How to become a freelance content writer - Stories Podcast

This is a podcast episode with Bertilla Niveda who is an engineer turned content writer. In this episode, we talk about our love for writing, how she got started in content writing, her journey along the way, and more.

How to become a freelance content writer - Stories Podcast
Photo by Kaitlyn Baker / Unsplash

Hello everybody👋, welcome to the stories podcast. In today's episode, I have a conversation with my friend Bertilla Niveda, a freelance content writer and strategist. After our conversation, I got to learn a lot more when I was editing the audio to make it into a podcast. I met Bertilla sometime over 2-years ago when both were doing our Internship at Infosys, Mysore. But, only recently got to be better friends over our love for writing. She made a career out of writing that too so amazingly that she gained a huge following on Medium and all other platforms.

I was very curious to learn more about her and her learnings along the way. This conversation is about how she got started in content writing from engineering, things to look out for in the freelance world, and more. I hope you take away something from this conversation.

Reminder:

If you feel you didn't understand parts of them, I recommend reading about them online since this conversation was to understand how one can get started with freelance content writing and personal branding.

Hi Bertilla, please tell us a bit about yourself.

Bertilla: I am a freelance content writer and strategist. I am also an independent creator and make blog posts and videos for my brand.

Can you expand on what a content strategist is?

Bertilla: Sure, as a strategist, I create blog/content strategies for brands. I would be in charge of creating a content calendar and strategizing the content ahead. If you are a writer, your purpose is to give your KPIs, schedule the content, and make sure it is SEO-friendly.

How did you find writing would be the profession you want to pursue?

Bertilla: I liked writing as a child, and during the lockdown, I started applying to content writing internships. I enjoyed writing and making a few extra bucks from content writing. Later, I was having fun, At that time I considered freelancing.

What is the difference between copywriting and content writing?

Copywriter sells the product with their words. They need to be to the point and sell the product. Content writing is subtle long-form writing.  Content writers can bring in stories to entertain the audience while keeping the product and brand in mind.

When and how did you get started?

I didn't think of freelancing, I was thinking to get a full-time job. I was doing the internship after college. I applied for content writing internships during the Covid break. I applied for one whole month. After that, I got two internships.  While doing that, I also kept writing on Medium. At that time, I was able to get into a medium partnership program and started making money.  Then slowly my stories were making money and I gathered a few audiences on medium. After that, I decided if I can make money doing what I like, why not do it full-time and then got started by freelancing, and in the beginning, few clients reached out from my writings.

When writing, have you ever stopped yourself before hitting publish because the content isn't perfect?

While interning at the first company, I had an editor who mentioned that I need to edit my work. Before that, I just used to write and hit publish.  Now, I see what she meant and I have improved a lot. Now, I edit 3 rounds at least and cut all the fluff and keep the helpful content.

While writing or starting your journey, whom did you follow or look up to find resources?  

I didn't follow any one person. I was thinking about a lot of career paths. I would just google my questions and find the answers. Other than that, I took the Udemy course - The complete digital marketing course.

Along with that, I read a lot of medium writers who help others start writing on medium. The one person whom I looked up to a lot is Zulie Rane.

Why did you choose medium, compared to other platforms?

I will tell you the good things about Medium.

  1. You get the maximum creative freedom
  2. You can write about anything you like.

On medium, the distribution is very good. If the stories, articles, and blogs are good, medium picks your article and promotes it. Also, at that time, the medium partner program was open. The MPP allows you to make money for your writings.

How did you publish your articles to different publications on Medium?

  1. Find 5 publications that fit the criteria of the article you have written
  2. Check their guidelines and then send your article link or draft for approval to publish in their publications.
  3. After a few ups and down, you will figure out what works and what doesn't work.

If someone wants to make money as a writer since the medium partner program is not available now?

  1. You can start publishing on your platform and collect email lists, share your resources and make money by a subscription-based business.
  2. You can run ads on blog posts, add affiliate links, write sponsor posts and start making money.
  3. Another way is you can self-publish e-books on Amazon KDP.  

I am not saying this will be easy, but this is the way to make a difference once you start writing good posts and start building an audience.

A lot of these platforms make it sound easy to make money but you need to give your time and effort to make it happen.

While learning, was there a part like this is too much?

For sure, I still feel like this now. When I look back, I feel like I have done a personal MBA in marketing. With practice, it gets easier but yeah, sometimes, it feels too much.

What does your routine look like?

It was regular until last month, I went to the gym for 2 hours in the morning, then work or upskill until lunch. Work until 6 pm. then engage with posts and manage my content and finally unwind for the night.

How to make sure the blog posts are optimized for SEO?

Bertilla: So there are a lot of key factors. The first thing is I just, okay. There's so much in, I will go over the basics now, like what my process is and what the general process is like for a blog post.

So say your topic is, um, something about cheese. This is my favorite topic. So I'm just gonna say that. So your brand is about cheese, but your topic is blue cheese. And your, you are thinking about, uh, a blog post about blue cheese recipes or something.

Okay. And now you would go and, uh, do keyword research for this. So you would go on, um, tools like AHREF or SEMrush.

Keyword research means the, uh, number of people searching for it?

Yeah, exactly. For each keyword, uh, say blue cheese recipes, how many people are searching this up every month?

How many, uh, uh, like how many hits does this have? How many, like how many block posts are there under this? For example, some of them might be very, very saturated, it might be highly competitive and all the top blog posts may be taken up by like huge sites. So you have to assess how easy or hard it is to rank for the keyword and what you must do to, to from the top 10 in the search results.

