Guest post: content marketing for freelancers

This is a guest post by James Quilter. James is a digital consultant for the London-based content marketing agency FirstWord Media. James is an expert in content marketing: using informational content like blog posts, articles, infographics and videos to capture customers’ interest without directly advertising to them. James piqued my interest with a post on FirstWord’s website about the content marketing strategy used by the bike clothing company Rapha, and I asked if he could adapt some of his strategies to us as freelancers.

Content marketing has been successfully used to boost sales and the brands of multinationals such as Coca-Cola, GE and Marriott. But, as this post will show, it can also be employed by small businesses and ‘solopreneurs’ to increase customer numbers and substantially raise revenue.

As you are probably aware, you have a key advantage as a specialist in translation services. You understand language and copy. This cannot be overstated. Content marketing is about creating high-quality articles, multimedia or infographics. By contrast with straight sales copy, content marketing is designed to inform, engage, and/or entertain your potential customers. For some companies, this simply involves a blog. For others, like Marriott, it might be a short feature film: Marriott’s in-house content studio recently released Two Bellmen Three, a film that follows a Korean couple the day before and the day of their wedding.

Regardless of the form that content marketing takes, the mission is the same: generate interest and engagement among potential and existing customers. The selling is a side-benefit of content marketing. This is important, because it’s a key difference between content marketing and advertising.

How can translators use content marketing?

There is an argument that the technicalities and nuances surrounding translation make it a perfect fit with content marketing. Your customers might be intrigued by the differences between European and Latin American Spanish, or how to handle the differences between different legal systems: how do you translate the words “felony” and “misdemeanor” into French? In fact, they may be Googling those questions right now.  Answer these questions and you will position yourself as an expert.

Yet it has to be done correctly. The web is littered with moribund blogs that were pumped out without thought or strategy. The “publish and pray” approach worked 10 years ago, but now that so many companies and freelancers have their own blogs, your content must  inform or entertain your target customers or it will be ignored.

If you are a solopreneur, here are some pointers to help you with your content marketing.

  1. Content is about ideas

Identify your clients’ problems. Scan your old e-mails and look for the questions that customers ask you over and over again, or the problems that they need you to solve. If you are writing a blog post, try to make it longer than 600 words. Ideally, something like 1,000 words is even better.  For an SEO bump, include bullet points, relevant videos from YouTube, and lists. From an SEO perspective, these are all effective.

Additionally, don’t rely just on text-driven blogs. Videos or infographics can work equally well, and will stand out in a sea of text-heavy articles. Videos and infographics are getting easier and cheaper to create all the time; even a 30-second video on a topic like “How to decide what needs to be translated,” or “Translating marketing slogans into Spanish” could be effective.

2. Pay someone else

Of course, running a business requires time; translators are almost always excellent writers, but you already have a full-time job running your translation business. You may need content marketing, but not have the time to create it. And, as with translation, good content demands both time and diligence. So, bring in outside help. Ask a professional content marketing writer to create blog posts or articles for you; this removes the “I don’t have time” barrier, and because you’re a quality writer, you can edit these materials and recreate them in your own voice if needed.

3. Reformat and diversify

No one has an endless supply of new and fresh ideas for content. In such a scenario, build on what you already have – in other words, repurpose it. Use different formats for your content: combine several related posts into a white paper, or make a blog post into a tip sheet that you can send to clients, or make an article into a video. When there is a lot of information to be conveyed, you might opt for attractive infographics, too. For example, you could create (or hire someone to create) an infographic about SEO keyword translation tips that could be kept and used by your customers.  Additionally, diversifying your content will let you share these materials on a variety of social platforms, thus increasing your exposure. One blog post could spawn a series of Tweets, a LinkedIn Pulse article, an infographic, and a video, all generated from one idea.

4. Update your work

Some pieces of content might be better than others in converting prospects to sales. Every industry has its “evergreen” topics: your target clients might wonder how much translation costs, or how to create a multilingual social media presence, or what languages they should be translating into. Even so, make sure to update your existing evergreen content regularly. All industries change. New trends come and go. Your blog might rank high on Google, but that 2015 publication date will put people off as time drags on. And Google hates a high bounce rate. Make sure to:

-Analyze what’s your most popular content and schedule an update every few months. Make it clear you have revamped it.

-Go through your popular content and include the latest developments in the sector. And although cutting can be hard, make sure you remove outdated references.

5. Costs and time

You may be producing the campaign yourself. But that does not mean it is cheap. Keep an eye on the time spent, because a campaign that is free in terms of cost is not free in terms of time that you could be spending on paid work rather than creating content. Real costs can arise when you begin to include high-quality images or graphics, if you need to purchase the rights to these or hire someone to create them for you.

You have to be sensible and aware of what is visually appealing. Quality images are essential to any content, but try not to rely too heavily on stock photos. Always keep your costs in check and stop immediately when you find yourself at the point of diminishing returns. Set a budget for your campaign (in terms of both direct costs and time spent) before you start.

6. Distribution

You have an idea for an informative blog post based on a recurring problem for clients? Great. But first off, think about who is going to read it. Where are you likely to reach this audience? Where do they hang out? Quora, Twitter, or the Financial Times message board? If they are always on your site or reading your newsletters, great: you already know how to get your content to them. But even Coca-Cola has to reach out to new markets. In fact, many large companies rate the success of a piece of content by how many times it has been shared.

So, while creation is an important aspect of conducting business, proper distribution is equally essential. Some believe it is even more important. Why? Because if your work never reaches your customer, then it is wasted. Let’s be clear. Your aim is to have people read your content. If it remains unread, your time would have been better spent watching Game of Thrones with the laptop switched off. But you should be picky when it comes to the platform where you post your content.

Unless your own blog or website gets a steady flow of traffic, you should opt for the most popular platforms, from where your content can be shared extensively. A brand–including your personal brand as a freelancer–that has received personal recommendations from people who are perceived as trustworthy and as influencers finds it easier to gain trust from readers and customers. When an industry leader promotes you, it sends a message that she or he believes in your work –which consequentially makes you more popular. Moreover, don’t be afraid to promote your posts–content marketing is not a time to be shy. Facebook and Twitter are relatively cheap in terms of their advertising rates, and allow you to focus on very narrow market segments if you choose to advertise.

Also, you should have a newsletter and a subscription list. If you already have a list, make sure that you’re actively asking people to sign up for it. This is your key to contacting your potential customers directly. If you don’t have a list, set one up right away.

7. It’s not all about page impressions

Don’t get hung up on traffic numbers and the number of views that your content gets. Sure, they are important. But you need to aim for good prospects and high-quality leads. Better to have 100 of these than 1,000 people who do not need your services. The most important thing is to create relevant and engaging content, and distribute it on platforms where your potential clients spend time.


There is one final point to make. Your bigger competitors may be churning out copy faster than you’ll ever be able to. But you have one key advantage over the ‘marketing expert’ producing the obligatory five blog posts a week. Being at the center of the business, you know what your work is about, what problems you solve, and what your customers want. You might not be able to beat the big boys on quantity, but quality is another thing entirely. Even if you produce just one high-quality blog post a month, that is enough. Just make sure it is what people want and the rest will take care of itself.

6 Responses to “Guest post: content marketing for freelancers”
  1. Simon Akhrameev September 11, 2017
    • Corinne McKay September 12, 2017
    • James Quilter September 18, 2017
      • Corinne McKay September 18, 2017
  2. Paul Froese September 15, 2017
    • Corinne McKay September 15, 2017

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