Content marketing for freelancers and small businesses

Blogs, social media, video, podcasts, email, infographics, lead magnets, books, white papers, webinars – there’s always some kind of content marketing guru telling you what you ‘should’ be doing if you want your business to be successful. After all, ‘Content is King’.

Or is it?

With so much content filling our social media and search engine feeds day after day after day, what will make your content stand out from the crowd? You could do everything right – exactly by the book – and still not get one viable lead from your content.


Because there are just no guarantees when it comes to marketing. What works for one company won’t always work for another.

So, if there are no guarantees, is it worth creating content at all, and if so, what kind of content should you be focusing on and how can you get it seen?

Table of Contents

What is content marketing?

The biggest reason people fail at content marketing is because they don’t really understand it. There’s more to content marketing than sticking a couple of videos on Facebook or writing an article for LinkedIn.

According to the Content Marketing Institute:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” 

But what does that actually mean?

Well, there are 5 key points to that definition:

“A strategic marketing approach”

The thing most people get wrong with content marketing is not having a strategy. They just create content without thinking about who it is for or why they are creating it.

It’s too easy to put posts out on social media and feel like you are making progress because you get lots of followers, likes and views. But if those followers, likes and views don’t turn into profitable customer action, you’re just wasting your time.

Your content should move people through a process from never having heard of you to becoming a customer. You need to attract your ideal clients, nurture them and then convert them into paying customers.

“focused on creating and distributing”

Another mistake people make with content marketing is focusing on the creation part but not the distribution.

Sticking a blog post on your website won’t magically generate a hundred new leads overnight – it just doesn’t work like that.

It’s not a case of ‘if you build it, they will come’. You have to actually let people know your content exists.

Social media and email are my favourite channels for distributing content, but you can also use paid ads, influencer marketing, or sponsored links.

“valuable, relevant, and consistent content”

Don’t just create any old content and hope for the best. If you want your content to generate leads, you need to make it:

• Valuable – it has to be something your ideal client wants – information, advice or entertainment
• Relevant – it’s got to be relevant to your audience – you don’t want to attract the wrong people
• Consistent – don’t just turn up when you want to sell something – be consistently visible

“to attract and retain a clearly defined audience”

The whole point of content marketing is to attract your ideal clients so you’ve got to know who they are. If you don’t, it will be much harder to create relevant content or achieve your goals.

“and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action”

And now we come to the main goal of any marketing, which is to sell. What’s the point of building an audience, getting subscribers or driving traffic to your site if you are never going to turn any of those followers, subscribers or website visitors into customers?

If you create content simply for the sake of creating content, you might get results, but you probably won’t get the results you want.

Content marketing is about building a relationship with potential clients so that when they are in the market for your products or services, they’ll be more likely to buy from you.

I like to think of it as doing customer service backwards. Rather than waiting until somebody becomes a client or customer before showing them how good you are, show them how good you are in advance so that they want to become a client or customer.

Through your content, you can convey your passion, your knowledge, your expertise and your company values. If your content matches your brand, it will attract the type of customers you want.

And as well as attracting new clients, your content will help you nurture relationships with existing clients too.

How does content marketing work?

The main purpose of any type of marketing is to attract new customers and content marketing is no different. How it works will depend on how you approach it and the type of content you create.

Drive traffic to your website

Creating content for your website (for example, articles like this one) is a fantastic way of increasing the number of visitors.

You can share links to your content on any social media platform, other people can share those links on social media, and other company websites can link back to the content.

The more your content is shared, the more people it will reach, and the more clicks you are likely to get. This will increase your website traffic, and some of those visitors will then go on to become customers.

Lead magnets

Another great way to use content as a marketing tool is as a ‘lead magnet’. I don’t particularly like the phrase, but I do like the concept.

You create useful content that people can access for free if they sign up. This can be a PDF, an e-book, a training course, email content, a video, a podcast, a webinar or any other type of relevant content.

It doesn’t matter what type of content your lead magnet is, as long as it is of value to your target audience and delivers on what you promise. If people sign up to receive something and it isn’t what they expected, they are going to feel cheated.

The idea is that your lead magnet starts a relationship with potential customers. The free content gives them an insight into what kind of person or company you are. You can then ask them to subscribe to ongoing communications, or you can provide information about your paid services.

