We’re writers, so we tend to think “writing!” when we’re creating content. However, with 2014 speeding towards us, we need to break ourselves of that natural habit. Here’s why: you need to engage your audience and on today’s Web, that means you need more than text.
Yes, text is vital. We want people to read what we write. We’re also focused on search engine optimization (SEO) and that requires text if we want our writing to be found. But we need more, if we want to dominate the Web.
Vital: we need to create content in many different forms. Content marketing hit the mainstream in 2013, and research shows that businesses expect to spend more on content marketing in 2014 than they have this year.
As freelance writers, it’s up to us to prepare ourselves to create quality content in volume in 2014, because that’s what our clients will expect.
So let’s look at five ways to create quality content FAST.
1. Become an idea-generating machine.
Ideas are currency for freelance writers. We need a constant flow of ideas from: conversations with others, our personal reading, research for specific projects – we collect bright and shiny ideas from anywhere and everywhere. Even from TV. One of my friends is a lifestyle blogger, who admits she gets most of her ideas from TV, and press releases.
Get onto the mailing lists for press releases from companies in which you’re interested. You can also create Google alerts for press releases. I have a Google Alert for “publishing press release”, for example.
To create a Google Alert, go to Google News and enter your query into the search field. Scroll down to the bottom of the results page, and you’ll see:
Stay up to date on these results:
Create an email alert for ______ (your search query)
Click the link, and create the alert.
2. Interview your clients.
I love my clients, but getting information from them is frustrating. They know their business, but what screams “new and exciting stuff” to me and to their target audience is commonplace to them.
You’ve got to be patient, and ask lots of questions. Be sure to ask questions which elicit information, such as:
- “Could you give me an example of that?”
- “Who/ what/ where/ how…. etc”
Avoid any questions which can be answered “yes” or “no.” Make a list of questions before you chat to the client.
Murphy’s Law applies when you’re interviewing. Never assume that there will be a “better” time to interview someone. The best time is when they’re right in front of you, or you’ve got them on the phone.
Things go wrong. If you’re chatting with a client to get material for blog posts, for example, make sure you’ve got enough questions so you can create a month’s worth of blog content from the interview.
3. Use keywords for brainstorming.
I’ve mentioned SpyFu before. When you enter a keyword into the search query field, you’ll get a mile of information which will help to you brainstorm content.
Get into the habit of brainstorming content regularly. It builds your creative muscles. You’ll also stockpile content ideas.
4. Two words: “editorial calendar.” Vital when writing for others, and for yourself.
Do you wing your blogging? That is, if a client says he wants three pieces of blog content a week, do you just hope that ideas will come to you when you need to create the content?
That way lies madness. Create an editorial calendar. Create one for every blog you manage, as well as for your own blog.
5. Get comfortable with images: they’re now a MUST on social media.
For everyday images, PicMonkey is fast and easy to use.
A vital point. Just as there’s no free lunch, there are no free images online, unless they’re marked Creative Commons – and even then, you need to read the usage details carefully.
The best way to get images is to get them from your client, or snap your own pics. (Use your cell phone camera, it’s fine for online images.)
You can buy royalty free images (“royalty free” just means that there’s no recurring payment) at stock image libraries like Dreamstime. Expense your client when you do this, and give him the image you bought for him.
To succeed in your writing career in 2014, not only do you need to be able to create quality content, but you need to be able to create it fast. Once you get into the habit of it, it’s a lot of fun.