At first glance, $250 may not seem like a lot of money. But considering I earned it in my first two weeks of working from home on the side of my day job, it’s pretty good.
If you’re reading The Penny Hoarder, you’re probably trying to learn how to make money online, so here’s my favorite strategy: writing SEO content.
When I started freelance writing, I had no experience making money online and essentially no knowledge of SEO. After two weeks, I had several satisfied clients, an extra $250 in my bank account, and experience that would eventually lead to an income stream of about $1,500 a month.
Want to know how I did it? Here’s a step-by-step guide to how I started making money as an SEO writer.
What Does an SEO Writer Do?
Writing for SEO purposes is about creating content that is enjoyable to read and easy for search engines to understand. It might sound complex, but it’s really pretty simple.
There’s a common misconception that you have to stuff keywords into blog posts and articles to create spammy-sounding pieces. Some people might do that, but that’s not what we’re going to focus on. Real SEO writing is quite the opposite: You simply focus on writing great content on a specific topic.
You may have heard the saying “content is king.” This is true, especially with Internet marketing. After all, marketing agencies, business owners and bloggers all need quality content in order to be successful online, but sometimes they don’t have the time or skills to create all that content on their own. That’s why they pay writers like you and me to produce SEO content.
If you’re new to SEO, read this excellent beginner’s guide from Moz, a marketing analytics company. Even if you know a little bit about it, the guide is worth a skim.
Got a handle on it? Then let’s dive into the step-by-step process.
1. Get a Domain Name
First, you’ll need to create your online home. Don’t overthink this part; there’s no need to come up with an elaborate or clever name. Think of a relevant, straightforward name for your services and see if the domain name is available. I went with Austin Robinson SEO.
Once I chose the name, I bought the domain, picked a cheap hosting plan and set up a super basic WordPress site. Yes, I had to lay out some money before I had made any, but this only cost me about $25. Just like that, AustinRobinsonSEO.com was online.
Don’t know how to set up a domain name, hosting or WordPress? No problem. This easy, in-depth guide covers it all.
2. Design Your Site
Now it’s time to design the site and write content for the different pages.
I decided to have five pages:
- Home: When prospective clients visit your site, this page is the first thing they’ll see. It needs to be helpful, engaging and easy to understand. Start by writing a brief introduction about yourself, and then offer a list of reasons that they should work with you. I chose six, like that I’m a native English speaker and that I have a lot of experience researching unfamiliar topics.
- About Me: This page gives you the chance to make a human connection with your potential clients by demonstrating your reliability and relatability. Share a brief explanation of your background and why you became an SEO writer.
- Contact: This page is easy. WordPress offers a free plugin called Fast Secure Contact Form that does all the work for you to collect your prospects’ names, emails and messages.
- Rates: Share your rates, potential discounts and whether or not your pricing is negotiable. I have raised my rates over time, but I originally charged $15 per article. As a ballpark estimate, anywhere between $10 and $20 is probably a reasonable rate to start with.
- Writing Samples: This page is where you really need to shine. You want to show potential clients that you can write in a clear, concise and entertaining manner.
You might notice that my design is not amazing in terms of visuals and graphics. That’s OK: Prospects visit my website because of my writing skills, not my design chops.
A brilliant design is a plus, but it’s not necessary. I chose to use a simple, minimalist design that allows for easy site navigation. That’s all that matters.
3. Create Writing Samples
This is the most important thing you can do to help land clients. Every prospective client will take a look at your writing to gauge your skills before he hires you. Your samples should be clear, concise and free of errors — they should be your best work.
Write five to seven articles, using what you learned from the SEO beginner’s guide. You might choose to focus on a certain niche, but you should still include writing samples on other topics to show your versatility, since you’ll likely accept a variety of projects when you’re starting out.
4. Write Your Email Template
Now that your website is ready to go, it’s time to write the email you’ll send to prospective clients.
Craft a simple, compelling subject line to convince as many people as possible to open your email.
The subject is the first thing that your potential clients are going to see, so make it simple. I prefer to put “Freelance SEO Writer.” It gets right to the point. When a prospect sees the email in her inbox, she knows what to expect.
Again, keep it simple. Write an engaging, concise note that explains your experience and services to encourage clients to visit your site and check out your writing samples. If you’re a native English speaker, you’ll definitely want to mention that.
Here’s my email template, which you can tweak to fit your experience and background:
Dear [Client/Company Name],
My name is Austin Robinson and I write high quality SEO content.
I focus on writing content that people love and search engines can understand.
I have previously written for the self-help, culinary and business industries, but I can write about any subject.
You can view all of my samples and rates on my website: AustinRobinsonSEO.com
Writing is my passion and I am excited about the opportunity to work with you.
5. Gather Emails of Potential Clients
Now that you’ve put together a great email template, it’s time to start marketing your services.
Here’s the truth: Most of the time you won’t get a reply to your emails. It’s a numbers game, so you’re going to need to research a lot of potential clients to connect with a few solid prospects.
Google is your best friend here. Start by searching for marketing companies in your immediate area. For example, search for terms like “Seattle SEO Company,” “Dallas Internet Marketing Agencies,” etc. Next, look for businesses that could use your help building content on their sites. I focus on service businesses, like handymen, landscaping companies, chiropractors, etc. in my local area.
Sift through the results, check “contact us” pages and add emails to Evernote, a Google Spreadsheet or whatever program you prefer. List the company’s name, the email address and the CEO or marketing director’s name. If the company doesn’t list an email address, simply copy the link to their contact form into your list.
6. Send Emails to Your Prospects
Not all your carefully researched prospects will be interested in your services, so your strategy is to send a lot of emails. I sent out more than 100 emails in my first two weeks and landed three clients.
Ideally, you’ll have identified a lot of potential clients from your metro area, because this will help establish instant rapport; you can mention that you’re local to the area, which might help you gain an edge over another, more distant writer. I even use this strategy while I’m traveling, sending messages to new potential clients in cities I visit, as it’s an instant conversation starter.
SEO writing isn’t a way to get rich quick, but it is surprisingly easy to break into. If you’re looking for a way to make money online on the side of your studies or day job, why not give it a try?
Your Turn: Have you tried SEO content writing? How did you get started?
Austin Robinson is a marketer and entrepreneur who is currently on a journey to “slow travel” around the world. He believes in lifelong learning, making new friends, and extra large pizzas.