Is SEO Copywriting the Career for You? 12 Questions, Answered


Want to be an SEO writer? Check this out!

Have you thought about dipping your toes in the SEO writing waters, but you figured it was “too technical” to learn?

Or, have you shunned SEO writing because you’ve heard it was spammy, maddening and not worth your time?

Let me calm your fears…

SEO writing has been around for a long time — close to 20 years now.

A lot has changed over those 20 years.

No longer does Google reward keyphrase-stuffed, spammy writing (woohoo!)

In fact, quality, authoritative writing is what scores a sky-high ranking. You know, the kind of writing you already love to create.

Wondering if you should add SEO writing to your services mix? Here are the 12 most common questions I hear  — and my (sometimes blunt) responses. Enjoy!

1. I have zero copywriting experience. Can I still write SEO copy?


There will be a learning curve.

You don’t have to be a technical wizard who enjoys coding sites in your spare time. But you do need to understand the SEO copywriting basics.

Otherwise, you are doing your clients a huge disservice. Not understanding SEO best practices means you’ll miss important opportunities (or make mistakes) that can cost your client money.

(Fortunately, SEO copywriting skills can be picked up fairly quickly.)

You’ll also need to learn the basic copywriting ropes.

If you want to help your clients succeed (and that means helping them make sales,) it’s crucial that you understand how to create conversion-oriented copy. It will help you write better Web pages, improve your email campaigns – and even help you drive more traffic to your site.

2. I’m an established copywriter. Should I learn SEO writing, too?

Yes. SEO writing is a service you can offer established clients, increasing your profit margins.

Plus, why wouldn’t you want to help your client drive more traffic to her site? After all, if you don’t provide this service, your client may be forced to find another vendor who can.

3. Do I need to go back to school?

I don’t know of any universities that incorporate SEO copywriting into their curriculum. Some writers choose to get a certificate in ad or business writing — but it’s not required.

4. So, if I can’t go to school to learn SEO copywriting, how will I learn the ropes?

You have a few options.

Unlike some careers, don’t figure that you’ll “learn SEO copywriting” in a few months – and that’s all you’ll need to do. I’m still learning. I’m still researching. It’s a never-ending process.

If you enjoy learning in a conference environment, events like Pubcon and Search Marketing Expo run SEO copywriting panels. AWAI runs web writing workshops.

Occasionally, there are local workshops too – you can always check with an SEO copywriter you like and see if he/she is running anything in your area.

If you prefer to learn from the comfort of your comfy couch, there are online training classes, too (such as my SEO Copywriting Certification training.) Going through a training course can even help land you your first gig.

What should you avoid? Learning the ropes from message boards (where the information could be wrong) and books (where the information may be outdated.) Stick to constantly-updated resources and you’ll be fine.

5. What about working with a mentor? Can I learn that way? 

Some folks prefer a mentor/mentee relationship, where the “master” SEO copywriter reviews your work, answers your questions and helps you learn the art faster and easier.

Some mentors will work with writers for free — but that means you’ll probably be paying in other ways (such as helping your mentor with tasks.) Other people will charge money.

Although “free” is a great price, don’t reject a paid mentor relationship if you have the funds available. You’ll probably be able to work with an SEO copywriter faster (and receive more consistent feedback) if you’re able to pay.

6. I’d rather learn on the job. Will anyone hire a newbie SEO copywriter?

Yes! Although most companies prefer to hire folks with some experience, you can work as an assistant at first — and gradually work on writing projects as your skills improve.

A recent 2016 study found that the average web writer salary is $77,500 — so the income projections are excellent.

7. Won’t what I learn go out of date in just a few months?

Yes…and no. It’s true that Google keeps changing the rules. Having said that, many of the basics (like write for your reader) are the same.

It’s crucial to stay educated in this fast-moving field. If you love to learn, SEO (and SEO copywriting) is a great career choice.

8. How can I find SEO copywriting work?

That depends – do you want to work in-house or freelance? If you want to freelance, think about business owners you know (for instance, your hairdresser, a restaurant owner or a plumber.) Is there some way that you can help them?

You can also work with advertising agencies, SEO firms, copywriting agencies and even web design companies. In short, freelance SEO copywriters have lots of options.

9. How much should I charge for SEO copywriting services?

That depends on a lot of things, including your experience level, your local area (assuming that you are focusing locally,) and the types of clients you want.

If your heart is with small business owners, it makes sense to charge small business prices. If you love working with corporations — and you have some experience under your virtual belt — you can charge much more.

I know some SEO copywriters making 20K a year – and others making over 200K. It all depends on your income goals.

Here are some things to think about when you’re setting your freelance copywriting rates.

10.  Can I be a part-time SEO copywriter?

Yes. Many people when they are first starting out have a “real job” during the day – and work on SEO copywriting assignments at night. Working part-time can be a great way to build up a client base while having the security of a regular paycheck.

11. How can I get paid more money?

That’s up to you. Top notch SEO copywriters understand how the search engines work, and keep up on the latest and greatest algorithmic changes.

Plus, they’re researching topics like NLP, neuromarketing, consumer psychology — anything that will help them write better copy faster.

The more you know, the more you can get paid.

If you love learning and uncovering the latest search engine burp is fun for you, you can look at expanding your skills into content marketing, social media and even consulting and training.

Some SEO copywriters even take on full-scale SEO projects, handling everything from technical to analytics and everything in between.

If this is the route you plan to take, know that you’ll need to spend a lot of time educating yourself. As I mentioned earlier, your lack of knowledge can hurt a client,so be very honest about what you can do – and what you can’t provide.

12. The most important question of all: Is SEO copywriting a fun career choice?

Yes, SEO copywriting is a darn fun career choice.

Some folks choose to turn SEO copywriting into a lifestyle business, where they fit in copywriting gigs around family, fun, and other responsibilities.

Other people dream of having a full-fledged SEO copywriting and content marketing agency, complete with employees, downtown office, and signage.

Still others would rather work for an agency and be part of a fantastic team.

If SEO copywriting is your desired career choice, you have the freedom to create the work environment you’ve always wanted. And having that kind of freedom, combined with doing the work you want to do, is a great gig. 🙂

Is it Time to Upgrade From Freelance Writer to LLC?

Do you need an upgrade?When I made the move from freelancer to starting a content development agency, the decision of which type of business to form was an easy one. I went from being a sole proprietor to being the co-owner of a limited liability corporation (LLC).

