place, he/she probably set it up without paying anyone else to do it. That means that he or she (at least) knows the basics of setting up a lead capture page (or “squeeze page” as we refer to it in online marketing).
It means that he or she is familiar with at least one email management system – whether it be Aweber, Getresponse, Mailchimp or something similar.
It also means that he or she is aware of which words they need to steer clear of – words which could trigger spam filters and cause their emails to go unread.
If they offer the option to subscribe to blog updates, he or she probably use the blog’s RSS feed to send the excerpts to the email service, meaning that they know how to set up automated newsletters from the content published on your blog.
As you can see…
Writing your blog posts – or whatever your freelance writer/ghostwriter chooses to specialize in – is merely the tip of the iceberg. And as with any iceberg, the hidden skill set is a lot bigger than what you see, or what you are presented with.
As with any process of evolution, we tend to learn that which we need to know. We learn about solutions for the problems which we absolutely have to solve to ensure our survival.
In the process of a content writer’s evolution, he or she has to learn many things just in order to survive. While the specific skill set may not be the same for everyone, my guess is that most freelancers with more than 2 years’ experience will know most of it.
Fair enough, most of them will not be professionals on all of these skills – but if you are the kind of person who would rather deal with as few service suppliers as possible, your writer may be able to handle a lot more than you may think.
In fact, many do – they just don’t advertise it.
All you have to do is to take a critical look at their website or blog on which they offer their services. Is the layout user friendly? Is it compatible to the majority of mobile devices? Is the site easy to read, and does it load quickly?
In addition to that, consider the writing. If the “sales pitch” page or “hire me” page gradually draws you in, making you want to contact the writer, he or she knows (at least the basics of) copywriting.
Also, does he or she offer an ebook or e-course? Does he/she employ an email management system on the blog or website?
One more thing: Go and have a look at their social presence – especially the one they use for marketing their services. Does it come across as professional?
Whatever skills your blog writer acquired along the way in order to present and market him-/herself are skills that may be useful to you.
Before you think of your content writer as “just a writer” again…
You may want to have a talk with him or her. You may be pleasantly surprised.