Of course, not everyone will become a customer. Many people will sign up for the free content and never buy from you. That’s ok. Even though they never become a customer, you are still giving them a great experience of your company.

Improve SEO (search engine optimisation)

Getting found in search engines isn’t always easy, and there are lots of things that will impact your results. However, content marketing can greatly improve your search engine rankings for several reasons, including the following:

  • Blog content or articles will naturally contain keywords that Google and other search engines will pick up on.
  • Search engines work on the basis that if lots of people are linking to your content, it must be relevant. People are more likely to share links to quality content than just a link to a website.
  • Search engines pay attention to the number of website visitors, but they also look at how long people stay on your site once they are there. If your content is good, it will attract lots of visitors, and keep them on your site for longer.

Although content, particularly written content, is good for SEO, I always advocate creating content for people first and search engines second. If you are writing content purely designed to satisfy search engines, it is unlikely to be as good as it would be if you created it with your target audience in mind. Nobody wants to read a blog post stuffed full of keyword phrases that don’t seem to fit. What’s more, if you try and manipulate the search results too much, this can have a detrimental effect on your rankings.

Focus on creating quality content. If it’s valuable, interesting, and relevant, then you’ll convert more readers into customers.

Set yourself apart from competitors

Who is going to get noticed more online – the company with a fancy website or the company that is consistently sharing great content on their blog, on YouTube, or across various social media channels?

The answer will almost always be the second one. A website is all well and good, but unless you are marketing it, you won’t get any visitors. You might go down the route of paid advertising or posting lots of links on social media rather than creating valuable content, but that will only get you so far.

Let’s say we are looking for a recruitment company and we visit two similar company websites. They both offer what we need at a similar price, and they both have great reviews. However, one of the companies has a blog full of advice about how to create a good job advert, how to structure interviews, how to choose the right candidate, and so on. The other doesn’t have a blog.

Are you more likely to choose the company that is showing you that they have lots of relevant knowledge and experience? Are you more likely to choose the company that is already giving you lots of tips and advice before you even become a paying client? Probably.

In fact, research shows that not only do websites with a blog attract up to 55% more visitors, but they also generate 67% more leads than those without.

Other benefits of content marketing

Hopefully, the above points have given you an insight into how content marketing can help your business generate more leads and increase sales. Content marketing is also brilliant for:

  • Showcasing your expertise
  • Improving your employer branding
  • Increasing your social media following
  • Keeping in touch with existing customers
  • Building brand loyalty
  • Becoming an authority in your industry
  • Attracting the right audience

With so many benefits to content marketing, I’d say it’s definitely worth the effort, but there are still some things to consider.

Is content marketing worth the effort?

How to get your content seen (by the right people)

Your content is unlikely to go viral when you’re starting out, but it would still be nice to get more than a handful of likes.

You don’t want to spend hours writing blog content or spend a fortune on fancy videos if nobody is interested.

But you don’t want your content to get seen by just anybody – you want it to get seen by the right people. You want it to get seen by your ideal audience. 

And that’s the first thing you should concentrate on – getting your stuff in front of the right people.

Don’t focus on likes and comments – focus on conversions. If ten people see your content and one of them becomes a customer, that’s better than 100 people seeing it and none of them becoming a customer.

So with that in mind, here’s how you can improve your reach.

Plan your content marketing strategy

Before you go out and spend a ton of money or time on creating content, you need to consider two important things.

  • What do you want to achieve from your content? – Do you want to increase website traffic? Do you want to build a subscriber list? Are you trying to improve your social media following? What are your marketing objectives.
  • Who do you want to attract with your content? – Who is your ideal customer?

If you don’t have a goal, how will you know if your marketing is working? If you don’t identify your audience, how will you know what content will attract them?

Create content your target audience will be interested in

Sounds pretty obvious, but it’s surprising how many people create content without thinking about their target audience.

Sure, sharing a video of your team doing the latest TikTok dance craze might get a lot of likes, but is it going to get you meaningful engagement? Probably not.

So, before you rush off to write about whatever the latest industry trend is, take a minute to decide whether your ideal clients will actually be interested.