Why we chose to go with an LLC had a lot to do with the state where we’re based — Texas. Say what you will about the state, but Texas is one of the most small-business friendly states. Also, there’s no state income tax. And we have awesome barbecue. But I digress.

Aside from the legal and financial reasons for making that choice, creating an LLC — and in general, becoming a more formal business entity — offered other benefits directly related to our business over and above our business filing. If you think you’re ready to upgrade, an LLC may be just the thing to help you gain more credibility, more clients, and yes, more revenue.

What’s the Difference Between a Sole Proprietorship and an LLC?

If you’re a freelance writer, you’re already a sole proprietor. (You’re paying your quarterly estimated tax, right? Right?!) Although you likely didn’t have to actually file any papers or pay any fees to claim that status, sole proprietorship is recognized by the IRS. It basically means you as an individual and you as a business are one and the same, and you’ll encounter few differences to how you file your taxes, aside from possibly having more deductions.

In order to be recognized as an LLC, you will need to file paperwork and pay fees. What kind of paperwork and how much in fees will vary from state to state. But the basic paperwork required regardless of state indicates the name of your business, its location, and who the members are.

Depending on where you form your LLC, you may also have to pay an LLC tax or, in some states, what’s called a franchise tax. I know — we’re not talking about franchises, we’re talking about LLCs. You weren’t really expecting tax law to make sense, were you? C’mon.

Forming a Foreign LLC

You’ll notice I said “depending on where you file your LLC.” Sure, this is because it depends on the state you live in, but something you may not know is you can file an LLC in any state you like, whether you live there or not.

Why would anyone do this? For lots of reasons, but the two main ones are:

  • to make the filing process easier, and
  • to reduce expenses

While forming a business can be a complex process in some states, when we did it, we filled out a form, sent it to the state capital, paid a few hundred dollars, and in exactly one week, we were an LLC. Just like that. Done. It couldn’t possibly have been any easier than it was.

As for expense, if you live in California, you’ll pay a fairly high LLC tax of 8.84%, and a minimum tax of $800, and income tax to boot. If you file your LLC in Texas, you’ll pay a franchise tax of just 1%.

(While I may be just a teensy bit biased toward Texas (Go Spurs Go!), it’s not the only state that offers benefit to those forming an LLC. But seriously — barbecue. That’s all I’m saying.)

Forming an LLC in another state — a “foreign LLC” — may also require the payment of additional up-front fees. You’ll need to do your own homework here to decide not only whether you want to make the leap from sole proprietor to LLC, but then whether to file in your home state or not.

Speaking of doing homework, I’m discussing these topics based on my personal experience, and from a general, educational point of view. But remember that we’re talking about legal entities here that have certain tax responsibilities. As I’m neither a lawyer nor a tax accountant, be sure to consult one or the other or both, or at a minimum, do your own research before making any changes to your business status.

Now, how can switching from a sole proprietorship to an LLC benefit you as a business owner?

More Credibility

Let’s be honest for a minute here. As prevalent and in demand as the freelance writer is, there’s still a pervasive attitude that if you’re a freelancer, you’re not a “real” business. You just have some free time on your hands, and you figured you’d make a few bucks while your kids were at school, or on the weekends. You’re not really expecting to make a living doing that, are you? So businesses can sometimes be reluctant to pay reasonable and fair rates for freelance work.

I’ve definitely been there. In fact, when I was freelancing, I took to referring to myself as an “independent professional writer” in an effort to be taken more seriously — and to have my rates taken more seriously.

That changes when you become a registered business entity. When you put an LLC (or an Inc., or whatever official designation you establish) after your business name on your website, people perceive you differently. I’m not going to lie to you and say companies immediately open their wallets wider to pay for web content because we still have a struggle with content mills, but that’s another post.

But when you can put a business name and logo on your invoices, you can begin to change how your clients interact with you and how potential clients see you.

It may also open up other opportunities to you such as speaking engagements, offers to guest post on well-regarded blogs and even press quotes (Are you signed up with HARO?).

More Clients

Those marketing opportunities are all fantastic, but the main goal of those activities is to get clients. You also know that some clients respond to perceived scarcity (a classic marketing tactic), and to perceived value (a necessary facet of your business). How better to bolster both of those perceptions than to move from being an individual freelance writer to an LLC?

Just as your industry colleagues may view you differently once you change your status, so too will potential clients. In fact, establishing your business as an LLC (or other entity) may even passively assist you with client pre-qualification. Some potential clients may infer that once you become a small business, you’re probably more expensive than a freelancer. Whether this is true or not, it may keep the more, uh, frugal clients out of your inbox, leaving plenty of room for those who are really serious about their content, and serious about hiring you at your possibly higher rates.

More Revenue

Well, this one just naturally follows the last one if forming an LLC brings you more regard and more clients. But if you do go this route, why not raise your rates a bit? In fact, you really should.

Even if you form a single-member LLC, you’re likely going to have a few more expenses than you had as a sole proprietor. You still may not have to worry about renting office space, but you may want to step up from using your Gmail address to a domain-based address that you access via Gmail. The best option for that is Google Apps, which, while very affordable, does cost.

Then there are business cards. Again, you can find affordable options, but now that you’re a business and not a freelancer, you need cards with your logo on them that make more of an impression than most free cards you may find.

And don’t forget your LLC or franchise taxes and other fees. As a business, you have other expenses you didn’t have before. Raising your rates may not bring an immediate raise in net profit. But if your new rates cover your new expenses while keeping your income status quo (at least at first), you’re coming out ahead.

You may also find it easier later on when it comes time to raise your rates again. Some clients won’t take it well, but that’s just another way of qualifying clients. Again, a post for another time.

Joining Forces

OK, now let’s think for a moment. If you’re going to form an LLC, you’re positioning yourself for more credibility, more clients and more revenue. Well, how are you going to handle all those new clients and new marketing opportunities by yourself? Maybe you don’t have to fly solo.

I never thought I’d go into business with a partner. My experiences as an employee with less-than-stellar bosses put me in a mindset of wanting to go it completely alone. Well, things happen, things change, and I did not only get a business partner, I became one. But it’s led our business to bigger and better things.

