Beginner’s Guide To Writing Web Content

This article will show you exactly how you can make money writing online in the next month. I’ve included everything to get you started, a sample portfolio, a successful profile, and even an email I’ve used to get freelance writing gigs.

At the beginning of last year, in just a few short months, I had built a business making up to 400$ a week. Most importantly, I was working from local coffee shops and making more money per hour than I ever had.

My goal was to make money from anywhere, so I could pursue a lifelong dream of traveling full-time. 

What surprises me is how impossible I thought making money from anywhere was when I started. I really only thought geniuses or scam artists could pull in money from the Internet.

I went ahead anyways though and I’m happy I did. Reading Chris Guillebeau, Corbett Barr, Lea Woodward, Nomadic Matt, and Niall Doherty was helpful, but the true knowledge came when I started figuring it out for myself.

Now I realize $400 bucks a week isn’t millionaire income or even a full-time income for most people, but it was enough to give me one very important quality… confidence.

This little experiment gave me one more reason to see that I could make impossible shit happen.

In a few more months, I had the confidence to quit this small business and go after my dream job.

Maybe writing freelance web content can do the same for you.

Who should consider writing web content?

This isn’t for everyone and definitely isn’t a perfect way to make money. It is pretty tedious and more importantly, writing web content doesn’t add much value to the world.

If you have other skills, I recommend being an SEO freelancer, a freelance website designer, or a freelance programmer. These all make more money per hour than writing, which gives you more time to work on your true passions.

Writing freelance web content does pay pretty well though (compared to barista work). I was making at least 20$ an hour and would make up to 60$ an hour depending on how fast I could write.

It is also very simple, easy, and inexpensive to get started.

Important: You will need some decent writing skills (were you getting Bs on your papers in high school?) and a basic understanding of SEO (we’ll cover that below).

Warning: If you are really passionate about a professional writing career and have dreams of working with huge publications, you will want to check out Men With Pens or Write to Done for writing advice (Chris’ guide is exceptionally good). My advice is only for those interested in some extra location independent income. If you want to be a serious writer, this isn’t the way.

If you aren’t interested in location independent income or are already a master at it, then I suggest skipping this post and heading outside to practice your break dancing skills. If this posts sounds like you then, read on.

What is Web Content? 

Web content is written content on the Internet. Blog posts, website pages, and articles are the most common examples.

Many business and website owners aren’t writers and would rather hire someone else to fill up their web pages. Maybe they need regular articles written to inform their customers, persuasive sales pages written, or maybe just pages that describe what their business does.

On any given day, you could be writing about any topic imaginable. I’ve written about topics like medical marijuana dispensaries, how to find a ranch in Montana, and what types of shorts work best for mixed martial arts. Some topics will require a lot of research and others require none.

What this Guide will teach you:

1. How To Set Up A Writing Portfolio

2. How To Set Up A Stellar Profile On Major Freelancing Websites

3. The Basic Principles Of SEO

4. How To Contact Potential Clients

All of these you can do in the next 7 days and if you follow my recommendations, you can make your first dollars online in less than a month (although it could be much sooner).

Day One: Understand the Industry (30 minutes)

Start off by heading over to my favorite freelancing website, Elance, for some industry research. You could also check out Guru or oDesk. Then, set up a quick profile so that you can look through the posted writing jobs.

Important: Choose a username that you will want to keep. Something memorable might make you stand out more. I chose a name with Writing in the title, just don’t use your full name.

Once you have a profile, select, Find Work, and search the writing jobs. I recommend narrowing the search to one topic you enjoy, like travel, health, dating, or maybe technology.

Look through the postings and click at least 5 jobs that look interesting.

Look at the types of writing jobs offered, what they are looking for in writers, how much they pay, and anything else that stands out.

As you can see there is a lot of competition for these jobs and some people are willing to work for much less than you. Don’t worry about that yet.

If you see words, you don’t understand, take a minute to look them up on Google.

Common Writing Terms:

SEO or Search Engine Optimization: A way of writing that makes it more likely Google will find your article and put it close to the top of the search page.

Ghostwriter: You write the article and they put their name on it. You are a ghost.

Copywriter: You write the ‘copy’ on a website or a sales page that is intended to encourage the reader to take a certain action. Typically, used in marketing of a product.

The Biggest Challenge of Writing Web Content:

The work is not that difficult, but finding gigs is the biggest challenge. There are a lot of writers and you are competing with writers from around the world.

Writers in India can charge a small fraction of what you will need to afford groceries. You also have to compete with experienced writers with lots of feedback on their profile (sort of like recommendations from past employers).

We are going to go after the middle ground to find our clients.

The Sauce Strategy: Charge more per article than the Indian writers and write much better articles than they would. Use your native English skills as one of your biggest strengths.