Social media is a great place to get ideas for content. You can ask people what they’d like you to cover in an article or video. You can test different content ideas on a small scale. And you can look at what content your target audience already engages with.

Check out your competitors’ content and see which topics get the most interest – can you put an alternative spin on a subject or present it differently? Look at what your existing clients engage with? What are they searching for online? What are they interested in? Find groups or hashtags that your ideal clients follow and look at the questions and conversations that are going on.

And listen to people. What questions do you get asked over and over again? What advice do you find yourself repeating? What mistakes do you see people making? These could be great subjects for your next piece of content.

If you understand your audience, you’ll find it easier to choose subjects they are interested in. Think about the problems they come across that you can help with. 

Your content doesn’t have to be strictly educational – it can be fun or entertaining too. The important thing is that you choose content that is relevant to your audience. Otherwise, you might just end up with lots of subscribers, website visitors or followers who like your content but won’t ever be in the market for your products or services.

Create content for the type of person you want to do business with

The most important thing to remember when you create content is not to try and appeal to everyone. It’s impossible, and it doesn’t make for good content.

Instead, think about the sort of person you want to do business with – your favourite client – and write (or talk) as though you are writing for them (or speaking directly to them). The more your content resonates with someone, the more likely they are to want to do business with you.

Choose the right medium

There are so many types of content to choose from it can be hard to decide which to go for. Do you invest in video? Should you run a free seminar? Are blogs the way to go?

Sometimes the subject will dictate the medium. For example, a makeup tutorial might work better as a video than a written step-by-step. An in-depth guide might be better as a downloadable PDF than a static blog post.

Other factors to consider are your budget and in-house capabilities. If you don’t have the budget to outsource, then you need to learn to do it yourself, train someone on your team to do it, or recruit someone who knows how to do it. If you don’t have in-house capabilities, then you need to outsource, which will involve a cost. You may, therefore, be limited as to the type of content you can create.

Share your content and get others to share it

It’s not enough to just stick a blog post or video on your website and hope people will find it. You’ve got to get it out there in front of them.

Social media is the easiest way, and it’s free. But don’t just share a link or video with no context – explain why people should click through to your article or watch your video. What’s in it for them?

As well as sharing content yourself, get other people to share it. If you have colleagues, they should definitely be sharing it, but suppliers and clients might share too if it is useful to their audience.

And you don’t have to only approach people you know. If I write an in-depth guide on how to write your website copy, I can approach web designers and ask them to share it on their social media pages as it will be helpful to their clients.

You might even want to consider blogger outreach – the process of reaching out to other bloggers or journalists and asking them to link to your content or share your content.

For more in-depth articles on how to do blogger outreach effectively, check out these articles:

If you have an email subscriber list or you send out newsletters, make sure you include links to your latest blog posts or videos in your next email.

And you could even include a link to your latest blog in your email signature – it’s far more interesting than just a link to your website homepage.

Reshare – don’t just share your content once

Not everyone you are connected to will see your content the first time you share it. In fact, you’d be lucky if 20% of your followers see it. And of those that do see it, not all of them will watch, read or listen the first time around.

So share your content multiple times.

Reshare it on social media, but try using different copy in the accompanying post. 

Don’t be scared of resharing old content. Companies don’t make a TV ad and only show it once. People are used to seeing the same things more than once – it’s perfectly normal.

And as well as resharing on social media, link back to older content from new content or add a ‘related content’ section to the bottom of each blog post. 

Repurpose your content

To put it simply, repurposing just means reusing your content in different ways. After all, if you’ve spent a lot of time or money on your content, you’ll want it to work as hard as possible for you.

Whenever you create any type of content, think about how you can maximise its use.

Not everyone likes content in the same format. Some people like video, while others prefer blog posts. Some people want to read a book, while others prefer audiobooks. Some people want short, easy-to-digest content; others want in-depth white papers.

The point is, not everyone wants to view your content in the way you’d like them to view it.

So repurpose it.

Break longer content up. This article, for example, could be turned into lots of short pieces of content or turned into an infographic.

As well as taking longer content and splitting it down, you can take shorter content and expand on it.

