The demand for online writing services has exploded in the past decade. Every organization needs a website, every website needs content, and content needs writers to create it. Entire business models live online. By many accounts, the bulk of the world’s content has been created in the past few years.
According to data from research firm Technavio, global spending on content marketing—which includes freelance writing services—will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 16% through 2021 to a projected total of $412 billion.
Anyone would think it is a great time to be a writer. However, the reality is not so straightforward. Making a decent living out of writing remains tough.
The New Economy
It’s not just freelance writers who are experiencing the uncertainty of the digital economy. The march of automation is leaving many other workers apprehensive for the future of their jobs.
According to freelance marketplace Upwork, the majority of workers in the U.S. economy will be freelance by 2027. That is a stunning prediction by any standard. “Freelancers increasingly think that having a diversified portfolio of clients is more secure than one employer,” said Upwork in its recent survey of the status of freelancing in the United States.
So if the economy is increasingly turning freelance and the demand for content is plentiful, isn’t this a great time for wordsmiths everywhere?
The outlook is mixed. Although 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the median writer salary at $61,820, other surveys point to much lower pay for freelance writers, exacerbated by low hours.
Take the 2017 survey from Freelance Writing in which the average freelance writer reported working fewer than 20 hours a week for less than $10,000 a year. Most of these low-income writers had fewer than three years’ professional experience, with 70% saying that finding enough work was their main struggle.
By contrast, survey respondents earning $40,000 or more a year and working more than 40 hours a week had at least five years’ experience and picked up most of their work through networking and word of mouth.
The Role of AI
The pattern is clear: making a sustainable living as a freelance writer is possible, but it takes time to get established. The question is how can writers best navigate that tricky period when they are finding their feet and building their credentials?
Here we turn to AI. If artificial intelligence is nipping at the heels of conventional employment, it may also be the thing that helps freelance writers gain more jobs, increase their productivity, and generate a higher wage.
What follows are five ways in which AI can turn you into a more accomplished and productive writer, regardless of experience.
1. Topic Ideation
It’s easy to run out of topic ideas. There is so much content online and so many things already written about, how will you find fresh topics to run with?
AI has an answer for that. Topic analysis tools provide great ways of reviewing existing content and identifying gaps. Through natural language processing, these tools analyze huge swathes of content within seconds and generate recommendations for your review. Platforms such as MarketMuse or Frase can help in providing topic recommendations that also incorporate SEO value.
You’re still making the final call about what topics to select and why. But AI guides you along the way in a fraction of the time.
2. Accelerate your Pitching
As the Freelance Writing survey shows, the majority of writers are saddled with the need to pitch multiple topics to secure one job. Even highly experienced writers must spend time preparing topic pitches to ensure buy-in from their clients.
The problem is pitching takes time. A draft headline alone won’t cut it. You will likely need to provide an article outline and provisional research to highlight what your planned article is about. You may also need to demonstrate how the article is relevant in term of target audience and SEO.
In those cases where a prospective client supplies the topic and invites proposals, the pressure on the quality of the pitch is even higher. Freelance writer Rachel Brooks says she pitches at least 10 times per day to guarantee a steady stream of work.
The good news is that AI-driven summarization tools can help not only cut down the amount of time associated with pitches but improve the quality of the pitches themselves.
A good quality pitch also makes it much easier when the time comes to create the content. Content strategist Fernando Nikolic has taken this technique to the next level. He supplies his international team of freelance writers with research-rich creative briefs using the same AI summarization techniques that are helping Rachel speed up her pitching process. AI-generated article outlines get the content creation process rolling in minimal time and keep it on track.
3. Optimize your Content for SEO
Selecting a good topic and putting together a strong pitch are necessary components, but what happens if your content is not optimized for search? It’s like the tree that fell down in the forest that nobody heard.
In past times, editors would help guide content development for you. Now the machines can do much of the hands-on work. Platforms such as Can I Rank ensure your content is optimized for search. They also help keep your writing on topic and free from digression. This leaves more time for you to polish up the final piece.
And just think how satisfying it is to see your article rise to the top of the search engine rankings for the keyword query you targeted. That’s tangible ROI by anyone’s measure.
4. Creating emotionally-optimized content
So you’re checking all the best practice boxes, but what about voice, personality, and emotion?
Your content needs to resonate with its audience. Sometimes just a small change in wording or the way you structure the opening of an article will determine whether or not a person reads on. AI platforms like Persado offer great functionality for optimizing your content emotionally.
Headlines are imperative here. A smart headline that immediately conveys its meaning while generating a level of curiosity that propels a reader to click through will win out.
And although clickbait headlines might be tempting, remember the actual content of your piece must deliver against the promise of the headline. Don’t oversell your story, but don’t underplay it either.
5. Improve your Writing Style and Grammar
Finally, don’t forget the plethora of tools available, from Grammarly to Acrolinx, to help you writer cleaner and more readable prose. When was the last time you opened a paper dictionary or thesaurus? You have everything you need online to render your writing as strong, as clear, and as optimized for search as possible.
Making AI accessible
While freelance writers understand the potential of AI-powered tools, many of these solutions are not easily affordable. AI companies often target large companies and deliver enterprise products at enterprise-level prices, leading to questions around accessibility for freelancers.
By contrast, less expensive tools may fall short in the eyes of professional writers, who need solutions that actually improve the quality of their work.
Frase meets the needs of freelance writers by offering an enterprise-grade research and content optimization solution at a price point that freelance writers can understand. Freelance writer Rachel Brooks agrees. Find out more about her experience as reported in the nDash blog
Save time, write better, secure more work. Frase offers AI-driven solutions that help freelance writers thrive at every stage.