Claire Autruong, freelance writer

The Idea

Everything starts with ideas. I gather ideas from everywhere, trying to keep my clients, marketing trends and my interests in the back of my mind wherever I go. Ideas can come from everywhere. Try to keep your mind open, and write down topic ideas as soon as they come to you. You might think an idea is so amazing that you couldn’t possibly forget it, and as soon as you’re finished thinking that, you can’t quite grab hold of it again in the same brilliant way.

I jot down every idea in a Trello note that then moves through my content writing board as it progresses to a post.

The Pitch

If I find a good place to pitch a topic, I carefully research and craft a pitch. The basic elements of all of my pitches are:

  • How I found out about the writing opportunity, with as personal a touch as I can (but don’t force a connection)
  • Clips
  • Topic idea
  • Value adds like ability to add images, post to WP, etc.

I’ll allow myself one follow up two weeks after sending the original pitch. If I don’t hear back, I move on.

The Research

As a history major and an avid reader, research drives all the professional writing I do. I research broadly and deeply, trying to avoid over-exposing myself to existing posts on the same topic if I can (to avoid even subconscious mirroring).

The Outline

I’m a planner. I like to outline. My outlines can get pretty detailed. I’ll start with the general structure, filling in areas where I might need more research or where I’m going to use links. If I think of any good turns of phrase as I go, I’ll write them into the outline verbatim so I don’t lose those thoughts.

The Draft

I write directly into my outlines, filling in around the blocks of text I already have from the outlining process. Once all traces of the outline are gone, I’ll go back and refine the draft so it reads more smoothly.

The Edit

I’ve been privileged to work with some amazing editors, and I know the value of a fresh look and a critical eye. That said, I always do several run-throughs with my “editor” hat on, just to catch any obvious mistakes and make my editors’ jobs easier.

The Visuals

I really enjoy providing visuals for my posts. A lot of editors prefer writers who the ability to either source or create graphics. All modern content writers should become familiar with sources for high-quality, royalty-free images and also learn how to create useful screenshots, at a minimum.

The Promo

Promoting my own work can be difficult, but clients prefer and expect it. Once my piece is published, I run it through my social channels and promote it as much as I can. I do this even with my ghostwritten pieces. In that case, I don’t say that I wrote it, of course, but going that extra step for a client makes a difference in whether they’ll continue to come back for you or accept more pitches.

The Follow-Up

I always follow up with clients to see if they’re happy with the experience of working with me. I also ask for statistics if I don’t have access to them already. Knowing how to put quantitative value on your content matters for your next pitch.

The Next Idea

I always keep the idea → pitch conveyor belt going. If I had a good experience working with a client and they respond positively to my follow-up, I’ll pitch them another idea right away.

Claire Autruong is a freelance marketer and content specialist whose work has appeared on The Muse, Todoist, Trello, Hubstaff, and more. Check out her personal site and follow her on Twitter.

Jordan G. Teicher, freelance writer

Kavi Guppta, Forbes blogger and Strategyzer content strategist