Welcome to your sassy content marketing generation solution in one easy to follow post!
A lot of self-employed and small business clients struggle to keep up a blog. And as we know, once you stop producing marketing content on your blog, it can send the message you’ve given up. Or even gone out of business.
Most freelancers attach far too much weight to being creatively inspired every morning. We assume we should be able to produce blogs, content marketing, podcasts and social media posts straight of the gate first time, every time.
But we can’t. Not consistently anyway.
You need to make space for blogs that grab you as the inspiration flows. AND for the days where only blank stares come back from that big beautiful creative brain of yours.
And the trick to that- preparedness through blog shells. Here how that works to boost your freelance content marketing efforts
NOTE: While I say “blog shells”, I really mean a blueprint for any medium to long form content marketing asset. I use the exact same technique for long Instagram posts, podcasts and presentations.
How do you find inspiration?
As freelancers, we spend an awful lot of time talking about our problems. If we’re not discussing them with each other, we’re guiding our clients through the same terrain. We spend time digging deeply into creative ideas and swimming in some super cool techniques as we learn. We have an insatiable appetite for business books, eBooks, blog posts and podcasts.
Our problem really isn’t a lack of inspiration. It’s more that we don’t see these moments as opportunities for freelance content marketing to result.
Universal issues, the struggles with learning new things, the things that relieve the tension from our client’s shoulders, the ways we work – all of this stuff (and more) is newsworthy.
The trick is putting this information out for public consumption. And also recognising this visibility can and does influence and change the way clients see us. As well as shape the freelance industry, and business operates.
How do you record ideas?
Think about your journey to consistent freelance content marketing as catching raindrops in a bucket. Only, it’s ideas in a file. I use a journal initially before transferring my ideas into a Word document in a specific file (called Blog Shells – how original, right?!).
You can use whatever feels right. The main qualifications being:
- Wherever you record your ideas is super simple to get to so that you get them down quickly and easily
- You can access it when the desire to write or your marketing day arrives
- You don’t over think it. Put the idea down. Worry about whether it’s worthy of an article later
Rinse and repeat.
What does a blog shell look like?
Very simply, a blog shell looks like:
- A strong file name – one that captures your imagination and reminds you of the idea you had for that blog. It can end up being the title, too
- A couple of lines or a paragraph – this can be the opening to the blog piece itself. Or it might be the summation to job your memory later on what you want to write about. Don’t labour over it. Get it out
- Bullet points – each bullet point usually ends up being the heading for a paragraph and its inspiration. They are key points your blog will cover
- Links and references – I like to include any articles, videos or whatever that have inspired the blog shell so I can get the feel for what I wanted to say. And also, it helps with referencing later. This is for those moments when your inspiration comes from outside sources
- SEO keyword phrase – if I have one in mind, I make a note above the heading so I can see it at the time I want to write. Whether or not I add it in as I write or add it later
I then save the blog shell in the appropriate freelance content marketing file. That way, I can refer to it later.
What blog shells work?
The most common question any freelancer asks about their content marketing is “what should I write about?”
You are drowning in information you could discuss every day. Consider these:
- Customer paint points that you need to explain on a regular basis
- Rants and complaints you are sick of dealing with
- Automations and programs that have made your life and/or the lives of your clients easier
- Industry issues – this includes problems you encounter through to political or industry issues
- Information on the services you offer – such as social media, blog writing, SEO copywriting etc
- The lessons, tutorials and techniques you employ to make your client’s lives easier
- Deep dives into specific areas relevant to your business – such as sectors, industries, NFP versus for profit etc
- Other forms of writing, content marketing, business ideas etc that you admire
- Reviews of products, podcasts, books etc that have helped you in your business journey
- Your business journey and news
But please don’t just write out what everyone else does for the SEO hit. Try to be original so you stand out. A great rule of thumb is to cover familiar ground for 50% of the blog or article but also find the other 50% from a new angle or different perspective. That way, your stuff doesn’t read like every other blogger out there.
