SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) companies are everywhere. Marc Andreessen published his famous piece, “Software is Eating the World” in 2011. 9 years later, it’s truer than even his article predicted. Companies ranging from Microsoft and Amazon to TradeGecko and Intuit QuickBooks all primarily function as software companies.
Unlike the former two, the latter two sell their software programs as a service platform. They’re SaaS companies, an increasingly popular model that sells software as their service. Statista shows that the SaaS market was worth some $157 billion in revenue for 2020.
For freelance writers, that’s increasingly important, as more and more writing opportunities open up in the SaaS niche. But freelance writing for SaaS companies isn’t quite like writing for any other company.
In most cases, it’s a lot like writing for eCommerce, but with an added layer of technical writing and know-how. The following keys to SaaS freelance writing should get you started.
1) Get to know your clients
SaaS companies deliver a diverse range of technical products, some of which require their own jargon and industry knowledge. It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the industry, the software, and its customers.
Understand the product
You need to know the product to write about it in any compelling way. Understanding how the product works means you can write honest product copy without overselling, explain how things work, and highlight the top benefits.
During onboarding, make sure you ask for a product tour. Ideally, you can also get a demo account for long-term use and reference it throughout your time with the company. The more time you spend learning the software, the easier writing about it will be.
Learn the industry
A large percentage of SaaS writing isn’t about the product. You’ll need to create marketing content, ads, sales copy, and more.
Here, you have to understand the industry and the market. SaaS companies cover almost every imaginable niche. For example, if you were writing for Dropbox, you would cover different topics than if you were writing for Adobe. Both offer SaaS, but you have to know the industry to write for either.
Essentially, understanding SaaS means having good technical and industry research skills. If you can step into a company and quickly acquire industry knowledge, an understanding of competitors, where the industry is headed, and how the product works, you’ll be able to deliver real value across the platform.
2) Master technical writing
Technical writing is the process of writing clear, concise, cogent copy about software and applications. If you’ve ever clicked a “Next” button as part of a wizard, that involved technical and UX writing.
While you might not end up writing technical copy for your SaaS company, being able to offer it will add to your value inside the company. Good technical writing involves three basic functions; understanding the technology, being able to simplify the concepts, and keeping the explanations concise.
If you’re hired by a new SaaS company, they likely don’t have much in the way of copy. Even existing SaaS companies will deliver new updates and features with little more than developer notes inside the application.
It’s crucial that you can walk through those features and quickly understand how and why they work – without extensive training and information.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have a few interviews with developers and some notes to work with, but be ready to go digging for more information as you need it.
Software can be complicated. It’s important that you can simplify those ideas into clear and simple instructions. This holds true for technical writing in the SaaS application and in the help and support material.
Application and supporting text must deliver a great deal of value in as little space as possible. Most applications integrate a few lines of text here and there. You might be asked to translate relatively complex processes into a simple process of buttons and next steps.
Technical writing may or may not be a large part of freelancing with any SaaS company. If you onboard with a larger company, they likely have an in-house copywriter to handle technical and internal content, and use freelancers to manage marketing and sales copy.
3) Empower marketing and sales
SaaS heavily relies on content marketing. This includes social media, blogging, email, and landing pages. Here, you’ll likely start out writing blogs or web pages.
You’ll also either work with the marketing team (if the SaaS company is large enough to have one) or develop a content marketing plan.
This normally means delivering cross-channel material based on the sales funnel, different buyer demographics, and ad marketing campaigns.
SaaS normally relies on cross-channel marketing campaigns to continue to touch base with customers throughout the buyer journey. That will mean delivering consistent and cogent branding across platforms, for blogs, social media, guest posts, news platforms, and others. You’ll have to develop a range of content writing skills to meet these needs.
Leverage sales funnels
Understanding how a sales funnel works and how to write for it is crucial. You need to know what stage customers come into the funnel, and how to move them along. This ties into understanding your industry and your SaaS company.
Understanding the demographic, their pain points, and their business model will help you write better copy across every part of the content strategy.
For example, if you understand pain points, you can write better blogs to draw top-of-funnel readers in. If you know what they need to solve their problems, you can make promises that elicit conversion to email lists, demos, and free trials. And, if you understand what problems they’re likely to have with the software, you can follow up by delivering the support and ease of use they need to remain customers.
