The way we buy and sell content is broken

content marketplace
  • Portfolios tell you everything you need to know about a writer
  • Only content directly related to your industry or niche is relevant

Portfolios aren’t as important as you think they are

Writers have unlimited opportunities to be published

The lines between writer and editor have blurred

Ghostwriting has become the norm

The proof is in the math

Industry expertise isn’t as important as you think it is, either

  • How is subject-matter expertise going to help a writer explain that your prices are going up due to civil unrest in the region where you get your raw materials?
  • Will a subject-matter expert be able to make the leap from describing features to connecting with customers on an emotional level based on benefits?
  • Will a subject-matter expert be able to overcome the curse of knowledge and the resulting tendency to talk to potential customers as if they’re at the bottom of the sales funnel when they actually have no idea what you sell or why they would need it?
  • Will a subject-matter expert be able to focus on keywords that customers would search for, or would they use technical terms that customers may have never even heard of?

Could it simply be a matter of semantics?

Now what?

What content writers can do

Ask for permission up front

Ask for testimonials

Be easy to vet

  • If you can’t link to particular pieces of content, list them (no links) by industry and topic, as I do on my portfolio page.
  • If your portfolio is thin in terms of demonstrating a certain skill or area of expertise, use your blog to fill in the gaps. Just make sure that your blog posts reflect the same kind of quality and insight as the paid work you do for clients. And distribute your posts in a way that underscores your mastery of social promotion.
  • Be clear about what you do — and about what you don’t do. If you know you’re not a good fit for a certain type of client, say so up front so they don’t waste any more time.
  • Use your website’s “Home” and “About” pages to describe your approach to content marketing and to working with clients. Just knowing that you have a process goes a long way toward creating confidence, because it demonstrates that you’ve done enough work to know what works and what doesn’t.

What brands, agencies, and clients can do

Start by questioning your own assumptions

  • How do you find and evaluate content writers? Are you relying on the tired, old journalistic criteria, or are you using criteria based on your business’s current needs?
  • How are those hiring methods working for you? Are the writers you hire based on your chosen criteria delivering what you need? Or do you always feel a bit disappointed?
  • If there’s a gap, how can you change your recruitment and vetting processes to close it?

Don’t penalize a writer for doing the very same things you’d want a writer to do

Acknowledge the ghostwriting corollary

Just have a conversation, already



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Patti Podnar

Patti Podnar

Wife, mother, and content marketing consultant. Discovering and enjoying life as a work-from-home business owner while #50ishwithafullnest.