But don’t charge as much as the full-time, experienced writers, who can charge 50$, 100$, or even more per article.

I have found 10-15$ per 400-500 word article is pretty inexpensive for many website owners. Plus, if I know the topic well I can write at least 2 articles in one hour and usually more. As you get better and find more clients, jack that price up to 20$ per article and you will have a solid wage.

Shoot for clients looking for an inexpensive, native English speaker, who produces great quality articles (this is now you).

Day Two: Set up a Portfolio (30 minutes)

When you are looking for jobs in your area or on freelancing websites, most employers will want to see a writing portfolio. This is simply one page of why you are awesome and then 2 to 3 of your best articles.

Today, we will write why you are so awesome. I’ve included my page as a model.

When I was starting, I spent hours researching the best writers portfolios. I looked at lots of portfolios for inspiration. The example below is an example of what I learned and what I used to get all my gigs.

***

Thank you for requesting my portfolio. You will find a sample of the different types of content that I create: Blog Posts, SEO Articles, and Web Content. As you are checking out my work, I want you to remember that well-written and compelling copy can be a very powerful weapon in marketing to your customers. When you hire me you will be guaranteed:

-100% Original Content: All of my work has a Copyscape report confirming that you are receiving an original article.

-Web Optimized Work: I understand how powerful an optimized article can be, especially if it has a lot of value for the reader.

-In-Depth Research: Which leads to relevant and informative articles.

-Fast Turn-Around Times: I realize that time is so important in the online world and I guarantee your articles on the day that we have agreed on.

-Personal Service: I write all of my own pieces and correspond directly with you.

-SEO: Search Engine Optimization is so profitable now and I understand how to use relevant keywords to propel you to the top of the search engines.

-Professional Grammar and Punctuation: Grammar is always an important part of making an impactful article.

-A Personable, Friendly Working Relationship and a ‘Can Do’ Attitude!

Thanks in advance for reading and I look forward to working with you and your business!

Remember: Don’t copy this word for word and don’t lie.

Day Three: Learn the Principles of SEO (5 minutes)

SEO is one of the most important aspects of your writing. If this is totally new to you, then this section will give you a 5 minute crash course. I suggest reading a beginner’s guide to SEO, for more details. At the very least, it will improve your confidence as you write.

Typically, your client will provide a keyword that the article must contain. It is then your job to research and write an interesting article about this word. You will be expected to put the keyword certain places in the article, because Google is more likely to look for the word in these places.

4 Basics To Writing An SEO Article:

1. In a 500 word article, put the keyword in the title, the first sentence, the last sentence, and 2 spots in the article. For longer or shorter articles, increase or decrease this appropriately.

2. Use the keyword naturally.

3. Don’t overuse the keyword.

4. Write a quality article and not something you just rehashed from other articles online. 

There is a lot more to SEO, so I definitely recommend reading the above guide. However, don’t get lost in it because SEO is a full-time job itself.

Day Four, Five, and Six: Write 3 Articles (2 hours a day)

Write 3 articles for your portfolio over the next 3 days. Make sure they are your best work and choose topics you enjoy. I suggest writing different types of articles too.

A. Write one short blog post of 500 words.

B. Write a longer article of 1500 words.

C. Write an About page for fictional or a website of yours (about 200-400 words).

Remember: Use the principles of SEO in your articles (don’t worry about the About page).

If you need help coming up with a topic, look at this list of blog topics.

Extra Sauce: Have a friend read your articles when you are finished.

Day Seven: Set up a Stellar profile on Elance

This is where you can start looking for work right away. Odesk or Guru are good options too. Pick which ever site works the best for you.

There are hundreds of jobs on these websites in many categories. There is also a lot of competition. If you have an exceptional profile, your odds of getting a job increase drastically.

Model Your Profile After The Best

Look for jobs that you want to apply for and investigate the profiles of the writers applying. Model your profile after the best.

Extra Sauce: This is a bit dishonest, but you will learn a lot. Set up a fake job and look for a writer. Look through the profiles of the writers that apply and model yours on the best. Don’t do this if it will give you guilt pangs for life and don’t do this often. Once will tell you all you need to know.

Here is an overview of my profile:

I specialize in writing articles that make readers and the search engines happy.
-Web content
-Articles
-SEO 

I’m am an American in love with travel, people, art, and business.

I love working with my clients to help them get more customers, readers, and help their businesses grow.

Maybe we can work together? 

I include my portfolio and a photograph of my face in my profile as well.

The Next Month: Apply for Jobs Over and Over 

It isn’t going to be easy to get your first gig. But keep applying for jobs on freelancing sites. I would always do this the first thing in the morning.

Expand your search to Craigslist or other online classified job postings as well. You can search the city near you and also major cities throughout the country.

When you find relevant job postings, send out a short email with your portfolio attached.