SaaS is quickly becoming one of the most popular business models. That means there are thousands of startups, young companies, and even SaaS enterprises hiring freelance writers. Moving into the SaaS field largely means understanding the software, being able to write technical content, and using branding and marketing tactics to sell solutions to customers.
SaaS writers will normally write web copy, blogs, landing pages, whitepapers, case studies, email campaigns, PPC ads, and software copy. You might also have to write the occasional support portal or helpdesk. This means you need a diverse portfolio, a strong understanding of marketing tactics, and the ability to understand and use market and demographic data.
SaaS copywriting: How to build your content portfolio
Freelance copywriting can be a lucrative and enjoyable career, offering relative freedom to work when and how you want, often without a commute. Your chances of finding quality, well-paying work as a copywriter are only increasing as more businesses move online, digitization takes over, and remote work becomes the norm.
At the same time, finding work as a freelance writer isn’t always easy. You need work to build a portfolio, but you need a portfolio to get work. Luckily, there are several ways around the chicken and egg problem, many of which can help you earn money while you build your content portfolio.
A portfolio forms the basis of your digital work, it shows experience, style, skill, and range. We’ve gone over the keys to SaaS copywriting. Now let’s talk about how to put together your SaaS content portfolio.
What to include
Building your content portfolio means deciding what it should include and if you want or need more than one type of content.
Freelance copywriters orchestrate web content, ad copy, blogs and articles, in-app text, and more. Your portfolio should reflect the work you specialize in and want to do more of.
Most online writers eventually create content across multiple channels, and function in dynamic roles to write content as needed. Others specialize in one type of content such as UX content or email copywriting.
You should have your own website to host your portfolio. However, be careful about republishing content you write for clients, since this can introduce duplicate content SEO issues.
For certain types of content, like any YouTube videos you wrote scripts for, you can embed samples of your work directly into your website while keeping the original source. For others, like webpages, I recommend linking to them and including screenshots.
Tip: Download PDFs of your key portfolio pieces. This ensures you have a copy of your work to showcase even if something happens, like a company going out of business or a blog being taken down. You can keep these in a Google Drive folder for easy access, and opt to link to this folder from your website instead.
What content is important for you to get the roles or gigs you want now? What kind of work are you looking for? What are you applying for? Highlight the content that best reflects the types of work you want to get in the future.
In almost every case, it’s a good idea to pick a specific niche or content type and to build a portfolio around that.
Your portfolio will be strongest when you can show live, published work you’ve done for other companies. Having published work shows that you can follow instructions or guidelines, write for a brand’s style, and collaborate with businesses.
If you don’t have enough live content pieces to showcase, here are a few tips to help you get more.
- Volunteer to help friends or charities write web content
- Build your own website and blog
- Offer introductory rates for the first X blogs
One of the best ways to build a portfolio is guest blogging, where you reach out to publications with an article pitch that you’d like to write for them. Some of these publications will pay, others won’t. However, most will link back to your website. You’ll also be able to add it to your portfolio.
Find your niche
It’s important to define where you’d like to be published and what industry you focus on. Most writers eventually specialize in one industry they know well. This might be digital marketing, eCommerce, cooking, knitting, psychology, politics, etc.
By narrowing your focus, you can target your portfolio and showcase your knowledge, research, and skills. Over time, you can then broaden into new niches and diversify as needed.
Choose your target publications
Where do you want to be published? Which companies do you want to write for?
Start small and work your way up. You should look at factors such as quality, traffic, and activity. You can also use SEO tools to review website stats, including Alexa rank, backlinks, domain authority, and website age.
Create a list of dream websites you’d like to be published on, and why. Then, research similar sites, competitors, and other publications in the niche. Start pitching articles to those first.
Reaching out and getting responses may be the hardest part of this process. After you review each publication, check their content and style, and review what they already have, it’s time to craft your guest post pitch.
Tip: Check their website for guest post pitching guidelines. Some of your target sites won’t accept guest posts, and others may require you to fill in a specific form for consideration.
Your email should include a few title pitches, samples of work, and answer any questions an editor might have, such as…
- Has this person read our blog?
- Why are they contacting me?
- Is their knowledge relevant?
- Do they know our audience?