There are loads of ways you can repurpose your content. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Take snippets from articles and turn them into social posts or images
  • Transcribe videos and turn them into blog posts
  • Create videos based on your most popular blog content
  • Make an email series
  • Turn a presentation into a blog post or vice versa
  • Turn a series of blogs into a PDF or eBook
  • Turn email content into social posts or vice versa

Whenever you create a piece of content, think about how to reuse it to get maximum mileage.

Measure the results

There’s no point doing any marketing activity if you don’t measure the success. You need to know if it’s working to decide whether it is worth the continued investment.

Content marketing is often a longer-term strategy, so you may need to be patient, but you should still keep track of the results.

With social media, you can often see at a glance if your content is being liked, shared or commented on. You can also keep track of how many new followers you are getting and which types of content they engage with most.

Google Analytics is an extremely useful tool for tracking results. It will tell you if you’ve had an increase in traffic, as well as where that traffic has come from and which of your website pages people are visiting. This can be very useful in deciding which platforms work best and which types of content get the most engagement.

Ultimately, social media followers and website visitors are only beneficial if some of them eventually convert into customers. Track where your enquiries come from. Maybe they saw a post on Facebook; perhaps they came across your content in a Google search. If you know how they found you, you’ll know if your content marketing is working.

Understand what success looks like to you

In an ideal world, you’d write a blog post and get hundreds of new clients off the back of it. In reality, this is very unlikely to happen, so you need to decide what success looks like for you.

If you spend three hours writing a blog post each month and win one new client every six months as a result, is it worth the effort? If you spend £2000 on video content and triple your social media following as a result, is that a good investment? Only you can decide what results you are happy with. 


10 top tips for getting started with content marketing

Content marketing can be a great way to build trust and credibility, show you’re an expert and generate leads. Here are my 10 tips for getting started.  

1. Get comfortable with selling

Sales is the most essential element of any business. You can have the greatest product or service in the world, but it’s all for nothing if nobody buys it. Your customer service could be amazing, your operational processes second to none and your branding outstanding, but you won’t have any of it for long if you can’t make a sale.

And yet, so many people feel completely uncomfortable at the idea of selling – the idea of asking for money in exchange for their products or services.

But selling doesn’t have to involve sitting in front of a prospect pressuring them into signing a cheque, or cold-calling your way through the phone book.

If you don’t feel comfortable with face-to-face sales, pitching or telesales, then you can get your marketing to do all the hard work for you.

And that’s where content marketing comes in. You can use content to attract potential customers, build trust, establish your expertise, show your personality, and make people want to do business with you.

But, as the content marketing definition at the start of this article clearly says, the ultimate goal of content marketing is “to drive profitable customer action.”

And you should feel comfortable with that.

2. Know your audience

“Attract and retain a clearly defined audience”.

If you don’t know who you’re trying to attract, how can you create content they will be interested in?

I know it can be difficult figuring it out, especially if you are new to business. For a long time, I had such a variety of clients that I didn’t know who I should aim my marketing at.

But if you don’t get clarity, you end up trying to appeal to everyone, which often means you don’t really appeal to anyone.

So try narrowing it down with one of the following questions:

  • What type of clients do you like doing business with most?
  • What problems do you solve, and who has those problems?
  • Or do your customers have to have a specific trait or characteristic (e.g. recently engaged, buying a house, parent, business owner)?

The more specific you can be about who you want to attract, the easier it is to plan your content. You can decide what content will appeal to your target audience, where to find them, and what you want them to do after engaging with your content.

If you don’t have a plan for your content, you’re just creating content for the sake of it. And while this will occasionally get results, it might not get the results you want.

3. Create content your audience is interested in

Before you rush off and invest hundreds of pounds on videos or spend hours writing 3000-word articles, think about what subjects your audience would be interested in.

You might think your company history is fascinating, but will your social media followers want to watch a 30-minute video about it?

Instead of creating the content you think people want, find out what they actually want.

You can do this in several ways:

  • Ask – create a poll or post on social media asking your followers what topics they’d like your insight on
  • Test – create short posts on different topics and see which get the best engagement, and then create more in-depth content on these subjects
  • Research – look at what kind of content your ideal clients are engaging with – what topics are they interested in?
  • Listen – what questions do you get asked over and over? What problems do your clients have in common? What do they need help with most?