Think about it — two times the labor force. Two times the marketing. Where I’m weak, she’s strong, and vice-versa. And now that she’s moved back to her home state of Ohio while I’m still in Texas, we’re a national company with two locations! OK, we both still work from home, but you get what I mean. She’s making all new connections up there while I’m still working in our community here.

But the best thing? Those days when being an entrepreneur is hard, when clients are making us crazy, when we wonder what the heck we were thinking — those days, it’s wonderful to be partners who keep each other grounded, who listen to each other vent and then give each other that push we need to keep going.

The point is, starting a business is hard. Keeping it going is even harder. Doing everything all by yourself, well, that’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. If you’re thinking about making your business official, you can open yourself up to a lot of benefits. But don’t let the fact that, up to this point, you’ve worked alone, be the thing that stops you.

In fact, don’t let anything stop you.

About the Author

Michelle Lowery is a freelance book editor, provides website optimization for authors and wrote the book Self-Editing for Indie Authors. Learn more about her by visiting her site at

Connect with Michelle on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

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Photo thanks to kennymatic

How To Beat The Blogging Blues

Remember when blogging was fun? :)

Remember when blogging was fun? 🙂

Raise your hand if you’re feeling pressured to blog all the time.

Blogging is fun when you first start out. Then, for some people, blogging starts to get old. Writer’s block sets in. You learn that your 300-word posts won’t cut it in today’s Brave New Google World, so you have to write more. Your posts go up to 500 words. Then 700.

You start to get tired.

You read that it’s not enough to just blog anymore. You have to create standout content that truly differentiates yourself from the competition. Now, the magical blog post length is over 1,000 words.

And you don’t know how you’re going to do it (or pay for it) all.

My contrarian advice: Quit blogging so much.

I did. And it didn’t hurt my conversions one bit.

I went through the same blogging burnout a couple years ago. Once upon a time, my blog was publishing four days a week. My blogging editor was finding sources to interview and curating content, while I was writing posts, recording videos and developing the editorial calendar.

Suddenly, everything stopped. My blog editor quit and I realized I had an opportunity. I could stay on the content creation hamster wheel. Or I could jump off and try my own thing.

I took the leap.

About that time, I discovered Derek Halpern and read about his 80/20  blogging rule. Derek says, 20 percent of your time should be spent writing, 80 percent should be spent on promotion.

So I gave it a try. I sliced the blogging schedule down to once a week, I wrote longer, more in-depth posts and I spent more time on LinkedIn Groups and Twitter promotion.

The result: My conversions have actually increased.

For me, blogging less is actually better than blogging more.

I think this is happening for a couple reasons:

  1. I think the extra time I’m spending on content creation is paying off. The content is higher quality and clicks more with the reader. People enjoy reading it. It makes them want to sign up for my newsletter. It’s working.
  2. Extra promotion time means I’m driving more traffic to the site.

I mention my experiences to you, because you may be feeling the same blogging burnout. You may be cranking out blog posts for clients that fit their magical “write 750 words on X” requirements…but you know the posts won’t convert.

Or, you may work in-house and feel stuck. You may not have the budget to hire a full-time blogger, but you feel the pressure to blog constantly.

I’ve been there. If blogging less and promoting more sounds like a smart idea, consider these steps.

– Check your analytics 

You need to know exactly what to slice if you’re going to drastically reduce your blogging schedule. For instance, I’ve worked with firms that got a great response every time one of their engineers blogged. On the flip side, posts written by their PR department would fall flat (surprise!).

The results you find may be surprising. For instance, my content curation posts drove great traffic, but they didn’t help with any conversion goals (for instance, getting people to sign up for my newsletter.) They were also extremely time-consuming to produce. My decision: get rid of them.

–  Figure out a realistic blogging schedule

Now that you have a “do-over” chance, figure out what blogging schedule works best for your company. For my company, blogging once a week was perfect. For yours, you may need/want to blog more often. It’s OK to slice your blogging schedule down in baby steps to see what works.

– Consider how you can reallocate your time/resources to make your posts even better

Now that you have the additional blogging time, use it to create spectacular resources your readers need. Take a hard look at competing sites (whether local or national,) and consider how you can step up your blogging game. Can you write in-depth reports? Can you interview industry experts? This is a great time to check your keyphrase research, plus look at Quora and LinkedIn groups for content ideas.

– Build promotion into your editorial calendar

It’s not enough anymore to upload a post and watch for the Google results to roll in. Think about where you can promote your posts to get the biggest bang for your buck and set up a promotion schedule.

For instance, I post on various LinkedIn groups, Twitter and my Facebook page within a couple days of publication. If I cite an industry influencer, I make sure that I’ve mentioned her on Twitter or Google+. That way, she’ll (hopefully) share my post with her audience — and, yes, drive traffic to my site.

– Obsessively track your analytics

Confirm what’s working, what’s not and tweak your campaign accordingly. For instance, I like to track my weekly newsletter subscription stats and see how they relate to a blog post topic. If I get a lot of newsletter signups based on a blog post, I know I have a winner.

A special note for freelancers…

If a large part of your income comes from blogging, you may be thinking, “I can’t write fewer posts! I’ll lose money!”

That’s a fair point.

Instead of blogging more often, blog better. Consider offering your clients longer, more in-depth posts and pair those posts with some promotion. That way, your clients will see better results, and you’ll maintain your blogging revenue stream.

Do you love advice like this? I give away even more actionable SEO writing advice in my weekly newsletter. Why not sign up, today?

Photo thanks: © zenwae |

Discount Your Copywriting Rates? No Way! Try This Instead.

copywriting rate discount

Is discounting your freelance copywriting rates ever a good idea. Really?

How many times has this happened to you:

You sweat and slave over a copywriting proposal. Finally, you get an email from the client. Success! They want to work with you!

And then you read, “Your copywriting rates are too high.  We were planning to spend about half that amount. Can you bring your price down?”


Now, you’ve got a dilemma. Should you discount your copywriting rates and get money in the door? Or should you hold fast to your price and possibly lose the gig?

It’s easy to get in panic mode and immediately offer the discount. But that may not be the best idea. Here’s why:

Reducing your copywriting rates reduces the value.  Let’s say that you charge $250 per page – and the client wants to pay $150 per page. If you meet your prospect’s price, you’re telling them, “I was padding my bid by $100 a page. $150 is the true value.” Not the best first impression.

