Being a freelance writer is often about a lot more than just writing.
That’s the easy part.
What most people don’t realize when they get into this career is just how much of it revolves around sales and marketing.
To see success, especially at the start, you have to learn to market yourself to potential customers.
One way to approach that is through complementary skills.
That means thinking of other skills or areas of expertise you have that can be a value add to your potential clients but isn’t totally out of the box.
One of the best complimentary skills any writer in the digital age can learn is search engine optimization (SEO).
Now, that’s not to say you need to go out there and master advanced SEO skills. That would be going a bit overboard.
But having, at the very least, a basic understanding of SEO can go a long way with your clients. And, knowing a more than the average bear is seen as a distinct advantage to potential clients.
So, as an aspiring freelance writer, having SEO skills can help you land a job and get paid more to do it.
Here’s what we mean.
SEO for Freelance Writers: How to Approach It
A lot of sales and marketing is learning to highlight your special sauce for the benefit of your potential clients.
Here’s one tried and rule of the internet today:
Everybody wants more clicks.
Clicks are the currency of this world, and Google is in charge. That’s just life as we know it.
So, any and every brand you can think of has to rely on search traffic to get readers (and customers). Showcasing your skills around this can help you get your foot in the door.
Learn Some SEO
Yea, you have to learn something — if this is the approach you want to take.
If you don’t care about search at all, that’s fine. But it’s also likely this type of stuff is something you are likely going to be asked about more in the coming years, so knowing some now is a good move.
Like we said before, you don’t need to become an expert. Just get the basics down.
You can check out this post about becoming an SEO freelancer to pick up a beginner’s level of education on search that can help get you started.
Glen Allsopp’s site, called Detailed, has a lot of good reading on learning SEO too.
Don’t forget to put this stuff in practice for your site too.
If you’ve got a blog up and running to help boost your writing, optimize your posts. Get into the habit of writing with SEO in mind whenever you can.
While you shouldn’t spend tons and tons of time learning every single tactic, anything you can learn is something you can use in your writing.
Highlight Your New SEO Skills
Now that you have some SEO skills, you can use them to improve your pitches and letters of introduction (LOIs).
Demonstrating that you know SEO and can apply it in your writing is something that is going to be pretty exciting for the people who hire you. After all, a lot of these people are doing some of the SEO work on the blog side of things already.
So when you’re chatting with a potential client about a job, let them know you understand SEO.
Talk about how you think about keywords, including relevant links, adding images, and generally optimizing a post as part of your approach to creating content.
It shows you’ve got some complementary skills — you’re more than “just a writer.” And, more importantly, for them, you’re likely taking some work off their plate.
Everyone likes the sound of that.
Use that in your pitches too. If someone is deciding between two competent writers, but you’ve also mentioned you know how to optimize for search, that can be a significant point in your favor.
Think About the Bigger Picture
Another thing to think about is what you can offer your clients to make you more money.
If you’re already skilled in SEO, then you can use that to offer additional services to both current and potential clients.
For example, you can put up a service on your site called a Content Audit.
This is where a site will pay you to go through their posts and highlight the ways they can improve their content for search. It might be as simple as optimizing a few posts or as in-depth as developing a brand new content calendar around specific keywords (which is something else you can offer too).
Here’s a real-life application.
I was writing for an insurance client doing blog posts. One day, we were chatting a bit about SEO, and I told him I had a few ideas to help improve some content that the brand wanted to use to get more traffic.
He sent me the link to the post and asked if I had any ideas on improving it for SEO.
Here’s what I wrote back (I’ve blanked out a few bits to protect the client’s privacy):
The client liked the idea, so I went in and made those changes and got paid for it. That helped me show off my SEO chops, which is something that came in handy, and he was able to get a post that performed a lot better for search.
Ready to Try It?
So you can probably see that we think the answer to this question is yes. It’s a good idea for freelance writers to learn at least some SEO.
It can help you become a better writer and land more work with clients.
Who doesn’t like that?