People will watch, listen to or read content that informs, educates, helps or entertains them. So before creating any content, ask yourself, “what’s in it for them?”

4. Go for quality over quantity

You don’t need daily videos or blog posts to make content marketing work. Go for quality of content over quantity of content every time.

If you aren’t creating quality content, it becomes like the boy who cried wolf – people will just stop paying attention to you.

So spend some time creating good content. Answer people’s questions in depth. Provide value-adding advice. Share your expert insights or opinions on a subject.

Whether you are creating videos, podcasts or written content, you want people to feel like watching, listening or reading that content was a good investment of their time.

Mediocre content won’t achieve that.

5. Don’t be scared to go long

There was a time when people said, “nobody reads long posts”, but this has never been true.

After all, people will read a book on a subject if it is of interest to them, so they will definitely read 1000-3000 words if the subject is of interest.

My most read post is over 6000 words, and research shows that the highest-ranking articles on Google are often over 1200 words. This article is over 2500 words, and you’re reading it. You might not read every word, but you can scan and pick out bits that are relevant to you.

And the great thing about longer content is it can be broken down and repurposed too.

So don’t be scared to go long with your written content. That doesn’t mean waffle on and on, repeating the same points. Long content should still be clear and concise. Write as much as is needed to provide the detail you want to provide, but still be ruthless in the editing process – no point writing 5000 words if you can make the point in 500 words.

It’s slightly different for videos. It’s not that people won’t watch a long video; they will. It’s just that it’s harder to skim a video to decide whether it will be worth watching. If you want to make in-depth videos, you might find it easier to create a series of shorter videos or break them into chapters, so viewers can go back to the parts they want to watch more easily. 

6. Think ‘evergreen’ not ‘bandwagon’

Planking. Pokémon GO. Ice bucket challenge. Beans on Weetabix. The Mannequin Challenge. Is this dress black and blue or gold and white? 

Remember those?

Who remembers the winner of the fourth series of Big Brother or X Factor? They were probably all front-page news stories at the time, but not any more.

What about the celebrity affairs, sports controversies or political scandals that were once hot topics of conversation?

There’s always something in the news or some fad or trend that’s getting a lot of attention, and it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and create content around it. But, while writing a social media post about the latest thing to go viral is fine, you don’t want to spend too much time creating detailed content around the subject.

These things get lots of attention and focus for a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks, even a couple of months at a push. But then they are gone, forgotten about, and everyone has moved on to the next thing.

And when that happens, you’re stuck with a video or blog post that is no longer relevant, that can’t be reused or repurposed anywhere and that nobody is interested in anymore.

As a comparison, the advice in this article will be relevant for years to come. I might have to tweak a couple of points here and there in the future, but it’s unlikely this post will go out of date any time soon. And that means I can keep sharing it and repurposing it over and over again.

So instead of creating content about the latest craze, focus on creating content with longevity – content that is evergreen.

7. Play to your strengths

Not everyone is funny. Not everyone writes well. Not everyone is engaging on video.

So play to your strengths.

If you aren’t entertaining, then be informative – you don’t have to be a Bantersaurus Rex; you can be a Tiplodocus instead!

If you are awkward and uncomfortable on camera, then create written content or podcasts. Or film interview-style videos, rather than selfie-style (talking head) videos.

If you struggle to write, try using a dictation app and then tweaking what you’ve said to remove any erms, ahhs and word repetition. Or hire someone to turn your audio ramblings into blog posts for you.

People will tell you that you need to do this, that and the other, but you don’t have to do everything. You don’t actually have to make any content at all if you don’t want to – there are other forms of marketing.

So do what you’re good at. If it’s writing funny social posts, do that. If it’s writing in-depth white papers, do that. If it’s sharing your expertise and insight in short videos, then do that.

8. Worry about your own grass

Whatever one person tells you to do, someone else will always tell you to do the exact opposite.

“This isn’t Facebook – keep it professional!” Vs “Don’t post boring business advice.”

“Content is King – create content that has value!” Vs “Don’t give good advice away for free!”

“Nobody reads blog posts anymore!” Vs “If you’re not blogging, you’re losing business!”

It can be frustrating, and it can knock your confidence. Nobody wants to hear that they are doing it wrong.

