Advice from Content Marketing Powerhouse Jennifer Goforth Gregory
By Susan Johnston Taylor, freelance writer
Write Like Your Name is On It
Jennifer Goforth Gregory literally wrote the book on content marketing for freelance writers. When she self-published The Freelance Content Marketing Writer: Find Your Perfect Clients, Make Tons of Money and Build a Business You Love earlier this year, the book hit Amazon’s number one new release spot for both the Home-Based Small Business and Business Writing categories.
With expertise in tech and finance, Gregory has been writing professionally for over 20 years, and her clients have included Hewlett Packard, IBM, Adobe, and Samsung. We caught up with her to find out how she built a successful content marketing career and why she feels writers should specialize and more. The following conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
The Beat: What do you love about content marketing writing?
Jennifer Goforth Gregory: I love the fact that I get to write information that helps other people solve their problems. Most good content marketing looks very similar to service journalism and it comes down to telling stories and providing fixes.
What is the biggest obstacle you've overcome to get where you are in your career?
I think the biggest obstacle is the same that almost every freelance content marketing writer I know has, which is managing the feast or famine cycle of freelancing. It always feels like there's too much or not enough. On a dime, you can lose an anchor client and go from your best year ever to scrambling. The challenge is always finding time to continually market your business no matter how busy you are.
How do you manage the feast and famine cycles of freelancing?
Some days are better than others. I think the biggest thing is taking an active approach. When I'm in the feast stage and I can't take any more clients, I try to either see if they can wait three or four weeks when I'm going to be less busy or how I can outsource my work. Also, I’ll refer to other writers if I can't take the work during the feast cycle.
I think the famine cycles are better if you manage the feast cycle better too. Then you hopefully don't have the famine cycles as much because you have kept those clients through outsourcing. If you’ve referred leads to other people, they’re likely to do the same to you, so when you hit a low point, you can reach out. They're going to be happy to help you because you've helped them.
Can you tell us about your audience-first approach to finding clients?
Prospecting for content marketing clients can feel daunting compared to journalism where there's a set, finite list of publications. My book offers a way to figure out which clients to target. It’s a three-step approach, and the first step is starting with an audience that you know well. Let's see, do you want to do an example?
Sure. How about thirty-something homeowners?
Okay. Perfect. Normally I refine the audience, but you did it for me. That’s step one. Step two is to make a list of all of the products and services that thirty-something homeowners buy. Things such as ... I just bought the Nest smoke detectors for my house. Lawn service, pest control – make a list of everything. Talk to other people in your audience, so you're not just getting your own perspective.
I also tell people to look at the ads in magazines targeted to that audience. Don't pay attention just to the companies at this point, but look at what they're selling. Go to conferences for people who are going to be homeowners. Go look at who's exhibiting and you're going to get more ideas.
Step three is who makes that stuff? You’re going to go through each one and find the companies that make the fancy ladders, smoke detectors – all of those things. That’s your list of people to contact. They are selling to the audience that you understand.
I see on your blog that you recommend writers choose a niche. Why is that important?
In content, the majority of clients are looking for people who have expertise in that area. It's very hard to get hired if you are packaging yourself as a generalist. You can be a generalist, but I think you have to package yourself as a niche writer based on whoever you are talking to. You can have 10 different niches but you must craft your letter of introduction so that you demonstrate the experience the person is looking for.
Anything else you want readers to know about you or your book?
My biggest thing is there's no right way to build your freelance business. You need to see a want that's authentic to you, your personality, your goals, your family, and it needs to be a business that you love. Your name is on it, and just because something works for other writers, doesn't mean it has to work for you.
You have to really embrace the things you're good at, and try to mitigate the things you're not good at. I hire proofreaders because I'm a bad typo-ist. You just have to be really honest and authentic, and I also think that you have to be super persistent. You can't give up if you don't hear back. It takes a lot to get started, and you have to believe in your heart that you have the ability to build a high-income business that you love.
Jennifer's book is available on Amazon.
*No affiliation, no profit share. Here at The Beat, we only recommend things we like.