Okay. So that's the first step. That's the keyword research part of it. And once you've finalized a few keywords, then you go and integrate them into your blog post. So you add these keywords in your headlines, in your, um, in your sub-headlines, in your meta description, in your image alt-text, and wherever you can in a very organic way.

Let's say I'm starting, I want to start freelancing writing. So, what do you think I should do?

I'll just say exactly what I did.

  1. The first thing you can do to research your field and find some freelancers who are good and study their social networks profiles and their work for me, this was, Saheli Chatterjee and also Anangsha Alammyan. They're both very incredible in their fields.

    What you can do is you can study their social network profiles and their work, their blog posts. So whatever it is in your field like how do they maintain their socials what works for them?
  2. You can even look for all these: what does the content they wrote feel like? What are the deliverables? What are the average rates? How much do they charge? How much do other people charge?
  3. If you have some prior experience writing, right? You can put all this together and form a portfolio. But if you haven't got any experience, you can create some samples or work with some data clients.

    For example, if you want to do copywriting, you can do your version of your favorite brand's web copy, say you would just want to rewrite, uh, KFC's app web app copy like their product description and stuff. You can write that and you can add that to your portfolio or you, if you're a social media manager, you can run a business account or your own page for one month and you can learn a lot, and then you'll add your results and the testimonials to your portfolio.

So, if say I were a social media manager in one month, I could have a portfolio that looks like this is what I achieved in one month. I got this much traction and you can also get a testimonial from them, a recommendation like that person saying that, oh, I worked with her and she's, she's really good.

And this is what I got from her. So this is your portfolio, which is step two. And once you are done with these you, or even before this, you can optimize your social networks like LinkedIn, Instagram, or whichever platforms you are focusing on, optimize them and start creating valuable content in your niche.

Now you'll have you get clients either inbound. So they find you through your social media and your content, right? Or the outbound way where you pitch to them with cold emails and like cold calls, something like that. OK. This is, these are the three steps in a nutshell.

What do you do when you see a lot of impressions meaning people are seeing your article in the feed but not actually reading it?

That is a tricky one, you know, if they're seeing it and they're not really clicking on it, it may be something to do with the headlines. It may be that your headline is not, uh, intriguing enough.

It's not interesting enough, the sub-headline, or the image. It may be these things, but if they're clicking on it and they're not reading. Sometimes it may, may seem like the reader may think that it might have been click-baited and they're not getting much value and stop reading.

So the best thing to do is make it as interesting and really valuable as possible. But again, you cannot really, you control this a lot. It happens to everyone. I feel like it happens. Most articles tank, like their articles bomb all the time. So, yeah. Right. Not everyone, like not every article, but some.

What are some of your resources to help in freelancing?

For freelancers, I personally took the Freelancer 101 course by Saheli Chatterjee and it helped me find all the topics to find in one place.

Another one was articles from Niharika Kaur Sodhi, Shreya Pattar, and Saheli Chatterjee. These helped me in finding better clients, forming better freelancing habits, building better digital products, and figuring out a niche.

Last question, what is your advice for people starting out in content writing?

Well, it'll be hard and it'll take so much effort. You have to keep taking whatever comes your way. And you have to bounce back stronger. I know it sounds very, very cliche, but then it, there will be some point when you're like, oh, is this even worth it? Like, what am I doing? And you feel like, you know, you feel very negative about everything, but you just have to keep going and keep learning and keep writing.

The main thing is to not stop writing. You won't really understand what you are learning unless you practice those things. This, was very true for me because I kept learning so much and taking notes, but nothing worked until I actually wrote.

Yeah. And, don't expect results too, too soon. Don't get disappointed. Don't set yourself up for disappointment because, uh, that sucks. I was like that. I expected results too soon. I got way too disappointed. And then I just spend a lot of time crying but learned slowly to pull up myself and get through.  

Where can people find you if they want to reach out to you?

Sure, they can reach out to me on

  1. LinkedIn is where I'm professionally active.
  2. Instagram is where I create comedy videos. That's another part of me, I create content there.
  3. These are where I'm most active or if you just want to send a normal message - you can email me from below:

Hit me up

You can find Bertilla's work on Medium from the links attached below. Make sure to check them out:

  1. Bertilla Creates - A blog focused on creators
  2. Bertilla Portfolio Medium
  3. Bertilla's newsletter  

So, that was the conversation I had with Bertilla about her journey from an engineering background to becoming a freelance content writer. I hope you enjoyed the conversation and also cleared a few queries you have regarding either freelancing or writing content online.

The resources mentioned above are shared below for you guys to dig deep into:

  1. freelance 101 by Saheli Chatterjee
  2. Get paid to write - 26 ways to make money while writing online by Bertilla
  3. Bertilla's Digital Products are value-packed and filled with her experiences
  4. The complete digital marketing course from Udemy
  5. Zulie Rane's Youtube Channel

You can listen to the entire episode from any of the platforms mentioned below:

  1. Listen on Google Podcast
  2. Listen on Spotify
  3. Listen on Amazon Music
  4. Listen on Stitcher

If you have enjoyed my conversation, feel free to drop a like and share it with others so this podcast grows.


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Melvin Raj
A personal website of Melvin Raj sharing articles about writing, design, and a lot more to help understand better and share a newsletter every Saturday.

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