–  An initial rate reduction makes it hard to charge full price later.  After all, if the client got you for $150 a page, why would they pay $250?  Would YOU pay an additional $100 a page if you knew that you didn’t have to? Yeah. I didn’t think so.

– It’s easy to resent your low-paying clients. And by “resent,” I mean “flake out because you have bigger, better-paying jobs.”  The client feels burned because they know that they aren’t a priority — and you feel burned because you’re doing the work for less money. Think this won’t happen to you? It can (and probably will.)

Fortunately, there’s a way to handle this situation so your client feels heard – and you get paid what you’re worth. Here’s how:

– Are you bidding on a large project? Offer a small discount if the client pays the contract up front. This solution is a nice win/win for all.  The prospect gets the discount they want – and you get a big check before you start!

(You DO get a deposit before you start work, right? If not, you’ll want to check out this video.)

– Offer to eliminate a deliverable from the agreement. Rather than reducing your copywriting rates, you could slice a page from the agreement, or reduce the consultation time. This strategy brings down the cost without having to slice your rates.

– Just say no.  Sometimes, the only thing you can do is explain to the client, “Because of the time it would take to complete your project – and the experience I bring to the table – I have to keep the cost as-is. Are you sure that we can’t work something out? I have had many prospects come back with, “We want to work with you, so I guess your rate is OK.”  Whew!

And if you do need to walk away, that’s fine. You know you’ll land another client soon – plus, get paid your full rate!

What about you? How do you handle it when a prospect requests a discount? Is there any time when you will offer a price reduction?

Make more money in your copywriting business + have more free time?  Heck yeah! Check out what the Copywriting Business Bootcamp can do for you! Classes start February 11th.

Photo thanks: © Get4net|



[Updated]Why Do Freelance Writers Hate SEO Copywriting?

“SEO copywriting is low-paying, demeaning work.”

“SEO copywriting is synonymous with unethical projects.”

“[Much of this] SEO content is written by non-native speakers.”

In the words of Liz Lemon from 30 Rock, “What the what?”

I was amazed to read such angry posts in a LinkedIn group.  I knew SEO copy had a bad reputation in some circles. But I had no idea that some freelancers HATED the concept of SEO copy.

The sad thing is, their hatred is fueled by misconceptions. It’s true that spammy copy is out there. It’s true that some clients (still) insist on keyphrase-stuffed content (and will only pay $10 for 500 words.) And if you’re trolling Upwork or job boards for SEO copy gigs, well, you probably won’t find the cream of the money-making crop.

But here’s the thing: SEO content is good content, period. It was never – ever – supposed to be synonymous with spam.

Plus, profitable client relationships are out there. If you’re only getting paid $5/post, that’s not the industry’s fault — that’s on you.

Here’s how I responded to the “I hate SEO copywriting” LinkedIn comments…

First, I totally understand the feeling that some folks have about SEO copy. Companies like Demand Media have cheapened the concept and has given it a horrible reputation. It’s true that you’ll see ads promising $5 for writing 500 words – and those 500 words are mindless drivel, at best. It’s sad.

It sounds like what you call “SEO copy” is what I call “spammy copy.” *Real* SEO content writing – the type that Google likes (and doesn’t bounce out of its index) – isn’t like this. It’s always been about writing quality content for readers. Yes, you have to do certain things to help the page position in Google. At the same time, “certain things for Google” doesn’t mean copy that reads like, “Our cashmere sweaters are the best cashmere sweaters online. Buy our cashmere sweaters now for the best cashmere prices.”

Good SEO copy doesn’t read like this. It’s good copy first – and good for Google second.

I’ve been talking about SEO copy for 14 years – and I was a freelance copywriter before I entered the SEO space. It drives me NUTS when I see overly-optimized copy. Or I hear about clients who will only pay 10/page and they want something that’s keyphrase-stuffed.

Fortunately, Google is (slowly) bouncing those kinds of pages out of their index. The Panda update targeted thin, low-quality content – and sites like Demand got hit. That was a huge wake-up call for clients, SEO companies and writers. They were suddenly put on notice that bad content is…well…bad.

So please know that I’m with you when you talk about spammy copy. Also, please understand that there are many instances of good SEO content – Brookstone’s site is a prime example. Companies of all sizes have benefitted from good SEO content – I’ve seen it increase conversion rates, drive more traffic and help companies make significantly more money.

And there are many (quality) writers who are able to attract good, high-paying gigs. If it were all 10/page jobs, I would have boogied out of the industry a long time ago. 🙂

So, please know that not all SEO content is bad or spammy or repetitive. There are some “good guys” in the industry, too. 🙂


Fast forward to 2016, five years later.

A lot has changed since the Panda update. Google got smarter, content marketing is the hot marketing strategy, and SEO writers are being tasked with creating quality, 10X content. Keyphrase research is still an important component of SEO writing, but writers have way more room to move.

In short, we’ve come a long way, baby.

Yet, the misconceptions are still out there. A well-known freelance writing expert said SEO was on its way out — unless someone wanted to work for $5 a post.

No, no, no, no.

Clients WILL pay more than $5/post. Keyphrase research-based writing is still important (check out this Whiteboard Friday for Rand’s take on keyphrase research.)  The success stories from freelancers and end clients are out there.

I’d love to share some success stories with these folks – they’ve obviously only seen the “dark side” of SEO content. Let’s show them the light.

If you’re a business that has benefitted from SEO content, please tell us how you’ve benefitted. Did you make more money? Increase the number of leads coming to your site? How has SEO content helped you?

And if you’re a freelance SEO copywriter, I’d love to hear from you too! These folks need to know that it’s not all $10/page, offshore work. There are real writers making a real living as an SEO content writer.

C’mon guys. Let’s show the haters that SEO content (that is, GOOD SEO content) is a smart business move. You shared some great success stories in the comments when I originally published the post. Let’s do it again!

(And I’m looking forward to your comments – thanks!)

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Photo thanks: © Aleksandr Frolov |

SEO Editing vs. Copywriting for SEO

Should you create original content? Or, should you SEO optimize a page that’s already on the site?

Freelance and in-house writers ask this question all the time. Their emails say, “My boss (or client) wants me to add keyphrases to this existing page. The problem is, the page isn’t very good. Will the keyphrases help? Or is better to rewrite it?”

That’s an excellent question that I address in the video  — or, you can read the modified transcript, below.

SEO copywriting and SEO editing — what’s the difference?

