This is my standard content development process with clients. It is not cut in stone, so if you want to do things a little differently, that’s okay, too.
Client match and content requirements
1. The client and I confirm our needs match.
- They need regular content in one of my areas of subject expertise. “Regular content” is at least one long-form blog post per month, though I will do a test post for new clients if they wish.
- They accept my freelance writing rates, payment terms, and content creation process.
- I have space in my schedule and like their product or service.
2. The client tells me their requirements for the content.
Requirements would include things like:
- What is the approximate word count required?
- Who is the target audience?
- Do you want this content to be more promotional or educational? Should I mention your products a lot, or not at all?
- Is there a style manual to follow?
3. The client gives me a short list of their primary competitors.
This helps for idea generation, but more importantly, so I don’t mention those companies or their research in the content.
Content idea development and scheduling
4. I begin developing ideas for the content.
I can do this without any input, but it is helpful if the client lets me know which topics they’d like me to develop headlines for.
5. I send 20-40 headline ideas.
Each headline will include a score from the CoSchedule headline analyzer. Content ideas/headlines are selected based on what’s done well on the client’s site per BuzzSumo. I’ll also develop some ideas based on what’s done well on their competitors’ sites.
6. The client picks which ideas/headlines they like best.
I appreciate clients who pick several pieces of content from the list I’ve sent over. My preferred clients assign several months’ worth of content at a time.
7. We set a schedule for when the posts will be delivered.
We’ll also decide whether I will:
- Send the posts to them via email with a Microsoft Word attachment and the images in a zipped, attached file. If the files are unusually large I’ll post them to Dropbox and send the client a link.
- Set up the posts in Google Docs with the images embedded there.
- Set up the posts in WordPress. I usually charge $30 extra to set up posts in WordPress. That typically includes optimizing the post for a given keyword until the Yoast SEO plugin content grader turns green.
8. The client gives me access to a free account for their service/product.
This lets me include specific instructions on exactly how to do a marketing task/tactic/technique that’s mentioned in the content. It’s an ideal way to make readers aware of the client’s products/service without being too “salesy”.
9. I begin research on the client’s website.
If this is a new client, I will spend at least an hour reading content on their site. I will study their editorial style and look for which content pieces I can link to in the new content. If the client’s site has a few webinars available on-demand, I’ll watch a couple of those. I’ll also carefully review at any research they’ve published and I will use that research in the content wherever possible.
10. I begin research beyond the client’s website.
This will include:
- Extensive Google searches for anything published on this topic in the last year. Typically I have 20-30 browser tabs open when I am writing. I will also search for any research published within the last two years, and will use Google’s image search to see if I can turn up anything else there.
- I will search through my email account and the 10,000+ emails I have collected there for client research. I also have recordings of thousands of webinars, and will usually listen to 2-3 of those to polish up my expertise on a topic.
- I will use other search tools, like BuzzSumo and Twitter, to see if I can turn anything up. Then I’ll check websites like MarketingProfs, eMarketer, eConsultancy, The Harvard Business Review, Marketing Sherpa, Marketing Charts and a couple of other favorite sites to see what turns up.
Content writing and development
11. I begin writing.
Over the course of several hours of ongoing research, the post will gain word count and divide itself up into sections. I will often go down rabbit trails to try to find recent research that backs up every assertion. I will also try to find as many real-world examples as I can, as readers tend to love examples.
12. I add images.
If the client lets me know what size they want images to be, that’s great. If they want me to include captions for images, I will do that, too. I will include citations to research within the images of charts and graphs.
13. I format the content for easy scanning.
I will use subheads and bullet points wherever possible. Paragraphs will rarely be more than five sentences long. I occasionally use one-sentence paragraphs.
14. I add links.
I will link to any research I cite. I will also add several links to content on the client’s website; usually three to five interior links for a 1,500-word blog post. I can embed the links in the text or include them within parenthesis depending on what the client prefers.
15. I proofread the content.
I’ll read the content through several times, tuning sentences as I go. Then I will run it through the Hemingway App until it is at no more than a 7th-grade reading level. Then I will run it through Grammarly.
16. I write headlines and meta descriptions.
I’ll include ten possible headlines and 2-3 meta descriptions with the content. The headlines will have been run through the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer, and I will include each headline’s score from that tool. If the client requests, I will also include a primary SEO keyword, and will sprinkle that keyword and keyword variations throughout the content.
Content delivery and approval
17. I send the content to the client.
18. The client reviews the work and gets back to me within one week.
Clients usually approve my work with no changes, but it’s not uncommon for them to ask for a couple of edits. This is especially true if we’ve just started working together.
19. The client lets me know when the content is approved.
They also tell me when the content will be published (if possible). That way I know when to start my content promotion work without having to check their website every few days.
Payment and content promotion
20. I send an invoice.
Payment is due within two weeks after receiving the invoice. I am extra-enthusiastic about clients who pay faster. Payment via PayPal is okay if the client covers the PayPal fees. Otherwise I prefer direct deposit. Checks are acceptable, too.
21. Once the content is published, I promote it.
- 2-5 tweets to my 14,000 Twitter followers
- LinkedIn share to my 1,000 LinkedIn connections
- Instagram post
- A link on the homepage of my website for about 2-3 months (if the post has my byline)
- Submission to Quuu Promote, which usually generates at least 200-300 shares and 50 clicks
If the post does not have my byline, promotion is restricted to what I can do anonymously.