Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists. Email us your questions at

I’m Interested in Content Marketing But Don’t Know Where to Begin!

Dear Content Therapist: I graduated college a couple of years ago and have been working while I try to find a career path. I’ve realized that content marketing might be a good fit for me. I like writing and storytelling, and I took some marketing classes in college, along with an internship one semester. The problem is that I have no idea how to get started with this career change. I didn’t go to a major university, no one in my family works in content marketing, and I don’t have industry connections. I don’t even know whether I’d like doing the work. How can I find good advice on whether content marketing’s a good fit for me? — THE CURIOUS WOULD-BE MARKETER

Paul Chaney: Content marketing can be a fulfilling career path for those who like writing and storytelling — and are good at it.

It’s also a field that continues to grow in popularity. HubSpot states that 82% of marketers actively use content marketing and that 70% invest in content marketing. Nearly 40% of marketers say content marketing is an important part of their overall marketing strategy.

What does that add up to? Opportunity! 

Before I list the steps you can take to explore the field, let me dispel two notions: Having a bachelor’s degree is beneficial, but it doesn’t have to come from Columbia or Georgetown. Neither does it matter that no one in your family works in content marketing.

On the other hand, having industry connections can help. I will talk about how to acquire those in just a moment.  Here are some steps you can take to explore whether content marketing is right for you:  

Talk to People in the Field

That could include friends, former classmates or anyone you know working in the industry. Connect with or follow content marketing professionals on LinkedIn. Both avenues can help you build a network. Ask these pros about their jobs, what they like and dislike, and what skills they think are essential. 

Read Articles, Blogs and Books

Many great resources available online can teach you about the basics of content marketing. I highly recommend two books: “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley and “Epic Content Marketing” by Joe Pulizzi and Brian Piper.

Take a Content Marketing Certification Course

HubSpot offers an excellent course, and it’s free. So do Simplilearn, Semrush and Quick Sprout.

Improve Your Writing

As a content marketer, you’ll be doing a lot of writing. On any given day, you may be tasked with writing everything from blog posts to promotional emails to e-books and white papers to social media posts. You’ll need to become well-versed in writing for different styles and audiences.

Starting a blog may be a helpful first step toward improving your writing. Blogging is, after all, a form of content marketing. It requires discipline but allows you to write about topics that interest you. 

Learn About Other Necessary Skills

Content marketing is more than writing. You’ll likely need to develop skills that include search engine optimization, research, interviewing and strategy. You may also need to acquire technical acumen with HTML, Google Analytics, content management systems and AI writing tools

Shadow Someone

Find someone willing to let you job shadow for a day or two to get a firsthand look at a content marketer’s daily tasks. 

Consider an Internship

You said you did a summer marketing internship. Was that beneficial? If so, try getting an internship at a content marketing agency. There’s no better way to learn than by on-the-job training. 

Discovering the right career path involves trial and error, and it’s OK to explore different avenues before finding the one that resonates with you. Don’t rush the process; gather information, learn, and gain practical experience. Only then can you decide whether content marketing aligns with your skills, interests and aspirations.

 P.S.: Emily Dumas’ story might inspire you. She “accidentally” got into marketing as a career by starting a blog at a coworking space where she served as community manager. That captured her interest and led to a fruitful content marketing career.

Help! Brands Don’t Want to Pay What They Used to!

Dear Content Therapist: I’m a full-time freelance writer who’s worked for more than 10 years for a variety of publications, and increasingly writing for brands. I have good relationships with many editors and content marketers, and I’d like to think I’m known for high-quality, on-time and reliable work. But lately, I feel like I’m struggling to find new business, while some longtime clients are trying to reduce their rates. I suspect this is a combination of a tough economy and artificial intelligence, but I’m still concerned. I don’t want to lower my rates and devalue my work, but I also don’t want to price myself out of a job. How can I get paid what I’m worth while still winning business from brands? — THE PRICED-OUT WRITER

Paul Chaney:

You aren’t wrong to suggest that brands don’t want to pay what they used to, and the economy and AI are partly to blame. 

However, it sounds as if you know your worth and are confident in your work quality. Don’t lose either of those characteristics. Instead, add resilience. You’ll need the capacity to adapt to the present circumstances and bounce back from adversity. The economy won’t always be in its current shape, and you can learn to make AI your friend, not an enemy.  

Let me break my advice into two categories: new business and current clients, as your tactics will vary. 

New Business

Showcase Your Value

I assume you have a portfolio. Ensure it reflects your high-quality work and diverse skill set and highlights projects aligning with your target brands. If you don’t currently have a portfolio, set one up. 

Find a Penetrable Niche

Identify a niche or industry where you excel and have (or gain) a deep understanding. Becoming an expert in a specific area can make you more valuable and sought after by brands looking for specialized content.

Quantify Results

Whenever possible, provide quantifiable results from your previous work. You’re more likely to justify your rates by showing how your writing contributed to increased website traffic, engagement, conversion, or any other metrics relevant to the brand’s goals. (This step also applies to current clients.)  

Feature Client Testimonials on Your Website

Positive client testimonials add social proof that your services have value. Likewise, use your website to show the quantifiable results you’ve delivered.

Brand Yourself Professionally

Present yourself professionally across all your online platforms. A cohesive brand image can make a strong impression and signal to prospects that you’re worth your rates.

Current Clients

Educate Clients

Some clients might not fully understand the value of your work. Tactfully educate them about how quality content can drive brand success, increase engagement and enhance their reputation. Explain why you believe your rates are fair, and see whether you can come to an agreement that works for both of you.

Diversify Your Offerings

Consider expanding your services beyond just writing. You could offer copy editing, search engine optimization, content marketing strategy, or workshops and webinars related to content creation. 

Ask for Referrals

Encourage clients to refer you to others if they’re happy with your work. Referrals often lead to clients who are more willing to pay for quality and reliability.

Be Willing to Negotiate

If a client asks you to lower your rates, be willing to negotiate. However, focus on the value you bring rather than just the time it takes to complete a project. Adapting to the client’s needs within reason can help maintain a good working relationship.

Offer Tiered Packages

Offer clients a few bundled package options with different service levels and corresponding pricing. This approach allows them to choose the level that best suits their needs and budget while valuing your work appropriately.

Gain AI Expertise

Two things are true about the impact of AI: It’s not going away, and it’s affecting employment. I recently read about one CEO who told his marketing director to fire all the writers and use ChatGPT. That’s foolish, of course, but it’s a reality. 

The adage “If you can’t beat them, join them” applies here. You’re better off learning how to use AI tools like ChatGPT, Claude and Jasper than looking the other way. More and more companies will add AI expertise to the list of job qualifications, so it’s best to learn now rather than play catch-up. 

Also, remember that although AI can increase productivity and efficiency, it cannot yet replace the qualities of a human writer: creativity, nuance, emotion, personal voice and perspective, and morality and ethics. Those remain in your purview.   

Supplement Your Income

Another option is to supplement your client-based income. You could showcase your work in a paid-subscriber newsletter, sell original articles, or pitch story ideas to publications willing to pay writers.  

Regardless of the option you choose, you deserve to be paid what you’re worth, so don’t allow external forces to diminish your value. Hold the course and continue to position yourself as an asset. Your knowledge, confidence and resilience will pay off.

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.