- Can they follow guidelines?
Writing your guest post
Once someone accepts your pitch, you can start writing. Don’t forget to follow their editorial guidelines, or ask for them if they haven’t been shared with you yet.
Confirm a timeline they can expect a draft in, and the number of edit requests you’ll accommodate. If you haven’t already, read a few of their blogs to get a feel for their voice and tone.
Once you send your draft, ask for a rough publication date to expect it within, and offer to share it with your own network.
Tip: Always check that you’ll get an author bio beforehand, and confirm you’ll be allowed to add a backlink to your own website.
Freelance writing FAQs
We’ve gone over plenty of information, but there are always some common questions that keep coming back. This freelance writing FAQ section will cover some of the questions I hear most often about how to promote yourself, how much should you charge, skills needed to succeed, and more.
Do freelance writers need a website?
No, you don’t need a website – but how much do you like landing clients? A website functions as your branded online presence, allowing you to showcase a portfolio, writing skills, and client testimonials. Your website will help with new client discovery as you optimize for SEO, as well as landing a referral since you can showcase your work. You can even add a payment portal to make it easier for clients to reserve some time.
Here’s why a website is valuable for freelance writers:
- Showcase your services and previous work
- Drive traffic and generate new leads with SEO
- Provide an easy way to contact you
- Help leads self-qualify by showing availability, specialization, and rates
- Establish authority and credibility
However, if you aren’t ready for a website, you can establish an online presence on social media or job boards as well.
What skills should a freelance writer have?
There are many types of freelance writers. Depending on how and why you choose to write, you might need a range of skills. However, there are some key skills every good writer should master;
As new topics and angles come up in your writing, you should be spending time doing research around different viewpoints, options, strategies, and the like.
You should be able to do basic research, establish quality sources to reference and link to, and for more complex topics do a thorough deep dive to understand the subject. As a writer, your ability to quickly research topics, take notes, and write accurately about new topics will be crucial to your success.
Much of the modern world’s information is digitized, which means your writing is likely to end up online in one form or another. Knowing how to select keywords and phrases and craft content that’s easily discovered in search makes you a valuable asset for your clients.
Learn how backlinks, bounce rate, page authority, blog structure, and other factors contribute to search prominence. This will help you create content that gets in front of your target audience and drives leads.
Outreach and communication
Many SaaS freelancers take on more than just content creation. You’ll likely have to speak with customers, manage colleagues, request edits, set up interviews, and send regular updates.
Many freelance writing jobs will also require that you reach out to other sites for guest blogs and co-marketing opportunities.
Knowing how to keep all of these communications clear and organized will ensure nothing slips through the cracks or gets misconstrued.
Tip: Use a tool like Trello or Asana to keep track of your deadlines, stages of content creation, and all communications relating to a particular task. As a freelance writer, you’re responsible for ensuring all work is researched, edited, submitted, and published by your deadlines.
If you’re running a large content operation, you’ll have to manage multiple moving pieces. Some of the most rewarding results come from the most complex projects with unique restrictions, timelines, and bottlenecks.
Good project management skills will help you execute projects well, despite juggling different responsibilities.
Writing and editing
Back to basics; to be a great freelance writer you need to be a great writer and editor. Every client will have a different idea of what great writing looks like, accompanied by different tones and styles.
You should know how to structure an article so it’s easy to skim, optimize for search, and summarize and simplify complex concepts. As an editor, you need to be able to catch any spelling or grammar errors and ensure clarity, cogency, and accuracy.
Some tools that can help:
- Yoast – A WordPress plugin to check your SEO and Flesch reading ease score
- Grammarly – Spelling and grammar checker available as a Chrome extension
- Hemmingway Editor – Web-based readability editor and grammar/spell-checker
Check out some simple proofreading tips here.
How do I promote myself as a freelance writer?
There are so many creative ways to promote yourself as a writer, including mailing out professionally designed “engagement invitations” to work together, or building a website dedicated to pitching yourself and then advertising it directly to a company’s hiring team.
Here are some of the most common ways to pitch yourself;
- Build a portfolio – Make sure it aligns with your specializations, niches, and industry. This is typically a website, but can also be a freelancer profile on a site like Upwork.