First, let’s go over the differences between SEO copywriting and keyphrase editing.

Keyphrase editing is also known as “on-page optimization,” “optimizing the text,” or “SEO copyediting.” The technique is to add keywords — either derived from the writer’s keyphrase research or received from an SEO — to existing text.

When a page is optimized (or edited,) the content is not rewritten. The writer may edit the page Title and meta description, but for the most part, she’s working with the existing content.

SEO copywriting usually refers to creating original content. The writer still conducts keyphrase research (or receives the keyphrases from an SEO.) However, rather than editing the existing content, she would write brand-new content and include the keyphrases (along with synonyms and related words.)

So you see, SEO copywriting and keyphrase editing are very different: one is working with existing text, and the other is throwing away the existing text and starting fresh.

Should you optimize your site? Or rewrite your pages?

So, when is a better strategy to edit existing pages rather than rewrite them?

It’s best to optimize a page (keyphase editing) when:

  • You (and your readers) already love the content
  • The page isn’t crucial to the sales process
  • The bounce rate isn’t too high

If you have content on your site you (and your readers) already love and it’s performing well, but it wasn’t written with keyphrases the first time around, the page may be a good candidate for keyphrase editing.

It’s also OK to edit the page when it isn’t crucial to the sales process. For example, I’ve worked with companies that have edited old blog posts and saw a great bump in search positions as a result. Editing FAQ pages and articles can offer the same benefit.

Finally, optimizing the page is OK when the time on page (or bounce rate) isn’t too high. You know that people are sticking around and reading the page once they’ve landed on it, so adding in some strategic keyphrases here and there is typically fine for that page.

An SEO content editor or an SEO copywriter usually handles the keyphrase editing. He may be someone you employ in-house, or a freelancer.

There are also certain times when it’s better to write original content, such as:

  • When the page is crucial to the sales process
  • When the page is a duplicate
  • When page conversions or time on page is low

If a page is crucial to the sales process, or is somehow intended to make money — like the home page, and subcategory pages such as products and services — it’s better to rewrite it.

You also want to rewrite the page if it’s a duplicate. This is common with  local landing pages, where two (or more) pages may be basically the same (outside of the city name.)

Also, when you know that the page isn’t working — you’re not getting conversions, the time on page is low, and people are bouncing out quickly —  rewrite it. Readers are telling you they don’t like the page by leaving as soon as they can.

Sure, you can edit the keyphrases into a poorly performing page and sure, hypothetically that page might position a little better, but it won’t help boost conversions.

Either a freelancer or an experienced in-house SEO copywriter can rewrite your pages. Also, an SEO content strategist could do the keyphrase research for you, as well as dovetail her research with the rest of your SEO plan.

Make sense? There’s clearly a difference between when you would write original content and when you can work with the existing content — and it’s smart to know those differences before you proceed.

(Editors note: I originally wrote this post in 2011. A lot has changed since then, so I updated the video and the transcript. I hope you enjoyed the post!)

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What Is An SEO Copywriter? 23 Questions, Answered

23 SEO Copywriting Questions, AnsweredAre you wondering what an SEO copywriter is, how much you can make and if taking the career plunge is right for you?

I’ve answered 23 of the most common questions I hear about the SEO copywriting profession. Enjoy!

What is an SEO copywriter?

An SEO copywriter writes content with two end-goals in mind:

  • The content is strategically written to position well in organic search.
  • The content must “click” with the target reader and help her accomplish her micro-moment search goal. For instance, the reader may want to learn something new (“I want to know,”) or find something to purchase (“I want to buy.”)

SEO writing contains keyphrases — words and phrases a reader would type into a search box to find the information she needs.

What are some other common names for “SEO copywriter?”

You’ll see terms such as:

  • Digital writer
  • SEO writer
  • SEO content writer
  • SEO content strategist
  • Web content writer
  • Web writer.

Does “SEO copywriting” mean “repeating the same words over and over?”


A common misconception is SEO copywriting equals keyphrase stuffing. Although some (uneducated) clients and employers request this kind of writing, it’s not effective in Google — and keyphrase stuffing is not considered SEO copywriting best practices.

Good SEO copy is good copy…with just a few (strategically placed) keyphrases here and there.

Where do SEO copywriters work?

SEO writers can work in-house or freelance for clients. Some writers do both — they have a full-time job, and freelance on the side.

What skills should SEO copywriters have?

analyticsAt the very minimum, SEO writers need to know how to include keyphrases into their copy according to best practices (which do change over time.) Other important skill sets include:

  • Keyphrase research
  • Google Analytics
  • Title creation
  • SEO article writing (more commonly known as “blogging.”)

More advanced SEO writers (sometimes called SEO content editors or SEO content consultants) also understand:

  • Schema
  • Content strategy
  • How to conduct a content audit
  • Landing page testing
  • Advanced analytics
  • Setting the editorial calendar
  • Influencer marketing
  • Some programming (and/or have some technical expertise.)

What other tasks do SEO writers handle for clients/their employers?

It depends on the organization.

Many freelance SEO writers handle all content production for their clients. This can copywritinginclude:

  • Newsletter copy
  • Email content
  • PPC ad writing
  • Sales pages
  • SEO article writing/blog posts
  • SEO content strategy.

In-house writers typically write web pages (including product pages and blog posts.) They may have other writing duties as well.

What knowledge does an SEO writer need?

At the very minimum, you’ll need to understand how to intelligently add keyphrases into the content. Some writers learn this by taking an online SEO copywriting course. Other writers may receive one-on-one guidance from an experienced writer. In many cases, the more training you receive, the more you’ll be able to write content that outperforms the competition.

There are some SEO writers who learn via online guides and blogs. As SEO writing is extremely dynamic — and things change all the time — this method is not recommended.

What kind of tools does an SEO writer need?

The main tool you’ll need is something that will help with keyphrase research.

An SEO writer can easily start out using Google’s free Keyword Planner — just know that it’s not ideal. Eventually, you’ll want to invest in a subscription-based tool, such as SEMRush, Wordtracker or LongTail Pro.

Down the line, you can look at investing in other tools, such as HootSuite or Buffer (for social sharing,) CoSchedule (for editorial calendar creation,) or BuzzSumo (highly recommended.) You could also invest in content optimization tools such as Optimizely.

rp_Smart-Mouse3-Skills.jpgHow easy is it to learn SEO copywriting best practices?

