How to get ahead in the writing game if you’re just starting out
Starting a career as a writer isn’t much different from starting a business — it takes a lot of time and effort.
In 2021, more than 570 million blogs exist on the internet, while 8 out of 10 blogs fail within the first 18 months. Every day is globally published around 7 million posts, and there are 32 million bloggers in the U.S. alone.
So is it still possible to make it as a writer? Yes — if you learn how to promote your work.
Writing is important, but you should spend at least half of the total time on marketing. Otherwise, your content will go unnoticed. If you do digital marketing right, you’ll get relevant data about your content engagement and audience. These figures help you create better content that leads to higher earnings.
The following marketing strategies will help you get ahead in the writing game and launch your career faster.
Content marketing is about creating the right content for the target audience. Companies selling products or services use content strategies for building brand awareness and increasing sales.
Writer’s content marketing aims to discover the right audience and convert random readers into loyal ones.
If you want to be a good writer and get paid for your work, stop using blogs or writing platforms as a personal journal. Everybody has opinions, feelings, and thoughts. Not everybody is, though, interested in yours.
Remember this definition: “You’re not creating content to talk about you. You’re creating content to solve the user’s problem.”
Thus, make your content useful. It still doesn’t mean you can’t get personal with your stories, because you absolutely can. But — there needs to be something that the reader takes away. Lesson, advice, strong emotion, or at least a good laugh.
Your content marketing strategy should include answers to these questions:
- What problem are you solving for readers?
- Who are your readers?
- What makes your writing unique?
- Where will you publish your content?
- How often will you publish?
If you haven’t started writing yet, I don’t recommend setting up your blog. It’s hard to drive organic traffic there in the first months — especially if nobody knows about you yet.
Choosing a writing platform with a built-in audience is the right choice for you. LinkedIn, Medium, or Quora are the best places to start. After you earn some followers there, you can move further and create a blog.
Social media marketing
As of 2021, there are more than 3.7 billion social media users; Facebook still leads with 2.32 billion active monthly users. People spend around 2.5 hours on social media every day, so these channels present a powerful tool for content creators.
You don’t need to be active on every social platform as it’s a time-consuming activity, but make sure you’re using at least one of them. It will help you reach a wider audience and engage in conversation with your readers.
Facebook and Twitter are good for writers regardless of the niche. LinkedIn is a perfect choice if you talk about business and marketing-related topics, leadership, management, or self-improvement.
You can use these platforms for sharing links to the content published somewhere else or for creating brand new content. For the latter one, use the following rules.
What works on Twitter
- add an image to the story — statistics show that adding an image increases the number of retweets, favorites(likes) and click-rate
- drive traffic to your original content through URL link — shorten your link using bitly.com to save characters in a tweet
- use trending hashtags
- pin your best-performing tweet at the top of your profile
- create a thread (a series of connected Tweets) if one tweet is not enough to express your idea
What works on Facebook
- use emoticons — Facebook posts with emoticons have a higher comments rate of more than 30% and a likes rate of more than 50%
- content with images performs better on Facebook as well
- state a question at the beginning or end of your post — this positively impacts the comments rate
- respond to people’s comments and engage in conversation
What works on LinkedIn
- write preferably longer content, above 1800 words
- use more images in your article — analysis of more than 3000 most successful LinkedIn posts shows that articles with 8 images get the most views
- avoid videos — they don’t perform well on this platform
- “how to” posts earn the highest amount of views
- LinkedIn is a network of professionals —thus, create only high-quality posts preferably in neutral language
Another great way to promote your content is by using Quora. You can paste your story as an answer under a relevant question. Make sure you use one story per one question, not more.
On visual platforms like Instagram or Pinterest, you can share an appealing image with a story headline in it. Use the description section for highlights from your story with a URL link to it.
Every social media has different rules, but the rule for content creation stays everywhere the same: it has to be useful, engaging, and valuable.
Learning complex SEO strategies will take you some time, and unless you don’t want to become a professional marketer, you don’t have to bother with that.
Once you start getting significant traffic to your content on social media or writing platforms, you can take the next step and create your blog. At that point, learning advanced SEO will make sense. Until then, understanding basic search engine optimization is enough.
- start with researching the right keywords for your story — use Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Ahrefs
- aim for long-tail keywords — they are more specific and easier to rank for
- include your keywords in the headline, alt-text of images, meta description, first 150 words of your story, and within the last 150 words of your story
- use external linking to high-authority websites
- use internal linking to relevant stories you’ve written before on the same platform/blog
- write longer content (above 2000 words), preferably ever-green topic
- optimize the story’s URL link to improve website visibility
Another great way to boost SEO is getting backlinks to your content. You can achieve this by creating specific content that earns you backlinks easily.
Globally, we send and receive more than 319 billion e-mails every day. Sending e-mails to (potential) customers has a strong investment return — for every $1 spent on e-mail marketing, there’s an average return of $42.
These numbers speak for themselves about the effectiveness and importance of a newsletter list. As a writer, use e-mail marketing to generate traffic, improve personal branding, and increase sales (if you sell books or courses).
You can start your newsletter using the most popular providers like MailChimp or ConvertKit. To gather e-mails addresses, add call-to-action under your stories and in your profile on writing platforms and social media.
CTAs like “if you want to see more of my stories, subscribe here” are a bit old-fashioned. Even though they still work, you will convert more readers to subscribers when you offer them something valuable for free.
Think of listicles with tips or resources, e-books, cheat sheets, case studies, discounts, invitations to webinars, etc.
How to make your newsletter effective:
- make a strong subject line— more than 40% of people open their e-mails based on the subject line alone
- keep the subject line under 60 characters
- if it’s relevant, add a video to your e-mail — it can boost the click rate up to 300%
- send your mail on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday — according to statistics, people are more likely to open newsletters on these days
Digital marketing is a way to promote your content; personal branding is a way to promote yourself.
Your goal in the first place should be high-quality and regular content creation. Once you complete this, you can take it further and build your site and professional portfolio that will help you establish yourself as a brand.
I recommend you buying a domain and building a website. Having your own online space makes you look professional and trustworthy. And if you want to write for clients, it’s handy to share a portfolio link in your proposals.
If you don’t have enough time or money for this, use your Medium or LinkedIn profile as a (temporary) portfolio.
The amounts of bloggers and posts published daily can be scary, but the truth is, many writers publish mediocre quality writing and don’t use marketing to promote their content.
The strategies mentioned above will help you stand out from these creators and build you a loyal audience. But besides marketing, as a beginner writer, you should focus on:
- gathering data and feedback — notice which content gets you the most views, reads, responses, followers, and subscribers
- mastering headlines and editing
- caring about your audience — publish regular content that people want to read (not just what you want to write)
Contrarily, you don’t need to worry a lot about:
- SEO — your focus within the first months should be only on writing
- a particular niche — write on more topics and see what performs the best
- writing voice — you will create your voice naturally after publishing a significant amount of content
Once you establish yourself as a writer, you’ll get many options for your future career. You can write for clients, create e-books and online courses, start an e-commerce business, or a paid newsletter on Substack.
The opportunities here are endless, but you need to master the fundamentals first.