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Writing for brands has a funky reputation among freelancers. I’ve heard people refer to it as “soul-sucking,” “selling out,” or at the very least, “boring.” But as branded content becomes increasingly sophisticated and brands recognize the value of telling real, human stories, I’ve found that most content writing is anything but soul-sucking. If you’re feeling stuck in your freelance career and haven’t previously considered content writing, there have never been better reasons to start.
Let’s be honest — freelancing for only media companies is a really hard way to live these days. Unless you’re an established reporter with a regular column in a major publication, constantly pitching without the ability to set your own pay rates is exhausting and stressful. Even if you’re able to make a living writing only for media publications, the recent layoff epidemic has put plenty of freelancers on edge and in tough waters. Publications cutting costs only increases the unreliability of freelance assignments — plus, plenty of those ex-staffers have gone freelance, increasing the competition of writers vying for editor attention.
That’s where content writing comes in. As Find A Way Media founder Chris Gillespie calculated, B2B writers spend only about 5 percent of their time pitching and the rest researching, strategizing, and of course, writing when they’re creating branded content. When brands decide to invest in content marketing, they usually have a good budget to do so that isn’t going anywhere.
Securing a content writing client on retainer means freelancers can use their skills to pay their bills. And writing for brands doesn’t mean that media clients have to go out the window. Plenty of writers write branded content while pitching their passion-fulfilling media articles when they have the creative bandwidth. Content writing alone can make for a very fulfilling freelance career. It can also serve as a great financial base for those who still want to write for their favorite publication but are overwhelmed by the unpredictable media industry.
Expand your skills
When I began my career as a content writer, I knew I could write a well-reported piece, but a whitepaper? A brand newsletter? A sales email? I was pretty lost on those fronts. In my two-ish years writing for brands, I’ve learned how to craft all kinds of copy and make even the most technical pieces of content tell a good story. Content writing often requires a lot of research, so if you’re a nerd about learning random new information, it’s an awesome way to gain knowledge about all kinds of industries you might never have otherwise encountered. Ever wondered about the future of chatbots in customer service? The hottest retail news? How environmentally friendly most marketing organizations are? Okay, so before writing about them I honestly hadn’t spent too much time thinking about these things either, but like most of my B2B writing assignments, I came out on the other side with a little bit more insight into how these different industries and the people behind them function. Going through the world with these strange bits of knowledge makes me more empathetic, curious, and engaged in ways I probably would never have thought to explore.
Branded content means high quality
Like every content space these days, the branded content landscape is an oversaturated one. That means that in order to make it worth their money and time, brands are investing in really, really good writing. Mediocre content writing just won’t cut it, so as a content writer you can be sure your editors will task you with putting your best work forward. I’m always proud of the branded work I publish, even if it’s not as popular or exciting to my friends as, say, an op-ed I wrote about befriending an AI app. As a content writer, I approach every assignment knowing I’ll be challenged, and knowing my editors expect high quality work. There’s no cutting corners or scraping by, so my brain always gets the same writing workout I always expected writing reported pieces or longform essays.
If you’re a reporter used to freelancing for media, transitioning to writing branded content can feel like a tough decision. But if you want to maintain your career autonomy while making good, consistent money, it’s an incredible way to keep your freelance lifestyle while spending less time pitching and stressing out about where your next assignment will come from. And remember, content writing doesn’t mean all other types of writing need to go down the drain. Pitching your lifestyle pieces or working on your novel while making a career out of branded content sounds like a pretty ideal freelance life to me.
Tallie Gabriel is a freelance B2B, culture, and tech writer and social media editor. She currently works with Find A Way Media and Lighthouse Creative, and is a podcast producer for Unthinkable with Jay Acunzo. She's also a cellist and plays with the folk band Cardboard Rocketship.