This post is part of The 30.000 Word Challenge. See all the articles in the series! 

 

I am lucky enough to be writing about Content Marketing, creating a Podcast on the subject, while being surrounded by amazing digital marketers and entrepreneurs. I’d like to continue my sharing journey by talking about the essence of this blog – How I Got Started With Content Marketing.

From AdWords to Articles

I used to be a man of fewer words and barely any characters – 95 to be exact. That’s the limit on any AdWords Search ad. I started my freelancing career as an AdWords “specialist”. I put that last word in quotes since I was still learning (and still am) the ins and outs of converting visitors into buyers.

I was also suffering from Impostor Syndrome and thought I knew next to nothing, compared to all the other “real” experts and specialists out there. Thankfully, my Australian client saw something in me and gave me a chance (us Romanians seem to be kind-hearted and trustworthy, so maybe that shows even online).

I was doing AdWords for about 2 week at around $10, but even my client knew I wasn’t really into the gig. It was my first (and only) client on oDesk (now UpWork). I didn’t get fired, I sort of gained more of a Manager role, getting new marketers, copywriters and developers on board. That was exciting for a while, until I found jobs.problogger.net (a very popular and professional job board for freelancers in the Digital Marketing/Content Marketing fields).

I found my first client and I wrote about 3 articles on topics like email marketing, trends in digital marketing and an app review. The pay was ok, but something was definitely amiss: I wasn’t enjoying myself. What was I to do?

From Articles To Content Creation

The missing piece in my article writing was quality. I felt like there was more I do than write words and format paragraphs. I didn’t know it then, but I was held back by the format and my own thinking.

Even though the internet connects us all and speeds in Romania are really fast, there is still information that wasn’t getting through. There was no “influencer outreach”. There was no “content marketer”. There were mostly just articles written for SEO or clickbait purposes. So I knew I wanted to do great things, but there were external and internal elements that kept me from providing amazing value for my clients.

I decided to go full throttle and not think about requirements or keywords. I wanted to create something I would enjoy reading. And since I’m mostly a visual learner, I learned that what my articles needed was a bit of graphical flair. Here is my first article since that shift in thinking happened. It’s not amazing, but it’s clear, it brings value and I’m really proud of my achievement. And yet, something was still not right.

From Content Creation To Content Marketing

My content creation skills were getting better – I was getting more confident in my writing, I found new, easier ways to create graphics and clients were praising me for my work. It was, after all, an overdelivering tactic. Clients were looking for writers and I became a content creator for hire.

But even though the content was improving, traffic wasn’t really that high. Or at least, not as high as I knew it deserved to be. So I had to make the next step and evolve towards promoting the content.

This was the part where the Impostor in me reared its head. I was afraid again – afraid my content wasn’t good enough, afraid my emails didn’t sound “American” enough to warrant a response…petrified of what experts thought about my ideas and concepts.

So I took the plunge and worked on a new article, asking the opinions of specialists in the field. It was the 4th part in the articles series – one not even planned by client. I wanted to experiment reaching out to people I looked up and see what they had to say. Deep down I also hoped they would share my article, seeing as they were the main content in it.

I figured I only needed a few answers, so I only emailed 7 experts I found through my daily blog reading habit. I made sure to target the specific niche the article was for (Facebook Ads for Bloggers and Publishers). Lucky for me, all 7 replied back, but 1 was just an automated answer saying he didn’t have time for answers to my questions. 85,7% is a lot better than 0%, so I just published those 6 answers.

I was blown away by the kindness, the amount of value in the replies and by the simple idea that these people took me seriously and actually gave me some answers. They could’ve easily went about their day, ignoring my request (especially since it wasn’t my blog and it wasn’t just about facebook or facebook ads). But they didn’t and that just made my day.

I few days later, I chatted with my client and asked whether there was any traffic change for the new article vs the other ones in the series. He send me one Google Analytics screenshot and asked me: “What do you think?”. The results were staggering. The new expert-driven article had twice the traffic of previous ones. And it was only thanks to me and my fearful mind.

My content marketing tactics had worked and I knew I was onto something special, so I continued on that road ever since. But there are always bumps in the road. I’ve made mistakes and I’d love it if you’d read them and avoid them at all costs.

My 5 Terrible Mistakes (Avoid These Like The Plague)

  1. I didn’t communicate my schedule properly.
    Working with clients wasn’t my strong suit. I was more of a writer, less of a stellar freelancer. I sometimes needed more time to do a great job on a project, but was too afraid to ask for that time. Communication is key – in freelancing and marketing.
    I’ve since tried my best at communicating any delays, as soon as I knew that was the case.
  2. I didn’t ask for more money for more work.
    Maybe I was too shy, maybe I didn’t trust my work enough. Point is: I was writing articles, creating short visuals and infographics, reaching out to influencers and finding ways of promoting that piece of content. And I was still just asking for the per 1.000 words pay. Ask for the money you deserve, your work and your dignity deserve it.
  3. I didn’t care enough about my content.
    There were projects I took on just for the money. This meant that even though I did by best to please my clients, I was still just doing it to get paid.
    I’ve learned to figure out where that value is for the client and the end users. Putting myself in those shoes allowed me to craft content based on their needs and desires. That made it familiar, warm and enticing – even for me.
  4. I wasn’t looking to constantly improve.
    Since my clients weren’t creating great content themselves, the bar was set pretty low. I was the only one who was supposed to push the quality up. Unfortunately, since I was paid the same for 1.000 or 1.000 words + graphics, I didn’t really bother to really get better over time.
    Since the creation of this blog there are 3 basic things that I do: create content, read about content and increase my authority online by having chats with cool marketers.
  5. I wasn’t thinking in terms of series and stats.
    There are a lot of elements a good Content Marketer should be thinking about: content, value, personas, analytics, curation…Visual.ly has a good infographic and post on this topic. It has helped me understand that my content should be measurable and not just in terms of traffic, but also integrated within a larger Inbound Marketing plan, to deliver leads and conversions.
    I’m also much more interested and inclined to do extended and series of posts. Since I own my publishing platform (this blog), I don’t have to worry about deadlines,  cost per 1.000 words or outside intervention.
What about you? How did YOU get started with Content Marketing?