“Easy” is relative. Most people pick up on the foundational SEO copywriting best practices fairly quickly. Keyphrase research tends to take more time to learn — but most writers master the process (and actually enjoy it!)

Once the foundational best practices are mastered, you can learn other aspects of SEO writing, such as Schema, strategy and more.

I’ve heard that things change quickly. Does this mean I have to relearn everything?

Not necessarily. It’s true that SEO copywriting best practices have changed over time. Having said that, many of the fundamentals have stayed constant.

The best SEO writers keep up with Google’s ever-changing algorithm and “rules.” This way, when things change, you’ll able to tweak your tactics (if needed,) advise your clients and leverage current strategies.

Is it easy to break into SEO writing?

If you have some writing experience, breaking in is fairly easy — but it will take time.

If you’re a freelance SEO writer, “breaking in” typically means “landing a client.” The speed-to-market depends on many factors, including your niche, your experience level and how hard you hustle.

Some writers apply for in-house junior SEO writing or account management positions to get their foot in the door. More experienced writers can apply for SEO editorial jobs.

I’m a print copywriter. How easy is it to transition to SEO writing?

It’s fairly easy. There is a learning curve (especially around keyphrase research.) However, once you “get” it, SEO copywriting will be easy and almost second-nature.

briefcaseI don’t have any writing samples. Can I still get hired?

Yes, but you’ll need to show your prospective employer (or client) something — otherwise, they won’t be able to evaluate your work.

Ways you can generate samples include:

  • Volunteer for a non-profit and rewrite some of their content
  • Ask a business owner if you can write an article in exchange for a testimonial.
  • Find a mentor, ask her to offload some writing your way, and write for free (in exchange for feedback and training.)
  • Create a “hobby blog” and write about one of your passions.

What kind of companies hire in-house SEO copywriters?

The employment possibilities are endless. All types (and sizes) of companies, including B2B, B2C, and publishing companies, hire SEO writers.

Can someone specialize in SEO writing even if they’re not “technical?”


It’s true that the more you know about the “techie” side of SEO (and SEO copywriting,) the more opportunities that you’ll have. I highly recommend reading everything you can about SEO (including how to code) and upgrading your skills.

Having said that, there are many SEO copywriters who partner with SEO firms. The copywriter writes the copy – and the SEO firm takes care of the “techie stuff.”

I’ve heard freelance SEO writing = content mills and low pay. Is that true?

Not necessarily. It’s true that some companies will pay only $10/article. However, many companies pay freelancers anywhere from $50 – $300/hour. How much a freelancer gets paid depends on his knowledge levels, his niche and how well he markets himself.

tombstone_png_by_camelfobia-d5ichmgI’ve heard that SEO writing is dead. Is that true?

No. It’s true that Google has gotten smarter, which is a wonderful thing. Things are shifting to more conversational search, which means that it’s easier to “write naturally” and include synonyms, related words, etc.

Having said that, keyphrases are still important — and without them, a site may not position. Here’s proof that SEO is far from dead.

What are some typical freelance SEO copywriting rates?

The per-page rates are all over the board. I’ve heard of writers charging $25/post — and companies paying over $1,500 for a single page. Some freelancers barely clear $20,000 a year. Others make six-figures.

The factors that influence a writers’ income include:

  • Her experience level
  • The types of clients she serves. In many cases, B2B copywriting pays more than B2C (but not always!).
  • Her business savvy. For instance, is she building relationships with companies that could send her work?
  • Her past results. SEO writers who can show ROI are often more in demand (and are paid more).
  • How much she hustles for work.

Here’s some information about how to set your rates.

moneyHow much can in-house SEO copywriters make?

According to Glassdoor, experienced SEO writers can earn over $50,000 a year (of course, the salary depends on experience and the company location.) I know a few SEO writers/editors who are making around $75,000 a year (plus benefits.)

What are characteristics of successful SEO copywriters?

SEO writers love to write, love to research, love to learn and love working online.  They also tend to have a high tolerance for change – which is good, since Google (as well as other providers) love to mix things up on a regular basis.

Higher-paid SEO writers tend to have some “technical geek” characteristics. Those geeky characteristics help them understand the more technical elements of SEO writing — and liaison more successfully with an IT team, an SEO provider, and analytics experts.

If you are the kind of person who gets bored easily, SEO copywriting is a great gig. You won’t get bored. At all.

What’s the one thing an SEO copywriter MUST always do?

The scariest type of SEO writer doesn’t update his knowledge and uses out of date techniques. If you want to be in this industry, you MUST keep up with Google’s ever-changing whims. Today’s best practices could be borderline spam tomorrow.

How can an SEO writer make more money?

There are typically four ways:

  • Improve your craft — learn everything you can about neuromarketing, direct-response writing, SEO, etc.
  • Be able to showcase demonstrable results. For example, case studies and testimonials can help position you as an expert.
  • Offer more content writing services (for instance, here are some to try.)
  • Ask for more money. About 75% of the time, writers aren’t getting paid what they want because they set their rates too low. If you work in-house, you can ask for a raise.

In-house writers may also want to freelance on the side.

What’s the job horizon? Will this still be a “thing” in two years?


Besides, even if Google was suddenly able to read our minds and immediately understand the searcher intent, content will still be a “thing.” Someone will need to write those web pages, landing pages and blog posts.

Why not you?

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[Updated] 42 questions to ask your new copywriting client

I’ve had a number of people ask me, “What questions should I ask a new copywriting client” — and I’ve been pointing them to this post.

But then, I realized that I could add even more questions! So, I updated the post and clarified a few points. Enjoy!

Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to ask a lot of questions….

Why? Because that’s how I learn. Whether I’m chatting with a new friend or a new client, I ask a bunch of questions. Then, I shut up and let them answer (yes, I know, this is more easily said than done!).

When you’re working with a new copywriting client, asking lots of question is the key to success. Sure, that means that you’ll be spending an hour (or more) on the phone. But just as you wouldn’t enter a marriage without a pretty solid “getting to know you” process, you shouldn’t start writing without a solid customer interview under your belt.

After all, how can you write specific, action-oriented content if you don’t have any specific information?

Here are 42 of my favorite questions to ask a new copywriting client – enjoy!

Important: Ask these questions after your client has signed on the bottom line. Although you may touch on some of these topics during the sales phase, it’s best to save the “meat” of your questions for the kick-off client call.