Giving it structure
There are a couple of things you can use that give your blog shells structure.
The first point to consider is having your audience and your brand firmly in mind. You are writing to inform, entertain and win confidence. That means keeping the balance between what you want to say and what the audience needs to hear firmly in mind.
I manage this through the buying cycle framework.
The buying cycle is a map of where your client is in their journey. It speaks to their awareness of you as a solution to the problems they face. All writers are solving some kind of problem.
What do your customers need to get from your content? Plainly, they need to know:
- Enough to feel like they are getting to know you- and what they learn about you matches how you behave;
- Stuff about you that helps them make a purchase decision;
- A continuing story that makes them feel a part of something;
- That you have their best interests at heart (and aren’t trying to dupe them);
- They must also feel that the story matches what they get when they finally engage with your product. You do this by establishing your business experience and using content to guide your audience through it.
This Buying Cycle is the one I find most useful:
Awareness and education-
Your customer is trying to figure out what solves their problem and may not even have a clue it is what options are available. For example, they may know they want customers for their new cupcake business but have no idea how to go about that. You might write a blog that says, “the 6 easy ways to tell your bakery customers you are open for business” and then present a mix of your services and ideas in the market.
Info search –
Now the potential client knows the types of solution that are available. Here, they are using that knowledge to look for potential suppliers to fix their problem. For example, they have figured out they could use local SEO or buy Instagram ads, but they don’t have any experience in these arenas. It’s your job to explain how they work.
Hooray – you’ve been identified as part of their chosen marketing activity. So, what makes you better or more appealing? This is your time to talk about your soft skills. This could include local knowledge and leveraging your networks to bring the cupcake eaters to their door. It might be that you can do all the things as a Multipotentialite, taking it all off their hands. Or as a High Achiever with a great record for conversion with Instagram ads. This is the time to display your approach, demonstration your attitude, show off your knowledge and be super helpful and generous with the information you supply. That’s how you grow trust with that potential new client.
Your customer has been floating around for a little while and keeps tossing backwards and forth, but now the need is too great. They have to get moving. Money starts being a consideration, as does risk. So, with this kind of blog, you are looking to demonstrate your value, allay fears about price and address the sorts of risk a client may perceive they face if they choose you. It’s addressing their fears surrounding money scarcity and the potential for risk and failure.
The client may call or email, visit the store and dig that final bit deeper. Up until this point, you may not even know they exist. So, the blogs you put here should match how you come across in meetings, on the phone and on social media.
They are looking to find out why you are the one they should choose based on the research they’ve done. By this stage, they know what they are on about because they’ve read a lot of stuff. This is all about freelance content marketing that affirms you are indeed the right choice for their business.
Show me the money-
The client is ready to buy, and they want you or your competitor, so you better be prepared to play along.
How to really make your blogs work for you come question time include:
- Focussing on after care. This includes product guarantees, returns policies, how you have solved problems for customers that either you or your competitors have created.
- How the lessons stick in the long run for your clients
- Results, results, results – and this may include your case studies or research into the subjects you care about
- Answering FAQs in depth – what you see is what you get, baby.
It’s about making sure you are consistent and knowledgeable across the topics you highlight.
To recap – the bare bones of the blog shell process:
- Capture ideas as they hit in a file that is easy to get to at all times
- Write out bullet points so they can easily translate into paragraphs and key points later
- Let them sit for a bit (that way, you know it is a solid idea rather than one that just grabs you at the time)
- Work out your intentions (e.g., sell your new dandy product or your freelance content marketing services overall) and the intended audience
- Write the blog and keep SEO loosely in mind while introducing 50% distinct points where possible
- Categorise these so you know the broad topics- e.g., freelance lifestyle, crowdfunding etc
- Remember the buying cycle and meet the buyer where they reside, knowledge-wise
- Write it up as needed
- Post – remembering to use title and meta for ease of search display so clients can find you again and again.
Want more advice on your freelance content marketing journey? Head to Unashamedly Creative’s blog and/or the blog here right on the Freelance Jungle.