- Establish an online presence – Choose a few places online to establish your presence. The key here is to provide value to different communities, from answering questions on Quora to posting helpful content in Slack groups. You should also keep your online profiles, such as Twitter and LinkedIn updated.
- Guest blog – Guest blogging is one of the easiest ways to get involved with your community and to get your name out there. Check out our section above for some tips on how to find websites to do this.
Tip: Set up a Google alert for websites launching roles looking for part-time freelance copywriters.
What is SaaS copywriting?
SaaS or Software as a Service copywriting normally involves a combination of copywriting (writing web and ad or product copy) and blogging. To be a successful SaaS freelance writer, you should aim for a diverse set of skills that include SEO, website copywriting, blogging, ad writing, and building sales funnels.
Key SaaS copywriting roles typically include:
- Writing web pages and blogs
- Building marketing funnels such as landing pages or emails
- Creating in-depth content like whitepapers and case studies
- Writing ads for use in PPC and social media
- Aligning content with a social media or video strategy
Depending on the SaaS company in question, you might also work as a technical copywriter for the product itself.
What do you do as a freelance writer?
Freelance writers work in a very diverse set of roles across many industries. This means that your role and responsibilities will change dramatically depending on your industry, niche, and specializations. A fashion writer on a blog will have a significantly different day than a technical writer or a SaaS copywriter.
However, you’ll normally:
- Research content
- Communicate with clients and sources
- Write and edit content
- Manage projects
- Research your audience and topics
- Write marketing material
- Pitch new topics and content
- Align with a marketing and/or sales team
Depending on the clients you work for, your role might be guided by top-down management, where you’re handed work to complete. You might also largely self-start, with a rough idea of what the client wants to achieve and why, and everything else in your hands.
How much should you charge for a 500-word article? (And other standard pricing tips)
Pricing is tricky and all I can tell you for sure is that it’ll be different for everyone. Writers who contribute to Forbes can charge a much higher premium than freelancers who are just starting out, even if their writing quality is more or less equivalent. Some of the factors that go into your pricing will be your portfolio, past clients, quality, experience, and demand.
There are 3 common ways writers charge; set rate per article, hourly rate, and per-word rate.
Set rates per article – There are content mills that charge pennies for a 500-word article, but you truly get what you pay for with most of these. Then, there are writers who can command thousands of dollars for a 1000-word article and companies won’t bat an eyelash, because they know that good content generates sales.
Hourly rate – According to PayScale.com, the average hourly rate for a freelance writer is $25 to $30. In actuality, this ranges from minimum wage to well over $100 per hour depending on experience, skills, and services offered.
Rate per word – This is not the wisest way to charge clients, because a great writer should get their point across in as few words as possible.
Tip: Look for good clients, and the money will follow.
If you need a starting point, look at job boards and review what companies are offering for your experience and skill level.
For example, if you have no portfolio, but a PhD in the relevant topic, you can command high rates anyway. On the other hand, if you don’t have any skills or experience, you should start out with introductory rates and increase them as you gain experience and clients.
What’s the rule of thumb? Work out how much you need to live comfortably off your job and never accept rates lower than that.
How do freelance writers succeed?
Success for a freelance writer can mean many things. It can be the ability to earn a comfortable living wage with a 4-hour workweek, or it can mean making six-figures. But it all starts with putting the work in, creating a portfolio, and developing your credentials.
Here are some tips to help you on your journey:
- Continuously improve your content marketing skills. All the best writers are consistently learning and adapting.
- Focus on long-term clients. Working with a brand consistently means less time learning a product and more time perfecting their content. It also makes for more stable revenue.
- Hone your outreach skills and build your network. Most of my long-term clients have come from referrals, not applications.
- Keep on updating your portfolio, and stay on top of your key online profiles like LinkedIn.
- Use tailored portfolios to appeal to different clients. Consider putting together a folder and specific pitch for every new client instead of using a general portfolio for pitches.
- Establish a network of other writers, in case you don’t have time to take on a new client offer or need some help scaling up.
Building a career as a freelance SaaS writer can take time. Even if you’re starting from a relatively good position of having worked as a professional writer in an organization, switching to freelancing is demanding, time-consuming, and requires significantly more outreach.
However, with a good portfolio, consistent quality, and ongoing learning, you can build a comfortable and stable career as a freelance writer.