Reporting/set-up questions

  1. Can I review your analytics?
  2. Do you have any customer persona documents? Can I see them?
  3. Do you have a style guide?
  4. Can I see reports outlining your SEO/content marketing success, to date?
  5. How do we measure success? Conversions? Page positions? Social media love?
  6. Can I review your per-page keyphrase strategy?
  7. How did you arrive at your keyphrase choices?
  8. Do you need me to create the strategy and research the keyphrases?
  9. How important is it for you to position for a particular keyphrase? If it is a competitive keyphrase, are you prepared to spend the time (and budget) to make this happen?

Marketing questions

  1. Who is your online competition? Why would you consider them “competition?”
  2. What is your unique sales proposition?
  3. Why should a prospect purchase from you rather than your competition?
  4. What are your company benefit statements?
  5. What content approach has worked in the past?
  6. What has not worked?
  7. Do you like your site’s “voice” (how it reads and sounds.)
  8. If not, what’s an example of what you would prefer?
  9. How do you follow up with prospects?
  10. How do you follow up with current clients?
  11. Can I see your other marketing materials (autoresponder emails, print materials, etc.)
  12. Are there any keyphrases that you’re not currently positioning for, and you want to gain a stronger position?
  13. How do you currently promote new content (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  14. Who is your “perfect customer (s)”?
  15. What benefit statements are important to those customers?
  16. What customer profile would not be a good fit for your business?
  17. Can I review your customer testimonials (or better yet, can I chat with a few of your happy clients?).
  18. Has your company won any awards? Can I see the documentation?
  19. What are the most common questions that customer service answers? How do they answer them?
  20. Can I talk to your best salesperson to get his/her perspective?
  21. What are the most common objections to overcome?
  22. Has your product/service been featured in a book, endorsed by an organization, etc.
  23. What primary action do you want readers to take?
  24. Is there a secondary CTA?
  25. What is your biggest sales “sticking point” right now?
  26. How will the content be promoted?

Process/procedure questions

  1. Who else will I be working with (for instance, an external SEO company.)
  2. Who is my main point of contact?
  3. Who will review the content?
  4. How long will it take to approve the content?
  5. How would you like me to send you the content? For instance, in a Word document?
  6. How often would you like to receive project updates?
  7. How will I know if the content is working? Will I have continued access to your analytics?

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Did Your Client Change Your Copy? Here’s What to Do

Frustrated woman

Talk about frustrating.

You thought what you wrote showcased your best work ever. You expertly followed your client’s content marketing strategy. You chose good keyphrases.

You did everything right.

When you finished writing your SEO copywriting masterpiece, you could almost hear the harp music softly playing and feel the warm sunshine on your face. Your copy didn’t just sound good. It sung.

A week later, you see what the client actually uploaded. All of your tricky turn-of-phrases were gone. Your Title was changed from a compelling statement to a list of keyphrases. And your headline…you can’t even look at what they did to your headline.

You aren’t just mad.  You’re hurt. How could they destroy your copywriting baby like that?

Rule #1 of working with clients. They will change your writing, no matter how good you thought it was.

You’ve got to get over it.

At the same time, sometimes, clients make really bad copywriting decisions. Maybe it’s because the legal department got involved and sliced half of the copy. Or maybe, your client passed your copy along to five different people — and all of them had their own idea of how the content should read.

Should you cry? Rant? Keep your mouth shut? The challenge is — if you say nothing and the copy flops, the client may think the poorly-performing content is your fault. So you have to say something…but you have to do it the right way.

Here’s how to handle it.

– Leave your ego at the door.

Sure, it’s easy to get miffed when a client tweaks your SEO copywriting genius. But take a big step back before you send that nastygram. Did the changes mess with anything important (like the keyphrase usage.) Is the tone and feel consistent? Does the edited copy stick out like a sore thumb?

If there’s no real damage to your conversion strategy, keyphrase strategy or Title, it’s probably not a big deal (except, of course, to you.)

–  Check-in with the client. 

It’s tempting to write your client a “WTF did you DO?” email. Very tempting. Don’t do it.

And don’t send any email until you are calm, cool and collected.

Once it’s safe to ping your client, try an approach like, “I noticed that you changed the Title. Can you help me understand why?” After all, there may have been a good reason your client did what she did (no matter how much their changes make you die a little inside.) If there wasn’t a good reason, and your client is shooting herself in the SEO (and/or copywriting) foot, it’s time to…

 – …Put your education hat on. 

Educating the client helps them make more informed decisions — and can often help them see the “SEO copywriting light.”

If your client added a bunch of nonsense paragraphs because their SEO told them to, point out exactly how the new copy could hinder conversions. If your Title was totally tweaked, help your client understand how Titles need to be keyphrase-rich, yes – but also compelling and clear.

Don’t forget to add links to articles and blog posts that echo your sentiments. That way, the client sees that multiple experts feel the same way you do — and it adds credence to your position.

If you’re not feeling 100% confident about educating your client, know that SEO Copywriting Certification students can get writing feedback and ask questions about client situations. Sometimes, it’s nice to have an expert in your back pocket.

 – Offer a compromise.

Can you see areas you could improve? Depending on the scope of work, it’s sometimes worthwhile to tweak the copy one more time, and merge the client’s changes with your original text. Sometimes, a little copy-massaging can go a long way — and the client will (hopefully) see the difference between their edits and your shining final product.  Or, if nothing else, you’ve made the page just a little bit better.

 – Try testing.

If a client is sold on their 1,000-word sales page — and your version is 200 words — see if the client is open to copy testing. An A/B split test will provide irrefutable data about what really works (rather than what she thinks will work.)

Be warned that you may find that your client was right, and you were wrong. That’s OK. It will be a kick in the ego, but it’s OK. It’s better to be wrong than (inadvertently) cost the client cash.

 – Let it go.

At the end of the day, your client is the “decider” – not you.  If you’ve emailed your thoughts, backed them up with evidence and discussed the SEO ramifications – there’s not much else you can do.

Give it some time and see if you can revisit some options at a later date (like A/B testing, or tweaking the copy.) A few months of so-so results may help the client be more open to your expert advice – and you can finally start showing them what good SEO copywriting can do.

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Freelance Writers: Want to Make More Money? Here’s How…


Discover 4 ways online training can land you top freelance copywriting gigs!

