You may be asking yourself, “Do I need SEO to be a freelance writer?” I asked myself that same question all the time, especially when I was just starting out. It’s taken some time, but I think I’ve developed a pretty good answer: No, you don’t need SEO training in order to make a living as a freelance writer. You’ll still find enough writing gigs to get by and you’ll still be doing something you love, which at the end of the day, is what matters most.
You will also, however, likely be doing yourself and your career a disservice in the long run.
The simplest answer to “Do I need SEO?” is “Probably not,” but there’s still much more to be said on the topic. While you can still be a freelance writer without it, having even a basic understanding of SEO will make you significantly better at your job. Whether you’re new to freelance writing or have been a professional writer for years, familiarizing yourself with SEO and the way it works will absolutely benefit your career.
Not the answer you were hoping for? Keep reading to find out why knowledge of SEO basics is so important for freelance writers and you may change your mind.
As a freelance writer, being marketable is essential. If you can’t provide services clients need, then the question “Do I need SEO?” turns into “How am I going to eat this week?” The more marketable you are, the more jobs you can apply for; the more jobs you apply for, the more jobs you get, and so on. This is why so many freelance writers are constantly expanding upon their knowledge-base and adding new niches to their arsenal.
Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t jobs out there for non-SEO writers. There absolutely are, but consider this:
Joe is a fish. He lives in a pond with lots of other fish.. Some of the fish, like Joe, are small and some are large. Everyday, the owner of the pond throws pellets into the water. Half the pellets are tiny and half are big. Joe’s a small fish, though, so he can only eat the tiny pellets. The larger fish, on the other hand, have larger mouths and eat both the tiny and big pellets. Joe’s life is a little harder, because he has to fight all the fish (little and large) for only half the food.
That may be an overly colorful analogy, but it leads us to an important question: Do you really want to be like Joe?
While there are all kinds of freelance jobs out there, the truth is that many companies are looking for writers who, at the very least, are familiar with how SEO works. I see far more job postings for SEO writing than I do those that do not mention it. If you opt to ignore SEO, you limit the number of positions you qualify for and compete in larger candidate pools for the jobs you do have access to. That’s just not fun.
So don’t be like Joe!
Better Jobs and Increased Pay
Not only does having a basic understanding of SEO give you access to more jobs, but the jobs are often better as well. Because familiarity with SEO is a coveted skill that fewer professional writers have, many companies offer better compensation for the work. It’s simple supply and demand, but it can really work in your favor if you decide the answer to “Do I need SEO?” is yes.
In turn, clients who can afford to pay more are generally better established and easier to work with. Both of these are important factors. If you can land a job with a well-established company, it means you’re likely to have more consistent work. Consistency is a huge plus. While applying for gigs is certainly part of the freelance writer’s daily agenda, the ultimate goal is landing long-term, well-paying positions. You want to decrease the time you spend submitting applications and increase the time you spend making money.
I’ve also found working for established companies is just generally more pleasant. These clients are familiar with hiring contracted workers, know what they are looking for, have experience explaining project details, and provide non-hectic working conditions. I don’t know about you, but those things all sound preferable to me.
I would be amiss, however, if I failed to mention that many “seasoned” freelance writers may disagree with me on this. Among some freelancers, there is a stigma against SEO writing. They claim that SEO jobs are actually lower paying and only offered by less credible clients trying to manipulate the system for financial gain. And, unfortunately, they’re not all wrong.
There are companies out there that offer terrible compensation for SEO jobs. I’ve worked them and I’ll tell you, getting paid $7 for each 500 word article stinks. Like, a lot.
But I’ll also admit that I’m just as culpable as the company I worked for because I applied for and accepted the job. There are unsavory positions in every industry. It’s your choice to take them or leave them. Personally though, I recommend you leave them; spend your time applying for the higher paying SEO positions with better companies – but hey, that’s just me!
As for “manipulating the system,”- this really isn’t a concern, especially now. Analytics systems have improved significantly over the years and it’s become increasingly difficult to “trick” the internet. In fact, search engines are really out to get the people who try.
Higher Quality Writing
Another common complaint about SEO jobs is that they encourage poor writing. I beg to differ.
I – Seriously – Beg – To – Differ
In fact, I’ve found that learning about and utilizing SEO in my writing has made me much more proficient at my job.
First, let’s consider the start of any process. Planning. It’s pretty essential. Truthfully, there’s not a single thing in the world that doesn’t benefit at least a little from a bit of planning. Writing SEO web content and articles is no different.
“But planning is so boring! Can’t I just start writing and see where it takes me?” … eh …
Writing without a plan is fine for personal blogging, but when you’re creating content for a client, you can never be too prepared. Being cognisant of SEO means you’ll never write without a plan again.
SEO writing also requires research. Your client has a specific audience and that audience uses specific words and phrases to find the information they need. You’ll need to research those keywords and phrases, as well as read through previous posts on similar topics. This helps you determine how best to proceed and results in quality content that assists your target audience more effectively and makes your client happy. In essence, writing with SEO in mind provides you a literal content roadmap.
What’s more? Having the keyword or phrase in mind keeps you on target.
I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes lose focus or wander off topic when I’m writing. It’s significantly more difficult for this to happen when I’m focused on my content remaining relevant to my SEO keyword.
There you have it; from where I stand, being SEO-minded does nothing but improve my process and writing.
Do I need SEO to create well-planned, researched, and focused content? Again, probably not. But I’ve come to prefer it and I never get lazy with my writing anymore.
Do I Need SEO to be a Freelance Writer?
No, but you should want to do it anyway.
Learning even a little about SEO will open doors to more and better work, as well as help you hone your writing skills. Truthfully, it doesn’t take much; you don’t need to become an expert in order to SEO-focused content.
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