But, if what you are doing is working for you, if it is getting you customers, then don’t worry about what other people think. And if something works for someone else, but you don’t think it would be right for you, don’t do it.

If you want to swear in your content or be controversial, then swear in your content and be controversial. If you don’t, then don’t. Some people like it, some people hate it.

If you want to share deeply personal experiences or your political views, then go for it. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, then don’t do it.

People might tell you to be marmite instead of vanilla, but guess what? Some people like vanilla.

And do you want to know the real secret to marketing?

Everything works for someone, but nothing works for everyone.

That’s it. That’s the big secret.

So when people tell you what you should and shouldn’t be doing, they are just telling you what works or doesn’t work for them or which marketing techniques they personally like or don’t like.

And I know that isn’t very helpful when you’re trying to work out where to invest your time and money, but it’s the truth.

So do your research, get a variety of advice, but don’t overthink things too much. Do what works for you, your business, and your future customers.  

Keep your own grass green and let others worry about what they do with theirs.

9. Share, reshare and repurpose

I’ve covered these points above, but I can’t stress how important it is to get as much mileage out of your content as possible. 

If you bought a new pair of jeans, would you only wear them once? Or would you want to get maximum value out of them?

Sure, you wouldn’t wear them every day, but you’d probably wear them a good few times, and with different shoes, different tops, a different belt even.

And it’s the same with your content. You should make it versatile. Share it more than once. Share it in different formats. Share it on different channels.

If you write a blog post but don’t share it, don’t be surprised when it doesn’t get any views. And don’t think that sharing it once on Facebook is going to attract a thousand eager readers.

People might see an article on their social media feed three or four times before clicking on it.

Good content can be shared, reshared and repurposed for other things. And if you decide you don’t want to give it away for free anymore, you can always add an email sign-up or payment page later down the line.

The only time that creating content is a waste of time is if you don’t do anything with it.

For more detailed advice on sharing and repurposing content, check out my article: What’s hiding in your content closet? 

10. Remember your goal

Yes, your content might be attracting people in, but is it ‘driving profitable action’?

While you might be making lots of new friends on social media, are any of them turning into customers? You might be getting lots of lovely clicks through to your website, but are any of the visitors buying? Do your emails win you any business, or are you getting lots of unsubscribes once people have bagged themselves the freebie content?

If you are getting engagement with your content, but your sales aren’t increasing, then it might be time to look closely at the audience you have built. Are they the right fit for your products and services? If not, then you need to change your content to start attracting the right people.

And if you have attracted the right audience but they aren’t buying, then you need to look at why they aren’t buying.

Is your website copy up to scratch – does it make it clear what you offer and why people should buy it? Does your website have clear call to actions, and is it easy for people to take that action?

When you get email enquiries, are your responses well-written, or do they sound dull, generic and disinterested?

When people approach you on social media, are you too aggressive in your responses, or are you too laid back, not asking for the sale?

Of course, the problem might be with your products or services. Maybe you haven’t packaged them up in the right way or targeted the right audience (but that’s a subject for another day).

And sometimes, content marketing works without it being obvious. Sometimes someone sees content you’ve shared and decides to connect with you, then a few weeks later, they see a promotional post you’ve put out and decide to make an enquiry.

The content isn’t necessarily what made them buy, but it is what attracted them to you in the first place. And that is the point of content marketing. So make sure you track where your sales come from. Ask new enquiries how they found you – it might be through your content after all.

But if you aren’t winning any new business, then there’s either a problem with your marketing or your sales (or both) – you just need to figure out which.

Need help with your content marketing?

Blogging for Business

Blogging is one of the easiest ways to get started with content marketing, and this course is designed to get you off to a flying start.

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Need help generating content ideas? Want some bespoke content marketing tips? Struggling to attract readers? Book a 90-minute 1-2-1 session.

Hi – I’m Lisa

If this is your first time here, thanks for reading. 

I’m Lisa – owner of Make Your Copy Count Ltd, and author of the ‘A-Z of Blogging’ and ‘The Freelance Fairytale‘. 

I help freelancers and small businesses attract more of the clients they want by providing copywriting training and business mentoring

If you’d like to get to know me a bit better, sign up for my daily email here