Sometimes becoming a world-class SEO copywriter can seem like a passage in Dante’s inferno.
As Dante famously said,
“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straightway was lost.”
For the past 5 years, I always managed to get out of the dark woods to get back on the road again.
Below I want to show you how I accomplished this feat, so you have a better understanding of the path you can take to become a true SEO copywriter.
The Five Circles of Hell to Become An SEO Copywriter
1. Creating a low-quality writing portfolio
When I first started writing for others, I realized I needed to expand my portfolio. To do that, I went on Fiverr.
It was a brilliant move to start my writing career. After all, who would not want three articles from an American writer on Fiverr?
However, jobs on Fiverr only pay $3.5 after PayPal and Fiverr fees. My work reflected the payment I received.
The articles were so poor that looking back on them today, I am aghast at the quality. However, the clients approved them and said they were great. I guess they did not even read the content.
Soon after I abandoned Fiverr as a revenue generator. It was not a sustainable model.
Lesson: Use Fiverr as a testing ground, but to find quality clients you should start looking at other places where you can get paid for writing quality content and build your portfolio.
2. Taking every job you can get your hands on
So what do you do after you start working on Fiverr? You take the first job someone offers you!
After working on Fiverr for a month, I found my first client. They needed 54 articles on laser hair removal. Money talked, and I said “yes” despite knowing nothing about the topic.
My first client taught me that pricing really does matter. The client paid me $5 per article. My eyes flashed at the possibility of earning $270.
Yet, I ended up spending over 40 hours on those articles. And according to Copyscape none of them are even online anymore. What a waste of time.
Lesson: Value your time. Quality articles are paid by the amount of hours invested, not by the word count.
3. Stuffing your writing with tons of keywords
Back in 2005, keyword stuffing was the norm. However, what worked 10 years ago, does not work today (shocker, I know).
My original clients wanted me to stuff those articles with keywords for all they are worth.
Going back to the laser hair removal guy. He gave me a bunch of long-tail keywords that I had to magically transform into a sentence.
Can you guess how many times I could put the keyword like “the best laser hair removal procedure San Diego” in a single paragraph?
This is a textbook definition of keyword stuffing.
A lot of SEOs learned their lesson with this technique when the Google Panda algorithm slapped their thin sites.
Lesson: “keyword optimization” and “keyword stuffing” have nothing in common.
However, I reasoned at the time that it was what the client wanted. Happy client means paycheck! Paycheck means rent and internet paid!
And yet, that line of thinking can mess up your client’s website as well as your base of business.
4. Knowing which writing gigs are worth your time
I remember the first time I saw an ad on a job board about how I could make up to $300 per guest post. My excitement lasted till the moment I reached out to these guys.
The reality is that they want you to get your content published on a large site like Forbes, so they can garner tons of traffic.
In essence, they want to leverage your connections with publications like Mashable, Huffington Post, and other large-scale blogs and publications.
The challenge is that those publications never accept you being paid by a third party. They want a cut larger than your paycheck.
That means you spend all that time working on a blog post for someone that just never passes muster.
As Carole Tice stated in her post on The Write Life:
“It’s all too common for freelancers to latch onto the first client who comes their way, and then never let go. Even if they’re obnoxious, or it isn’t the type of writing you really want to do, or they don’t pay well.”
Writing for companies is like dating. There are plenty of fish in the sea.
If one is not right, then you need to move to bigger and better fish.
Lesson: Do not spend social capital ghostwriting for others when you can write your own articles that will eventually bring you bigger and better clients.
5. Neglecting your grammar
One of my editors asked me the first time we worked together if someone from the Philippines wrote the draft I sent her.
While I believe I hail from the windy city, it was an interesting observation. That is why it is important to have a good editor. They filter the junk from your article.
Plus, collaborating with editors shows you what works and does not work in your writing. You learn how to correct your writing as you grow.
Lesson: Take your time to edit your content. Search engine optimization today is as much about great content and good editing as it is about backlinks and keywords.
Writing articles for business is a great reward and challenge.
The challenges and lessons that I’ve shared in this article are a culmination of of over 5 years in the industry developing my professional standards.
If you are just beginning your own journey down this path, the best thing you can do as an SEO freelance writer is to create your own standards.
I’m really keen to know how you avoided your own circles of hell when you started your freelance writing career?
Perhaps you are going through those challenges right now. Let me know if I can help you!