Here is one email that got me a job:

Subject: I’m a local writer

Hey there,

I’m a web content writer, who lives here in Ann Arbor. I am interested in the details of the job.

How many words per article?
Do you have a keyword list?
How many articles do you need?

I’ve included a portfolio of my work.

You can reach me at my email or my phone number is (999) Hot – Stud (although I would include your own number).

Regards,

Benjamin

Extra Sauce: If you are really ambitious, go to local marketing meet-ups and say you write content for websites. Typically there are a lot of website owners and meeting someone in person is a great way to find clients.

Important: After two weeks if you haven’t got a job, you will probably want to quit. Keep sending emails everyday for a month.

Your First Gig: Knock Their Socks Off

In your first gig, make sure you do your best work. It is very important to get your work done on time too.

Extra Sauce: Finish your articles before you said you would. This will set you apart from other writers and hopefully your client will tell their friends how awesome you are.

Important: Guarantee all of your work and if your client isn’t happy, ask them why and fix it… promptly (even if you think they are crazy).

Writing Is About Relationships

It is about the writing you do, but it is also about the relationship with your client.
If you give a shit about their business and genuinely want to help them with your writing, your clients will feel that. If your clients feel it, they will come back for more and tell their friends.

Finally…

Chris Guillebeau’s The Writer’s Guide To Money And Passion is 2,000 words for those that love writing. If you want to make a career out of writing, this is a great place to start.

If you decide to follow these over the next month, please send me an email. I’d love to help you out and see how it goes for you.

Is there anything else you would like to know? Please ask on Twitter or in the comments.

***

If you enjoyed this post or know a friend that would, please share it with them. 

 

18 Responses to Beginner’s Guide To Writing Web Content
  1. Jack Daniels
    February 2, 2012 |

    Hey, just thought I would help you out by pointing out a typo (or at least I think it’s a typo).

    In the video you claim to make $400 a month, while in the article you claim to make $400 a week.

    Good luck to you. Wish I had the creativity and patience to do this sort of work.

  2. Maria
    April 8, 2012 |

    I am Indian but my clients never kick my ass. It’s not about Native American, I always give ‘em what they need that’s all they want, good post though

  3. Elaine Northcutt
    August 23, 2012 |

    Hi Benjamin–

    I’m in the process of re-tooling career. Came across this site. Very helpful and useful information, especially reference to other books.

    Thank you.
    Elaine.

  4. [...] built my freelance writing business back [...]

  5. [...] another post I wrote 11 months ago, The Beginner’s Guide To Writing Web Content. In that article I included a sample portfolio, profile, and emails that you can [...]

  6. Travis Flanagan
    April 30, 2013 |

    HI, Benjamin,

    Great site, great advice (particularly for a newbie like me) I sifted through a lot of chaff and finally found your site. Others I found spent more time talking about themselves than getting down to cases. This is the best site I have found for diecting a newbie in the business and I will tell others (newbies) to have a look too.
    Cheers

  7. Marina
    June 2, 2013 |

    This has been very useful for me! Many thanks for all the information listed above, this is very generous of you, since you might be competing with some of people reading your advice! Nevertheless, thank you again for all the useful tips!

  8. Jamie Thomson
    July 14, 2013 |

    Some really useful information here. Thanks for the pointers.

  9. Emma
    July 23, 2013 |

    Great post – really commonsense, factual information. I’ve been on Odesk for a few weeks and think your advice is spot on.

  10. pooja
    September 6, 2013 |

    Thank you for guiding we beginners…your post is very helpful…

  11. Madsy
    September 11, 2013 |

    Good stuff! but why not call it adventuresauce vs Indian Writers?

  12. vilma kantharia
    September 22, 2013 |

    Thanks for the article on how to get started. Its now given me a fair idea of how to get going. Will certainly keep your advise in mind and will check out the links.

    Thanks once again.

    VILMA
    (INDIA)

  13. swati
    November 12, 2013 |

    Hi Benjamin
    This is so informative, exactly what i was looking for. You have explained everything in such a simple way that it makes the process so much clearer.
    Thanks once again and All the best to you

  14. Donbosco C. Fernandes
    November 27, 2013 |

    Hi! My name is Donbosco. I want to learn how can I become a content for web.

    Thanks & regards.

  15. yaara
    December 18, 2013 |

    what is you elance username? I may want to hire you
    tnx

  16. Harriet
    December 30, 2013 |

    Hi. Your article was informative. I am not a writer but i have spent the past 2 months researching and writing an informative article. So i guess maybe blogging is nt an option for me because i dont see how i will make money from one or two articles. Maybe i should set up a website where pple can view my article. Please give guidance as to the way foward.

  17. Bradley Hall
    February 28, 2014 |

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It’s always helpful to read through content from other writers and practice something from other web sites.

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