Bill Gates once wrote that “content is king”. This was way back in 1996, but it remains truer than ever today. As a result, modern writers are constantly competing with one another. Some content mills churn out hundreds of articles a day; indeed, as a copywriter, it can be daunting to think about how competitive the market has become.
The good news is that more often than not, this “fast-food” version of content creation is far from optimal. This means smart copywriters can easily get a leg up! Here are some tips on how to help you stand out against all the noise.
1. Understand the difference between copywriting and content writing
First things first, let’s address the copywriting vs. content writing question since these are not one and the same. As a copywriter, you produce persuasive and promotional material aimed directly at consumers. Think slogans, emails, advertisement scripts, website landing pages. These all inform the target audience about the product and brand in question, with the ultimate goal of convincing them to buy something.
Content writing, on the other hand, has a slightly more roundabout purpose. It exists to create relevant content for your audience and nurture their interest in your subject area. This type of content is meant for a wider pool of users, so other than the audience’s initial queries, the writer must also pay careful attention to SEO.
Of course, since so much of what we consume is online nowadays, much of copywriting is also done with consideration to SEO, high-volume keywords, and all that jazz. But acknowledging the fundamental distinction between copywriting and content writing can help sharpen your focus as you work.
Basically, content writing allows for a bit more leeway. This is why content mill writers can usually get away with adopting a rather generic approach. Copywriting, on the other hand, always aims to hit the bull’s eye. Simply by maintaining this separation in your mind, you’re already setting yourself apart from batch-written content.
2. Take time to do thorough research
The biggest disadvantage of writing for a content mill is having to work so quickly. Why? Because mills pay absurdly low rates — and by that, I mean as measly as $2 per article. In order to make a living wage with this sort of work, you’d have to write dozens of articles a day.
Working so intensely is neither sustainable nor particularly fulfilling — which is why content mills are usually populated by those who are just getting started in freelance writing, hoping to gain experience and build their portfolios, then get out. But the truth is that even as a new copywriter, you want to devote yourself to quality writing that gets you shining testimonials and trusted referrals. Not too shoddy work written in a hurry.
The best way to do this is to adopt the opposite of the “mill mindset”: give yourself ample time to carefully research each client and their target audience. Find out the consumer’s pain points, then embody the client’s brand voice to address them in your copies.
Even if the client gives you a brief at the start of a collaboration, it never hurts to do research! Customer-focused work may be time-consuming, but it’ll pay off once clients see that your work is much better at building customer loyalty than run-of-the-mill content.
3. Choose a niche — and commit to it
Along the same lines as the previous tip, clients who are ready to invest in a good copywriter expect more than just general, “SEO-friendly” articles. Rather, they want content that demonstrates deep knowledge about the audience, as well as expertise about the product or service.
For instance, in the publishing industry where I work, a lot of marketers hone and prove their expertise by self-publishing a book about marketing. This way, they gain first-hand experience with every single stage of the book marketing process. As well as demonstrating their knowledge to readers. All of which will improve clients’ trust in them.
Similarly, a copywriter who shows in-depth knowledge in a particular field will gain the confidence of even the most demanding clients. You can refine this knowledge by selecting projects relevant to your field of choice, engaging with professionals at conferences or on social media, and keeping up with the latest industry news.
If possible, you can even try working actual jobs in your chosen industry. Just like those book marketers, I mentioned who went ahead and published their own books! If it’s a super-technical field, consider shadowing a client to get a close up look at the nuances of their field. Once you go for the deep-dive, your work will be miles ahead of typical content mill writing.
4. Use some creative writing techniques
With research and specialized knowledge, you’ve mastered the key elements of strong copywriting. If you want to go one step further and really give yourself an edge, consider using some creative writing techniques to put a new spin on well-worn topics.
My first good fiction-writing tip is to pay attention to your beginnings and endings. In fiction, the opening must intrigue the reader so they want to continue with the story. While the ending has to answer the questions that were put forward throughout the book. Similarly, good copy starts with something that gets readers curious, while the ending delivers the final answer. “The solution to your problem is this product (or service).”
Another tip is to be deliberate with your words. You don’t have to take creative writing classes to know that when we write, it’s better to be active and efficient in one’s prose, rather than passive or meandering. This rule of thumb applies to copywriting, too. Especially since the word limit for this type of content tends to be below-par. Remember, each word can make a difference, and it’s not always the big words that are the most effective!
Hubspot has collected some excellent examples of implementing creative yet on-brand language to anticipate and provide solutions to pain points. My personal favourite is a perfect sample of creative copywriting: it’s branding done by the UK juice company, innocent, which you’ll find in just about every upscale supermarket in London.
The copy on innocent’s bottles hooks readers from the beginning with a simple message. It then continues with whimsical language, giving them a genuine, likeable quality. I highly recommend scrolling through their website to get a sense of how creative techniques can be deftly incorporated into copywriting!
Continue Reading: Why Freelance Writers Should Avoid Content Mills
Indeed, at the end of the day, no copy produced by a content mill can rival the creativity of an original piece. If you’re ready to put in the time and effort to truly understand your field of choice, and then add a bit of extra zing with some storytelling techniques. You’ll have no trouble distinguishing yourself from the haphazard work coming out of a mill.
Savannah Cordova is a content marketer and copywriter with Reedsy. A marketplace that connects authors with the world’s best publishing resources and professionals. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. Which is great practice for her work, of course.