As a freelance writer, you know that competition for writing gigs is fierce!

You’ve all heard the dreaded “everyone’s a writer” phrase, which devalues the work of really great writers.

But wannabe professional writers aren’t your only challenge.

Websites like Elance (yes, I’ve got a profile on there, too – *hangs head in shame*), pit freelance writers against each other in a race to the bottom of the pay barrel.

So, everyone can “write” – and usually, they’re all writing for peanuts!


But that’s not all!

The freelance writers who do command more than pay-per-peanut rates aren’t “just writers” – they’re professionally trained as SEO copywriters, content strategists, graphic artists, and more. These talented people can measure the results of their work and make tweaks to improve its performance.

Are you panicking yet? Yes? You were already panicking about it before you read this? I know, sorry, BUT here’s the reality…

While you should be able to command higher pay based on your stellar, persuasive, always-on-deadline writing alone, that’s unfortunately not the reality we live in.

Thankfully, like your writing style, you’re adaptable. There is a way to stand out above the competition, and you can do it.

I know you’ve heard this before, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

I’m talking about training – where you get awesome knowledge, and often an awesome badge to prove it, in exchange for your hard-earned money.

I know, you’re probably thinking: But I regularly keep up on my training for free with all of the awesome resources available.

That’s what you’re doing on this site right now.

I thought the same thing.

But I broke down and paid for a training – Heather’s SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting Certification training, to be exact. (OK, before you get all AHA! on me, I’m not being paid to write this. Hear me out.)

Turns out you get a lot more out of online training than the structured knowledge that you paid for.

Sure, paid online training goes into much more detail than the stuff the experts give out for free (naturally), so you’re advancing your skills beyond what you can learn otherwise.

That’s great. You probably knew that.

But paid online training gets you ACTUAL PAYING WRITING JOBS. Like, for real. And not always in the ways you might think.

Here are four ways that purchasing online training can help in landing you more writing gigs.

1. The expert might hire you

If you purchase someone’s online training, that someone is more likely to hire you when they have an opening to fill on their content team.

They know you have the skills to do the job because they just trained you.

That’s what happened for me after I took Heather’s training.

She happened to have a Blog Editor opening on her SuccessWorks team just as I’d finished taking her SEO copywriting training, so she thought of me to fill the spot. I also happened to have an editorial background that helped land the gig.

One of my favorite quotes sums up this scenario perfectly:

“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” – Thomas Alva Edison

For me, and probably for most of you, it’s a dream come true to work for someone you really admire and whom you consider the utmost authority on the topic you’re studying.

Not only can taking their training help you get a gig with them, having that impressive gig on your resume and those writing samples in your portfolio will land even more writing gigs.

2. The expert may recommend you

This ties in with number one.

When you take an expert’s online training, that expert may recommend you for work. That’s huge!

Why do they do that?

There are a few reasons:

  • They now have proof that you know what you’re doing.

As mentioned above, you taking their course proves to them that you have the skills necessary to rock at whatever you trained for. Now they know that you won’t embarrass them if they recommend you to colleagues.

Another bonus for them – they’re now a resource to businesses for quality writers. That adds value to their own business offerings. Recommending you actually helps them keep and generate business.

  • They want you to succeed.

Boy, that’d be super embarrassing if you offered an online training and none of your trainees succeeded in landing freelance or in-house writing work.

It benefits the instructors offering online training for potential customers to see you wildly succeed. That generates more online training business for the instructor.

  • They want to give back.

Your guru may want to give back to you for purchasing from them.

One way they do that is by sending writing jobs your way.

For instance, Heather has an email list for her SEO Copywriting Certification grads. It’s chock full of good stuff – including the occasional paid writing opportunity!

Copyblogger has a page on its site that recommends their Content Marketing Certification grads to businesses that need a content marketer. I’ve received a lot of inquiries through this site. They also occasionally include writing jobs in emails to certification grads.

3. Potential clients see evidence of your skills

Badges! Yay!

I love badges. I think everyone loves badges. Honestly, who doesn’t love badges?

Anyone considering selling online certification training shouldn’t even bother if they don’t offer a certification badge that graduates can display proudly on their site – if not on their foreheads.

More than just an ego-boost, badges are a quick way to draw attention to your skills and can help business owners and managers decide who to hire.

Otherwise, who knows if you’re credible? You’re just these guys.

If a marketing manager who knows and loves HubSpot (there are a lot of them) needs some content help, they’ll gravitate toward a writer who has that HubSpot Inbound Certification badge on their site because they know that you know the inbound methodology that they use to create content.

As you know, you really shouldn’t write anything online (except maybe your personal blog that you hope nobody finds anyway) without SEO writing skills, but it’s hard to prove those skills to potential clients without formal training. Badges offer quick proof.

4. New skills land you more clients — and higher paying jobs

So maybe this should’ve been number one — but it’s also the most obvious.

When you spend the money and take the time to keep up with your writing skills and learn new ones, you’re qualified to take on new types of work, can offer more services and can CHARGE MORE MONEY for the value you’re adding to freelance writing clients.

With advanced SEO writing training, you can prove your skills to potential clients to land more gigs and charge them more for that service. Keyword research and other SEO copywriting techniques adds a helluva lotta value to clients, especially when (don’t we know it) they’re often optimizing for the wrong keywords.

Maybe you’re an awesome blogger with mad SEO skills, but you’re missing a huge chunk of potential clients because you don’t know persuasive copywriting techniques. AWAI offers a well-known copywriting certification course. Writing copy that sells brings in big bucks for you and your clients.

Get that training and get writing – plus, a bonus!

Now that you know how purchasing online training can land new freelance writing gigs, get to it!

Do some research and find out what skills would help you the most.

Maybe you’re awesome on the writing-skills front and just need to learn how to find more clients. Well …

That leads me to my bonus way that paid online training leads to more writing gigs.

There are paid online trainings (SuccessWorks and AWAI offer two of them) that teach you how to find freelance writing clients! Instead of going it alone, you can learn how to ramp up your business faster — and make more money, more easily.

Yes, training is an investment. Yes, you will need to spend time to go through the course and complete the exercises.

Yet, the benefits are well worth it — and you’ll be able to take your freelance writing business to the next level.

Have you experienced other ways that paying for online training has helped you land writing jobs? Let’s talk about ‘em in the comments below!

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