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Practitioner Marketing The Three Types of Freelance Writers

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Chris Tozzi

February 15, 2018

If you work in the content-marketing business long enough, you learn that there are three main types of freelance writers with whom you can partner to help write content.

Understanding the differences between these types, and how each category of freelancer corresponds to different business goals and visions is important for building the most effective freelance network.

Keep reading for our take on the three main types of freelance writers, and which ones are most valuable for effective practitioner content marketing.

Type 1: The Content-Mill Writer

The first category of freelance writers are the ones who are exploited by “content mills”—content-marketing businesses that specialize in producing large quantities of content that is generally not of high quality.

The reason that content-mill content is of poor quality is because content-mill writers tend neither to write well, nor to be subject-matter experts. They can put words on a page, but that is about it. They’re not qualified to discuss complicated subjects in detail. The articles they write end up being very generic. They lack specific examples or case studies to back up their points.

Content-mill writers also lack the ability to craft compelling, digestible prose. Their writing is unorganized and may be subject to logic issues. Good copy editors can resolve some of these issues, but it’s hard to turn a content-mill article into a high-quality piece—and most content mills don’t bother, because quality is not a major part of their value prop.

Of course, content-mill writers still find gigs because they are willing to work for little pay. Content mills take advantage of this by hiring them to produce low-quality content, which the content mills in turn sell at a high margin.

Type 2: Journalists

The second category of freelance writer that you commonly encounter in the content-marketing world is what I’ll call journalists.

I’m using the term journalist in a broad sense. This category is not limited to people with formal backgrounds in traditional journalism. It also includes writers who produce content frequently for online news sites.

These types of writers usually write well. Their articles are easy to read and require little copyediting. For that reason, this is the type of writer that content-marketing editors often prefer to work with.

The downside of relying on journalists to produce your content, however, is that they don’t necessarily have deeply technical subject-matter expertise. They can often speak the language about a given topic, but they don’t truly understand it. They write articles filled with industry words like cloud, Big Data and DevOps without technical experience from the trenches about the details of developing in the worlds behind the words.

This lack of expertise is sometimes lost on content-marketing editors, who are not subject-matter experts themselves. But it’s obvious to anyone who is a technical expert in a given topic and reads an article written about that topic by a journalist-type freelance writer.

Type 3: Subject-Matter Experts

The third type of writer is one with genuine and deep expertise in a subject. This is the type of writer we rely on at Fixate. They are practitioners, and therefore, subject-matter experts.

When we select writers, we look for people who have professional experience in areas like Java development, mobile device testing, DevOps engineering or Unix system administration. We don’t work with freelancers who can talk about these topics without really understanding them. Our subject-matter experts are just that—experts, plain and simple.

The challenge of working with subject-matter experts is that they tend not to be strong writers. A handful are, and when you find those experts who can also write well, you’ve struck gold.

But in most cases, subject-matter experts require a fair amount of editing guidance and help to produce articles that reflect deep expertise and are well written, too. That’s OK. These are the things editors provide, because, as we’ve noted elsewhere, you don’t have to write well to be a practitioner. You just have to be an expert.

Working with subject-matter experts to write high-quality articles is at the core of our value proposition at Fixate. We rely on editors who know their stuff, too, when it comes to technology, because they also have backgrounds in the fields they manage.

The Takeaway

By now, it’s probably obvious that we think the third type of freelance writer is the best to work with if you want to build an effective content-marketing business for highly skeptical markets.

The first type will give you really big margins because content-mill writers will work for next to nothing. (On that note, check out our post on what to pay freelance writers.)

The second type, journalists, will produce pretty prose that sounds smart, but is uncompelling to experts in a given field.

The third type of writer, subject-matter experts. They create a lot of work for editors, but they end up producing truly high-quality content.