How to Become a Content Strategist

Content writing is a technically challenging and exciting industry, but you want more. Maybe you’ve built a solid business as …

Content writing is a technically challenging and exciting industry, but you want more. Maybe you’ve built a solid business as a content writer. Or maybe you are just starting to grow your business out and can already see the profit potential of offering services beyond writing to your clients.

This guide will help you learn how to position yourself as a content strategist to earn more money.

What is Content Strategy?

Content Strategy is a general term that can mean different things for different clients. It is the planning that takes place prior to the writing you provide.

It involves thinking about the ways you can generate leads, improve a website’s search engine rankings, and position the company as a brand leader. Content strategy covers the planning, development, and governance of content, aligning it with business strategy and client needs, to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time.  

Content writing, on the other hand, is one of the tactics a business might use as part of their content strategy.

Other tactics include video marketing, SEO, social media marketing, paid social, paid search, and omni-channel marketing (where you engage the customer at multiple touchpoints with different forms of media).

As a content strategist, you may deliver these services yourself, hire others to do them for your clients, or let the clients find their own experts for things like video content and paid advertising.

Content strategy is a good way to boost your freelance writing business because once you provide companies with a strategic marketing plan, you can then write the content they need to execute the plan.

Is Content Strategy Right for You?

Before you embark on offering content strategy to clients, it’s smart to determine if you’d enjoy and are prepared for this type of work.  

  • Do you enjoy talking to people on the phone?
  • Would you describe yourself as a “people person,” at least some of the time?
  • Are you confident working without clear direction from clients?
  • Do you know a little bit about marketing, or are willing to learn?
  • Do you understand SEO – or are willing to learn?
  • Do you like learning everything you can about different industries?
  • Do you enjoy thinking about what motivates people to make buying decisions?

Let’s face it.

Many freelance writers choose their job so they can work from home in their pajamas and not have to deal with people, meetings, or business buzzwords at all. If this sounds like you, content strategy is probably not a good fit.

But if you answered yes to most of these questions – or can get used to these type of situations – you might enjoy content strategy.

If you are coming from a journalism background and making your foray into content writing, your ability to suss out the story from your interview subjects could make you a great fit to develop content strategy for your clients.

And, of course, if you already have a marketing background, you may be a perfect fit. With marketing experience on your resume, you can possibly command even higher rates than beginning content strategists.

A Content Strategist by Any Other Name

Content strategist. Inbound marketing specialist. Internet marketing specialist. Inbound marketing strategist.

These are all words for basically the same job. You are helping your clients generate leads and increase conversions (sales) by creating – or helping to create – strategically designed digital content.

It sounds important, right? And expensive.  

And for many business owners who are new to internet marketing, it’s crucial.

What Goes into Content Strategy?

As a freelance content writer, you’re probably accustomed to receiving story ideas – or, occasionally, pitching your own – and writing them. You might provide SEO meta-descriptions and social media fodder, but that’s the extent of the content strategy and tactics you deliver.

When you enter a relationship as a content strategist, you’ll be taking your client through the entire content marketing journey.

Some of the things you will handle as a content strategist?

  • Keyword analysis and strategy
  • Developing a buyer persona for your client’s ideal customer
  • Developing an editorial calendar driven by the buyer persona and keywords
  • Creating a sales funnel that includes top-of-the-funnel (discovery) content, middle-of-the-funnel (consideration) content, and bottom-of-the-funnel (conversion) content. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a sales funnel, you can learn more about it in this article at SEO Moz.
  • Creating a content strategy that may include blogging, white papers for lead generation, paid ads, paid search, social media marketing and more.

Don’t worry if “sales funnel,” “buyer personas” and “keyword strategy” all sound like a foreign language to you right now. There are plenty of places online to learn about these topics.

Structuring Your Client Relationship as a Content Strategist

As a content strategist and a writer, you may opt to write all the content yourself, giving you an additional revenue stream.

Or you can sub-contract some of the content creation to colleagues if you prefer.

Sometimes, the client will choose to create some of the content, such as social media posts, in-house.  

Some content strategists only deal with organic (non-paid) content, while others may also provide a strategy for paid advertising.

It’s all up to you, your current level of knowledge, and how much research you want to do in specific areas.

Getting Paid as a Content Strategist

As a content strategist, you may opt to bill for your work in terms of a monthly retainer, which is the model followed by many marketing agencies and public relations firms.

Be sure to specify in the contract that your work will not exceed a certain number of hours per month.

You might also develop a baseline or a limit for the amount of content you will create, such as “no more than eight blog posts, two long-form articles, plus one hour-long strategy call per month,” or “at least four blog posts, one long-form article per month, and one hour-long strategy call.”

This way, client expectations are clear, and you (hopefully) won’t spend more than the allotted time on the account.  

Some clients may not need someone to manage their content strategy. They may be looking for advice about the types of strategy-driven content they should be asking you to produce. You can just bill them an hourly rate for content strategy phone calls.

You would then write whatever you both decide fits best into the content strategy and bill the writing on a per-project or per-word basis.

What If Your Client Doesn’t Want Content Strategy? 

As a content writer, you will also encounter clients who believe they have the perfect content strategy already. They know what they’re doing, they think.

After all, the client’s cousin, who did the SEO for his community college website, created a content strategy and now you, the writer, must follow it to the letter.

Even if you know it’s wrong.

Or maybe it’s the SEO agency charging your client thousands of dollars who is providing you with a keyword list and specific directions for each post you write.

But it goes against all your research and knowledge in the field.

First, know that there are multiple ways to manage a successful content strategy. And because search engine algorithms and content marketing best practices are constantly changing, experts often disagree on the best methods.

You can try to convince your client that you know best. However, if they insist on doing it their way, you’ll have to make a choice:

  1. Tell the client the job isn’t a good fit and part ways.
  2. Write what the client tells you, accept your money, and direct your creative energy and strategic knowledge toward the clients who appreciate it (and pay for it).

Ready to Add Content Strategy to your Freelance Writing Services?


If the idea of helping guide a client to greater success by writing content with a strong strategy driving it appeals to you, becoming a content strategist could be the way to take your freelance writing business to the next level.

The resources are available to learn all you need to know about SEO, inbound marketing, and content strategy. Having that knowledge can set you apart in a crowded field of freelance writers and help you command higher rates.

Are you ready?

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