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Write to Influence

7 tools for building a successful content writing business

Building a content marketing business is not easy. And you don’t usually stumble into one either. Even if you do, it’s rare to find something that can be managed sustainably. Content marketing is not just about the quality of language, it is also about the influence you can exert through your content. This is not to say you should be an influencer in every sense of the word; it just means you should be able to influence people through your content.

This influence comes from experience. It is learned when you are working through the drudgery of low-paying content jobs or making the boring kind of content. Building influence happens through developing a specific voice and having an original perspective to share. Finding this perspective happens not by parroting Gary Vee or writing what others are writing in general. It happens by publishing hundreds of pieces.

Once you do, you’ll see what sticks with the readers and what doesn’t. Creating a high volume of content is how you understand what’s original, and what’s appreciated. This feedback loop adds value to your journey as a writer. Putting this process into practice takes some thinking. Doing it by yourself may be quite tricky because building that following and putting your content in front of thousands of readers takes a lot of time. 

I worked as a ghostwriter for a columnist at a top publication. Together, he and I wrote piece after piece that passed under the eagle eyes of a bevy of editors. The one that stood out was nothing special. I thought it was just like all the others, maybe even a bit vanilla in comparison. But it clicked with the readers. This experience provided a big learning for me, and it added  value to my own evolution as a writer.

In short, getting to a place where your writing can influence others takes time, and you need to write and publish a lot. And since you are writing a lot, why not get paid for it too? Here are 7 ways in which you can get paid to write. 

Ghostwrite for B2B entrepreneurs on LinkedIn

I have done a ton of this. Find entrepreneurs who are trying to build their influence on LinkedIn and see if you can ghostwrite for them. You will get the opportunity to interact with these business professionals and create great content partnering with them, and also have enough leeway to explore and experiment.

Finding such entrepreneurs can be easy too. They may be people you’re already following. Look at what they are posting regularly, and come up with your own ideas on how they can do this better. You can then reach out to them and offer your support. Most of the time, they would be more than happy to accept it. 

In the initial phases, you can rely on them to give you ideas which you can then expand into full-fledged blogs. Later, as you understand how their thought processes work, you can pitch your own ideas too.

Make sure to keep track of what’s working and what’s not working, because the pieces that work the best give you an indication of how you can create influence. 

Help people turn podcasts into blogs and social media posts

People who run podcasts are looking for ways to repurpose this content into blogs or social media content. No matter how masterful the content, listening to a long podcast may not be for everyone. So it makes sense to have the content in more than one format. Even though I say podcasts, the same principle applies to webinars and other longer forms of content. 

I’ve done this one, too. Listening to a podcast and structuring the ideas that have been shared on the podcast into blogs takes a bit of effort, but the process gives you a lot of insight into how to repurpose content and build influence.

Persuading with your voice is quite different from persuading through written content. You need to be more ordered and coherent about the entire narrative and build a definite structure. It is great learning for you and a win for the client too. 

Write blogs for new brands

Approaching new brands may be a good idea. Many of them look for ways to enhance their content output, and writing blogs gives you a great platform to experiment with fresh content ideas. New brands are still trying to find their narrative and their content strategy so you will have a lot more to work with, and the value you create would be much appreciated too. 

New brands will also be looking for more actionable content, as they are aggressively chasing growth. So the demand for the content to convert is pretty high. This pushes you to explore your boundaries and create more original and insightful content that helps generate leads for the brands. 

Churn out product descriptions for Amazon

Product descriptions on Amazon can pay you and are great tools to create influence too. Having to affect sales directly is an unbeatable motivator for you to experiment and find the content that performs best. This kind of content is highly influence-oriented and will give you a great deal of exposure to writing in other contexts too. 

Approach the merchants with your ideas and your pitch, and you are likely to find welcoming ears since most of these entrepreneurs aren’t writers. Experimenting and ideating within such specific parameters builds your muscle in writing to influence. 

Co-write with an influencer

Working with other influencers can expand your horizons and give you new perspectives. Most influencers have created a space for themselves by bringing original and relevant viewpoints into the discourse that the audience has approved. You can learn a lot by writing with a more experienced and better networked person.

With time, you understand how they approach problems and how they build influence into their content. You also get a platform to experiment with your content and, riding on the influencer’s reach, you can validate some of your ideas too. 

Edit other writers’ work

As you gain experience writing content, editing others’ work gives you perspective. Looking at how they have written will spark creative ideas in you. Further, you should be able to add value by making structural changes and strengthening where needed. This learning can be invaluable for you in your journey as a writer. You can also try going beyond your regular areas of interest and editing writing from other domains too to see how different types of content work. 

Pitch your idea for your own column

Once you have written enough content for other people, brands, and agencies, it may be time to pitch your own idea for a column. If you have a body of work to show and can share some samples of what you intend to do, the doors may open for you.

Your work experience will reflect in your content, beyond just having people who can serve as references. Talk numbers if you can. Demonstrate how you have generated value for your clients in the work you have done in terms of reach and engagement. Publications will certainly be open to having your column if it helps them to enhance their reach and engagement. 

Conclusion

Building influence as a writer means more than getting paid to write the odd piece in a publication. You have to build your profile by writing and publishing hundreds of pieces, often not even under your name. But this process is what helps you understand your style, voice, and the art of persuasion. 

Keep an eye on how your content is doing. That is the most critical feedback for you as a writer. Do more of what works and do less of what doesn’t. And be sure to expose yourself to a variety of types of content. Experiment. Iterate. Try again. With this breadth of experience and exposure, your ability to influence grows, and you are able to command better and better value for the content you create.

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Written by Holland Webb

Holland Webb helps other people leave their mark on their world while staying out of sight himself. To that end, Holland serves as an independent corporate ghostwriter, helping education companies and B2B technology firms tell their corporate stories in the voices of real people. He is also a partner in The Writers' Collective, a team of expert writers who craft content for companies while never revealing their real identities. In his spare time, Holland podcasts about how words and stories affect our world at The Afterword Podcast with his co-host Amy Bowlin.

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